Elementary: Quick Thoughts

Interesting choice of plaid shirt there, Watson.

Interesting choice of plaid shirt there, Watson.

I’ve been an impassioned follower of the BBC’s Sherlock, and before that, a lover of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes books. Cue ads for CBS’s Elementary.  I was understandably wary, but, roommates.

Initial Reactions

Huzzah, no over-the-top gory body discovery to test the boundaries of the extra-of-the-week’s shrieking and sputtering abilities.
An addition of an extra layer of complexity to the crime!

I’ve no particular attraction to any of the main actors. Aidan Quinn comes closest, but I’ve got chemistry with none of them. It was, however, lovely to see Reiko Aylesworth in Episode 6, “Flight Risk.”

They don’t use crazy detail graphics, such as flashes, zooms, circles, texts, etc., to draw attention to Sherlock’s observations. This could go either way, but I’m tentatively placing it in the ‘plus’ category.

As there are two series currently airing in the US and Britain – albeit on slightly different schedules – it’s only fair to compare them. To keep things clear between the two characters, Sherlock‘s Sherlock will be Sherlock and Elementary‘s Sherlock will be ESherlock.


Sherlock experiments a lot with blocking and edits, specifically placing things on extreme thirds of the screen and  using complicated wipes to transition from scene to scene. Elementary‘s style is standard, with use of modern pop songs, multi-cam setups, basic edits, etc.

Sherlock gives us Mrs. Hudson as the landlady/surrogate parental figure. Elementary makes use of Sherlock’s father, though we’ve not met him or Mycroft. I don’t understand why they’d introduce a non-canonical parental figure, other than to differentiate between Elementary and Sherlock. We did also meet Alistair, another potential family substitute.


Both stay true, in their ways, to the cannon. The writers all hit all the recognizeable buttons up front – the drugs, the hypnosis, the theory of brains having limited space, the deerstalker hat. Though they are vaguely different and clever, I feel like they’re trying to impress upon us, THIS IS SHERLOCK HOLMES. That is more understandable in a limited-run series like Sherlock, but if the Elementary writers really plan for the series to stick around, they should pace themselves.

Both understate the sexual tension, and find other, creative ways to make Holmes and Watson function as a couple.

While Sherlock gathers his knowledge more through physical details and ESherlock has a slightly better grasp of human motivations, both are socially awkward. Both are blunt and rude with no care for social convention. Sherlock also has Aspberger-esque tics, ESherlock has no sense of fashion (though Sherlock could be seen as combining these things with his sheet antics in Series 2 Episode 1).

Stray Observations

  • While being unable to fake drinking coffee is a universal problem for actors of all calibers, Elementary is particularly terrible at it.
  • The color palette changes depending on where everyone is (the house, for example, is quite different from the police station or hospital), but no consistent pattern I can see. 


More abominable examples of both procedurals and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s work are currently being manufactured. Better examples, too, but those are much less frequent, so no-one will fault you for falling back on this in the meantime.

One Response to “Elementary: Quick Thoughts”
  1. I am liking Elementary so far. Miller is shaping up to be a good Holmes.


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