This is of course the first thing people think about when approaching Elementary, and this is the reason why a lot of people won’t like it. I get it, it was amazing. Everyone loves it. Well… I didn’t. First time around, thought it was a TV show not a miniseries, and was completely bored out of my mind. Not even the witty banter saved it. I was severely misinformed and will eventually look at it again, when I feel like torturing myself with Moffatt work. I still haven’t gotten through it. I keep getting distracted.
But this isn’t a bash on Sherlock, or Moffatt, this is a comparison chart. And not about anything that normal people would care about. Nope, this is about format. Which really should be taken into consideration. So, here we go.
- Sherlock Holmes MOVIES
They are great. I go to the theater, I buy overpriced popcorn and drinks, and watch Robert Downey Jr. be awesome and absolutely ridiculous. IN 3—-D—-! It’s a film it has a complete narrative from start to finish that’s done in 120 minutes. The end. Sure, we can have a few sequels, but they are all interdependent of each other in a way not even a Dick Wolf TV crime drama can match. And that takes some mad skills. And character development? What is that? We just don’t have time for that nonsense. But we’re here to talk about television, not movies!
- Sherlock on BBC
Like the films, they have complete narratives (this time done in 90 minutes… ish…), although not quite as formulaic. And here we’ve got a lot stronger ties to the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stories than the recent movies or Elementary. Of course, we have a bit more character development, since each episode in the series is intended to have an arcing narrative (presumably… at least, I really hope so…); but not much.
Furthermore, Sherlock really should be described as a TV miniseries, and not a limited run traditional show. As stated above, this got me into a bit of trouble the first time around. I understand that the British broadcasting model is different, so it really can’t even be viewed in the same way as we view other TV programs, but I will. Because even though it’s different, we can still use American TV categorizations to describe it, since every other way it fits the bill. And besides the differences between reality and scripted, comedy and drama, British TV just doesn’t have the release schedule categorizations that American TV does. They did it with the Emmys, so that’s the way I’ll deal with it.
- Elementary on CBS
Now to the crux of the matter. Here we’ve got a traditional American scripted television series, with 22 (ish) episodes a season (as long as it gets picked up by CBS) and only 40 minutes an episode (wow, do I miss those 50 minutes of old…). Oh, and we’ve got commercials here. A lot of them. Not a lot of time for narrative development, but plenty of time for character development. Probably too much time. Of course, some of these things are exaggerated quite a lot by the network. CBS is known for creating quite the formulaic series, and that is definitely reflected in Elementary. Nothing too serious, a little bit quirky to attract new viewers, and with plenty of syndication power. This doesn’t make it better or worse than any of the other formats, just different.
And since they are all different forms, they each should be treated differently. Unfortunately, time is not on anyone’s side, and they will be compared to each other. Which is very unfortunate for Elementary, since it really is a great series. I particularly like the way that Lucy Liu’s Joan Watson doesn’t like Sherlock Holmes by any stretch of the imagination. The aloof tolerance is a twist which you don’t see very often. Even Lisbon in The Mentalist enjoys Jane a little, regardless of how much she doesn’t want to show it. She really doesn’t like him, and I really like that. So long as this doesn’t turn into a romantic relationship, I could really begin to like these two. Maybe this will end up to be something like Monk. Which would be great, because The Mentalist and Perception and Psych just aren’t cutting it for me. Elementary could turn into a syndication dream. I just hope it lasts that long. The trick for Elementary will be to create enough new and interesting cases worthy of the great Sherlock Holmes.