Is Elementary worth watching?
The short answer is Yes.
There are so many TV detectives out there with a problematic gift — Monk, Mentalist, Medium — but the first may have been Sherlock Holmes. Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation has been imitated and parodied as everything from a mouse to a cranky doctor, and now he is portrayed as a recovering drug addict with a Sober Companion who happens to be named Watson.
When I heard about the show, my thoughts jumped to the 1971 film, They Might Be Giants, in which George C Scott plays a delusional fellow who thinks he is Holmes, with a little Don Quixote. He ends up with a psychiatrist named Dr Watson, played by Joanne Woodward, and convinces her to help him pursue Moriarty. I recall one hysterical scene in a supermarket, where Holmes escapes pursuit by announcing such low special prices that even the officers that are after him stop to fill their carts.
Elementary is much more urbane, but there are moments of comedy. Jonny Lee Miller is an endearingly vulnerable Holmes and Lucy Liu is an initially no-nonsense companion who quickly gets into the thrill of the chase. Aidan Quinn does a nice turn as a police detective named Gregson (ha) who is gruff but no fool. No one asks the obvious question, “Why are you calling yourself Sherlock Holmes when he is a fictional character?” It is a stretch to believe that everyone is playing along, so either we must assume that the Conan Doyle stories don’t exist in this universe, or wait for a cleverer explanation.
The first episode was complicated enough, but the challenge will be differentiating Holmesian observation-then-deduction from that of all the other detectives working in the big city, not the least of which is Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock — based in contemporary London and solving crimes that are more closely based on the original stories. Some might doubt that, “whatever remains must be the truth,” can compete with DNA testing but to others, a faster-paced Elementary might be a welcome respite from the heavy procedurals that dominate crime drama.