After all the fuss, and threats of possible lawsuits if it resembled BBC's Sherlock too closely, last night British viewers got the chance to see America's latest take on our very own Sherlock Holmes with the screening on Sky Living of 'Elementary' starring Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr Joan Watson.
It's difficult to see why the production team behind the award winning Sherlock had got its collective knickers in a knot to be honest. Whilst the BBC's version runs to 90 minutes per episode and looks and feels like a film the American Elementary looks and feels like a cross between Law and Order SVU and CSI:NY, but without the production values of either. Take out the adverts and you are trying to compare a 45 minute television programme with one that wouldn't look out of place in the cinema.
It's a shame in many ways because Jonny Lee Miller really is a very good actor and Aidan Quinn (as the police detective who calls upon Holmes for help) is not even on auto pilot, his part requires such minimal emotional reaction that you wonder whether Quinn had elected to play the part believing he was auditioning for a voice over role in a Pixar production.
That said such is the emotional baggage invested in a certain Mr Cumberbatch as Sherlock you would be hard pressed to find anybody willing to admit that Miller was any good as Holmes. Lucy Liu on the other hand was miles better than Martin Freeman's dreadful Watson. Freeman will forever be Tim Canterbury, the sales rep in The Office, the sales rep without any personality and in fact such was Freeman's commitment to the role of playing somebody who could spontaneously combust without anybody noticing that he has carried that dedication with him to each subsequent role.
Lucy Liu's female Watson manages to play off the energised Holmes, a man who is just out of rehab and who finds sex appalling, "all that exchanging of bodily fluids and strange noises," with a mixture of incredulity, suppressed emotions and feminine charm. Of course it could be said that making the Watson character female is simply a sop to political correctness and that it just avoids upsetting the Conservative mid-west who would find the overtly homo-erotic overtones of Cumberbatch a little too threatening.
The BBC Sherlock is the product of members of the team behind Dr. Who and at times feels like it is being clever simply for the sake of being clever, the American Elementary is written for an audience that generally prefers its dramas in short, sharp blocks, there are fewer cultural references (excluding the baseball) and it feels more inclusive for the casual viewer. On the showing of the first episode it has some way to go to replacing Sherlock in the nations affections, but given the time delay between servings of that particular banquet Elementary will stave off any possible Holmes hunger pains for the foreseeable future.
Oh and of course one added bonus is that, just like Sherlock, Elementary is completely Jude Law free.