I cannot stand to watch Sherlock Holmes on Elementary.
He’s a humorless snot with no redeeming value and I’m amazed that this show has found an audience.
Maybe they’re tuning in for Lucy Liu’s Jane Watson, who is the best part of the show. I certainly hope so. I’ve read or watched just about every incarnation of Sherlock Holmes in books and movies and this show’s version of Holmes is the only one I actively dislike.
It’s not that Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes is arrogant. Arrogance is an essential part of Holmes’ personality, as is a certain disregard for other people’s thoughts or feelings. But what Miller’s Holmes is missing is that essential charm, some elemental curiosity mixed with mischief that makes Holmes fascinating to watch.
Holmes isn’t interesting because he’s got a nice body, as the Elementary pilot unnecessarily showed us that Miller does.
Holmes is interesting because solving crimes is part of his DNA, his makeup, and he cannot help himself. That’s more compelling than six-pack abs.
There’s a scene in the first episode of Elementary where Holmes gets down on his hands and knees to look for clues. It looks silly. It always has whenever Holmes does it, even in the original stories. The trick is that Holmes is the kind of person who’s so invested in doing what needs to be done to solve the crime that what others think is silly is immaterial. He will have his curiosity satisfied because it’s what he lives for, much as Lois Lane lives for the big scoop.
This Holmes is glum and sullen. There’s no charm and there’s not enough intensity. He’s not the most arresting person in the scene most of the time.
He’s no fun.
Even Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes, who was really Downey going steampunk detective rather than a version of Holmes, was fun.
I can only contrast Elementary’s Holmes with another television detective I’ve been watching a great deal in reruns: Robert Goren of Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
As in Elementary, Goren has a female partner and some serious personal problems, along with a heavy dose of arrogance. Goren, played by Vincent Phillip D’Onofrio, does not look like the whippet-thin Holmes. But D’Onofrio uses his large frame to his advantage, to intimidate people holding back information or to provide protection to those who are being bullied or intimidated.
Solving crimes isn’t what Goren does, it’s who he is. There’s intensity in his eyes while he’s interrogating a witness, he’s dedicated to justice, and he loves matching wits with the criminals.
To him, that’s fun, and it comes across on-screen. It’s impossible to take an eye off Goren during any scene he’s in.
He’s far more Sherlock Holmes than the imposter on Elementary.
Corrina Lawson is a writer, mom, geek and superhero, thought not always all four on the same day. She is a senior editor of the GeekMom Blog on Wired.com (www.wired.com/geekmom) and the author of a superhero romance series and an alternate history series featuring Romans and Vikings in ancient North America. She has been a comic book geek all her life and often dreamed of growing up to be Lois Lane.