Which one is better the BBC’s Sherlock or CBS’s Elementary? Which actor is the better Sherlock Holmes Benedict Cumberbatch or Jonny Lee Miller? The game is afoot as it’s Sherlock vs. Elementary!
Or is it? Perhaps there’s enough room for both? Portrayed 254 times by 75 different actors in films and television from Basil Rathbone to Robert Downey Jr. the literary sleuth created in 1887 is a popular man. There seems to be enough interpretations to please everyone from the casual fan to the President of the Sherlock Holmes Society.
Even with the many forms of Holmes and Watson comparisons are inevitable. The battle of the ’best’ Sherlock and the popularity of the character never seemed to fade. What would Sir Arthur Conan Doyle think of his creation now?
In 2010 the BBC scored a major hit with the modern-day reincarnation of the great detective in Sherlock. True to the Arthur Conan Doyle canon Dr. Who writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gattis created six modern, sleek and sexy one and half hour films. Both men were avid readers of the original stories and huge fans of the Basil Rathbone films. Inspired by their childhood love of Sherlock Holmes Moffat and Gattis created a show about the Victorian ‘consulting detective’ complete with references from the books and films of their youth.
John Watson (Martin Freeman), a military doctor sent home from Afghanistan and Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) share a flat at 221B Baker Street. Mrs. Hudson the landlady mothers the two bachelors as they fight the evil Moriarty, get outwitted by the lovely Irene Adler, and chase after The Hound of Baskerville. All original Doyle characters and plot points brought into the 21st century.
Now the US gets an updated version of the Sherlock Holmes character in the new show Elementary. Instead of London this modern-day Sherlock lives in New York City. Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) now partnered with a female Watson (Lucy Liu) is a ‘consulting detective’ with the NYPD on hard to solve murder cases. This is new territory as many of the characters seen in Sherlock are not present in Elementary including Inspector Lestrade, Mrs. Hudson, and Mycroft Holmes.
Although the new CBS drama does not follow the original stories it does take elements of the Sherlock Holmes character and psyche, but only glimpses of the traditional well-known character surface. Liu and Miller (who is a friend of Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch) are capable and talented actors that do bring a new spin on the Watson and Holmes relationship. Clearly trying to define the relationship was at the heart of the pilot episode of Elementary and the show has the rest of the season to flesh out characters, build relationships and hopefully bring in Sherlock’s nemesis Moriarty.
What about Holmes himself? Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock is cranky and socially awkward while Jonny Lee Miller’s Sherlock is a recovering drug addict (one element of the original canon that has made it into the story so far). Miller’s Sherlock is not yet clearly defined. While quick with his deductions (almost too quick) we don’t see the labored and intense process like that of Cumberbatch’s Sherlock as he goes into his ‘mind palace’. Yet both actors bring something quite different and uniquely their own to the role. Which is amazing considering these two actors share a history and a familiarity as they both stared in Danny Boyle’s London production of Frankenstein swapping roles every night.
Guaranteed to be a hit the CBS drama Elementary is a well acted show, however if the viewer is a Sherlock Holmes fan there may be some disappointment with the lack of details concerning Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon. Two episodes into the series Elementary came off more like a spinoff of the current CBS procedural the Mentalist than an updated version of Sherlock Holmes. For those who enjoy a one hour crime drama and are somewhat familiar with Sherlock Holmes Elementary may be the fit they need. While not perfect if CBS decides to keep Elementary into the next television season the show will have a chance to create stronger storylines.
Fans wanting a more traditional Sherlock would benefit from the BBC version. Its charm, wit and devotion to the original material gives viewers a clever show with hidden bits of Holmes mythology.
Whether you prefer the traditional but modern BBC version or the way out-of-the-box CBS version Holmes fans are in luck. The only deduction to be made is this: Sherlock Holmes lives on.