Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Elementary Is The New TV Season's Best Pilot

It's elementary My dear Dr.  Joan Watson that the best new TV pilot floating around is CBS's Elementary.
The premiere of this latest CBS procedural is on Thurs. Sept. 27 at 10 on CBS and Global.
First of all a hand to CBS which seems to have the trick of crafting immaculate pilots  both great looking and seamless in plotting.
But Elementary which is all about a modern detective named Sherlock Holmes is hardly cutting edge.
For one thing the British got there first --only the other night Benedict Cumberpatch almost won an Emmy for his incisive turn as a contemporary Sherlock.
And before that the greatest of the Sherlocks, Basil Rathbone, turned up in a string of movies which had the Baker St. sleuth fighting the Nazis in World War II.
Also there's the resurgence of Sherlock as a movie star in popular films starring Robert Downey Jr.
Elementary is just different enough from the British Sherlock with Cumberpatch to make it on its own. It possesses style, wit and is most importantly a procedural with seemingly dozens of other CBS shows.
The biggest difference lies in making Dr. Watson a gal pal of Sherlock's or precisely his keeper as the poor boy is a bit touched. And Lucy Liu is far more fetching than any other Watson I've seen.
CBS already used Jonny Lee Miller in the 2008 series misfire Eli Stone and knew what he could accomplish. Here he keeps his Brit accent  (he even utters "Ballocks!") but looks appropriately damaged --this Sherlock is always teetering on the brink of a major breakdown.
Dr. Watson has been hired by Holmes Sr. to act as a "sober companion" to the distraught criminologist.  She has her own back story and has to deal with charges of malpractice that left one of her patients dead.
When Holmes shouts or goes missing she goes into high gear --she can't have another patient expiring. And gradually it seems the mismatched twosome need each other more than they'll ever know. They become a superbly focused detective team.
Also there's Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn from Prime Suspect) for Sherlock to bounce theories off . Ironically Quinn is back in the same timeslot as last season's Prime Suspect misfire.
The way Miller plays Holmes might remind you more of House than any of the Sherlock rivals-- right down to the tousseled hair cut and stubble. This detective is a recovering alcoholic who inherited a plush New Yawk apartment thanks toan understanding and rich father.
To keep himself sober he volunteers as a consultant to the NYPD on particularly difficult cases and finds himsel re-attached to Gregson who knew all about him from a stint in London.
In the original Holmes films there was more than a hint of bromance between Holmes and Watson. And here there are indeed touches of sexual chemistry suggesting Miller's little boy lost demeanor is having an  astonishing effect on his new keeper.
The thing about Liu as Watson is she's very well adapted to keeping right up there with Holmes. Her modern medical training comes in handy. In fact so far Liu has created a far more rounded character than Miller's Holmes.
The pilot was directed with great dexterity by Michael Cuesta (Homeland). But CBS's greatest gift was a golden time slot where The Mentalist was allowed to thrive. The weak opposition includes ABC's Scandal and NBC's Rock Center.
MY RATING: *** 1/2.

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