Friday, May 17, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Elementary, season 1 (2012-2013) ***½

TV-14, 24 44-min. episodes
Creator: Robert Doherty

Directors: Michael Cuesta, John David Coles, Rod Holcomb, Rosemary Rodriguez, Collin Bucksey, David Platt, Seith Mann, Andrew Bernstein, Phil Abraham, Peter Werner, John Polson, Christine Moore, Guy Ferland, Sanaa Hamri, Jerry Levine, Larry Teng, Adam Davidson

Writers: Robert Doherty, Peter Blake, Craig Sweeny, Liz Friedman, Corinne Brinkerhoff, Christopher Silber, Jeffery Paul King, Jason Tracey, Mark Goffman, Brian Rodenbeck

Starring: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Aidan Quinn, Jon Michael Hall

Guest starring: Dallas Roberts, Manny Perez, Jonathan Walker, Kristen Bush, Jennifer Ferrin, Bill Heck, Casey Siemaszko, Johnny Simmons, Yancey Arias, Craig Bierko, Molly Price, Luke Kirby, Jennifer Van Dyck, David Harbour, David Costabile, Ben Rappaport, Jenni Barber, Anika Noni Rose, Reiko Aylesworth, Brian Kerwin, Roger Rees, Adam LeFerve, Callie Thorne, Keith Szarabajka, Stephen Kunken, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Lisa Edelstein, John Pankow, Ato Essandoh, Adam Rothenberg, Kristy Wu, Randall Duk Kim, Freda Foh Shen, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Reg Rogers, Stephen Park, Jake Webber, Mark Moses, Melissa Farman, Vinnie Jones, Bobb’e J. Thompson, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Linda Emond, Richard Bekins, Michael Laurence, Chris Sullivan, Terry Kinney, Kari Matchett, Jessica Hecht, John Hannah, Michael Irby, Malcolm Goodwin, Paula Garces, Anwan Glover, David Furr, Christopher Sieber, Albert Jones, Jennifer Lim, Gibson Frazier, Dennis Boutsikaris, Josh Hamilton, Jim True-Frost, Geneva Carr, Jill Flint, Becky Ann Baker, Thomas Jay Ryan, Wayne Duvall, Joseph Siravo, Thomas Guiry, Roger Aaron Brown, Byron Jennings, F. Murray Abraham, Natalie Dormer, J.C. MacKenzie, Francie Swift, Stephanie Kurtzuba, Arnold Vosloo

“Elementary” is probably the best new drama on network television for the 2012-2013 season. It’s a modern take on Sherlock Holmes, this time with Holmes having left the service of Scotland Yard to recover from drug addiction in New York. Watson is now Dr. Joan Watson and starts out as a sober companion, but becomes an investigative partner of the super intelligent sleuth.

What separates this police procedural from the 400 others that populate primetime television is Holmes. The writers have really embraced the original concept of Holmes presented by Arthur Conan Doyle. His superior intelligence drives him, but he lacks social graces with a personality that may boarder on a disorder like autism. Brit Jonny Lee Miller imbues Holmes with this zeal for his own intelligence and he conveys his high functioning disorder in every essence of his performance. Nothing is ever mentioned about his lack of emotional engagement, but autism just springs to mind from his manner. I like this approach better than the handling of the similar character of Dr. Gregory House on the series “House, MD”, whose abrasiveness seemed to function more on a convenience level in accordance with the story requirements of each episode. I wasn’t a fan of the series, so I certainly never saw the full development of the character. It just seems to me that Holmes’ treatment here is more often an inconvenience to the plot, which makes for interesting drama.

Of course, the casting of Watson as a woman is a big difference from Doyle’s vision of the character, but as handled by Lucy Liu, it seems a moot point. She isn’t as well developed as Holmes, but she must carry the burden of the growth, since Holmes is pretty much a constant in terms of development. He doesn’t change; she must change greatly. Because she’s carrying the weight of the emotional arc, not as much time is spent on her full dynamic. But then as an ongoing series, they have time.

It is just a police procedural, but the characters make it unique. I like that there doesn’t appear to be any sort of sexual tension between Holmes and Watson. There’s too much of that in investigative team ups. They need each other, but in a very different way than men and women are usually presented in needing one another.

On top of that, the cases are much more intricate than most other cop shows. The investigations are always compelling, and Holmes is written so smartly that it’s nearly impossible to get ahead of the material. This is a show that I will miss throughout the summer months. I can’t wait until it returns next fall.

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