Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Speak of the Devil

And I wake this morning to find news that CBS is doing its own modern-day Sherlock Holmes show (called Elementary), which will star Jonny Lee Miller as Holmes -- a quirk of casting which is seriously amusing if you know the history here.

Now, look, I'll be the first to admit that I initially avoided Britain's modern-day Sherlock in the fear that it would suck donkey balls, but was proven oh-so-delightfully wrong in about the first 10 seconds of the pilot episode.  The folks who made Sherlock know what they're doing.  So, I will be nice and open-minded and give CBS's Elementary a shot, on the basis, that, hey, despite the facts that (1) a great deal of American remakes of British shows are humiliating embarrassments (Life on Mars, anyone?) and (2) Sherlock is pretty much all the modern-day Holmes I can conceivably need, it is possible that they'll get it right, right?

Honestly, I doubt it.  American television has been dancing around the edges of a modern-day Holmes for years.  (Monk and The Mentalist both have aspects, although I think House takes the cake for the sheer ballsiness of it.)  Elementary is going to be different, because it is a full-on Holmes update; they're not just sneaking Holmes-esque characters in there and hoping we won't notice.  But, based on past experience with the dumbing down of American television, I really question whether we're going to get all the adorable nods to the original Holmes stories that Sherlock gives us.  Sherlock works on two levels -- it's a great detective story even if you aren't familiar with the original; but it has an extra level of inside jokes if you do.  Is Elementary going to give us such delightful throwaways as "The Geek Interpreter" and "The Speckled Blonde"?  Man, I hope so -- but I fear not.

The casting of Jonny Lee Miller raises another question -- is he going to play an Englishman in New York or an American Holmes?  Lord knows, Miller can play American -- I thought he was American after his creepy run as Jordan Chase on Dexter -- but he is an actual Brit. 

And then there's also that amusing bit -- the British Sherlock is played by the terrific Benedict Cumberbatch (who was recently cast as the villain in the next Star Trek pic, and has been getting all sorts of film work of late because he's just that good).  Cumberbatch and Miller have shared roles before -- they alternated in the roles of Frankenstein and the Creature in the National Theatre's production of Frankenstein (painstakingly reviewed by yours truly over here) (and to be rescreened in cinemas this summer, keep an eye out).  Alternating roles, the two of them worked together, copied bits from each other that they liked, and generally pushed each other to better work.  Will any of that happen again, if they're both playing modern-day Sherlocks on TV? 

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