In Which Elementary is the Better Sherlock Adaptation

The world of Sherlock Holmes adaptations has been completely bizarre, of late, at least as far as critical reaction is concerned. Also note, I’m referring to at least the reactions that I’ve been seeing on Twitter, which may or may not be indicative of a larger reaction.

I remember when BBC’s Sherlock was in production, and a common reaction being confusion and tentative approval of the Sherlock stories being modernized. We also knew that Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss would be in charge of this production. It was an interesting idea, and maybe those two were up to it. At the time, Moffat had just become the new showrunner for Doctor Who, and many were drawing parallels between the characters of Sherlock Holmes and the Doctor.

I also remember how the first series of Sherlock was met with a mostly positive reaction. This was a great adaptation of the Sherlock stories, one that was incredibly well-acted by Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman. The common reaction was positive for this new series.

Series two ran two years later, and I guess this is where fan reaction started going downhill. I do remember a lot of people being extremely pissed off at Steven Moffat, to the point of reviling the man (assuming they hadn’t done already) for his portrayal of Irene Adler. The common reaction is that the guy should stop writing for television, or at least stick to shows that only involved male characters. There was extreme hatred for how he wrote women, and any discussion of the show, even if it had nothing to do with the Irene character, would soon reach that topic and become a discussion on that.

However, the popular opinion remained, that Sherlock was a good adaptation of the Sherlock stories.

The rest of series two aired, culminating in that cliffhanger ending of The Reichenbach Fall, and lots of discussion was had concerning what actually happened at the end of the episode, and how that would be resolved. From what I saw, the reaction to the series overall was still mostly positive. People were anticipating the third series.

At some point since then, there was a press conference where Moffat gave the three word clues for what to expect with series three stories. This was at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, back in August, and the three clues were “rat, wedding, bow”. I remember a lot of discussion on those clues, as to what stories the clues referred to. Again, people were eager for series three. They at least liked the show.

At some point, we had the announcement of an upcoming American version of Sherlock, set to air on CBS, called Elementary. The common reaction was obvious: ew, gross, it’s an Americanization of Sherlock Holmes, and also set in modern day, looks like they’re trying to copy the BBC, it’ll inevitably fail and be horrible, why would they even bother? This reaction was furthered when it was revealed that the Dr. John Watson character in this version would be a female. That was met with a fair bit of indignation: how dare they do that, they’re obviously going for a romantic relationship between Holmes and Watson, it’s American television, what else would they do? The idea is that Sherlock is not a romantic character, and would not seek a relationship with anyone. The overall reaction to the possibility of this Americanized Sherlock was mostly negative, and the discussion frequently brought in comparisons with the BBC’s show. Still, reception of the BBC series was mostly positive, with people wondering if it could even compare.

Now, Elementary is an ongoing series, and I’ve noticed something strange, given all that I’ve just established.

The common reaction that I’m seeing now is that BBC’s Sherlock is a horrible, atrocious thing, with people quite vehemently disliking the series. This is different, as I clearly remember people being quite fond of it when it was running. Yet any discussion of the series is quickly shut down and the speaker shamed, how could they possibly like that? Don’t dare say anything positive about it, don’t you realize how horrible that show is? Moffat shouldn’t be allowed to write for television. This outrage goes to the point where you can’t even mention the show without hearing this outcry. (On a somewhat related note, I’ve heard the discussion that Gatiss can’t write, either, especially for Doctor Who) I think this discussion usually returns to Irene Adler, and that Moffat cannot write women characters, which I would admit is true. However, you’d not believe how angry people are over this show. I guess this is indicative of a larger conversation going on right now on television programming and cultural trends and progress that should definitely be made.

Now here’s where it gets a bit more bizarre: people actually like Elementary. This just seems like an odd reality where that horrible, disgusting American adaptation turns out to be a far better Sherlock adaptation than what the BBC is doing. Elementary generally gets a highly positive reaction, according to what I’m seeing, and Sherlock is outright reviled.

At this point, I’ve only seen the pilot episode of Elementary, and it doesn’t seem that remarkable to me. The show seems like a standard police procedural, detective drama that one would see on CBS in primetime. The names Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson are there just to gather attention and an audience, the writing and pacing of at least that pilot episode were exactly what you’d expect from any CSI show. I’ve seen the discussion on the type of logical reasoning that Elementary‘s Sherlock does as opposed to BBC’s, and how they are different interpretations of the character. There’s also the factor of Elementary‘s Watson being a woman and the very likely possibility of a romantic relation where there shouldn’t be one, given the source material.

Maybe the show improves, but that isn’t what I’ve been hearing. However, given this bizarre transformation of popular opinion, it may as well be the best interpretation of Holmes, right up there with those two movies that star Robert Downey, Jr and Jude Law.

I’ve just been left more than a bit confused by this new set of opinions, and am wondering exactly how or why this is.

At this point: BBC? Don’t even bother making a third series of that trash you call Sherlock. CBS? Keep making that wonderful modernization you call Elementary, it’s the best. That seems to be what I’m seeing, and I’m just wondering when opinions shifted as drastically as they have done. I’m confused, that’s all. I think BBC have a good adaptation, but I guess that makes me a villain? Or maybe my noticing that and even mentioning it makes me a villain? I’m really confused.


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