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Old November 5 2012, 03:21 AM   #1
truespock
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A Few Words About Elementary...

For the past 120 years or so, Sherlock Holmes has reigned as the indisputable king of fictional characters the world over. So, with the richly deserved popularity of the newest Holmes offering by the redoubtable BBC, it simply stands to tedious reason that American television would immediately want to rush out a 'knock off'. Enter 'Elementary', who's misplaced claim to fame is having cast Watson as (egads!!) a woman. Perhaps CBS would like us to forget about their two previous unsold pilots come TV movies which featured a couple of perfectly charming lady Watson's (Margaret Colin and Deborah Farentino respectively), each paired with a Holmes who had survived to the present time through the expediency of a rickety Victorian cryo-stasis machine. The result in each of these cases was a bright and breezy modernization of the classic character which, at the same time, somehow managed not to take him completely out of context, just as the BBC version has so beautifully done.

My predictable objection, then, to the newest CBS retread is in the casting of the two principle players. Lucy Liu is quite simply the most wooden and irredeemably unappealing actress I have ever seen anywhere in anything. Neither her facial expression, nor her tone of voice varies by so much as a micron through the entire hour as she allegedly ratchets from rage to sadness to depression to shock to fear as the primary object of Holmes' justifiably condescending attentions. No charm, no chemistry...no NOTHING. At long last, the industry has finally produced a more patently dismal Watson than the laconic Nigel Bruce, who played opposite the superlative Basil Rathbone in those cheesy 'Holmes fights the Nazis' flicks of the early forties.

Now on to Holmes himself. First off, any casting director worth her gravitas would NEVER hire an actor named Johnny Lee Miller for this role. It just SOUNDS wrong; Jed Clampett, maybe but Sherlock Holmes...I don't THINK so! It's actually off-putting before you even set eyes on the man, but when he DOES appear, it only gets worse...MUCH worse. Never mind the scruffy pre-beard growth that is perpetually on his face. I realize that they're just ripping off Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal in the recent movies because it's probably too much trouble to have come up with a 'look' of their own, but the copious tattooing on Miller's torso and arms was WAY off the mark! Refer to the Sidney Paget drawings from the original stories to get an idea of what Holmes is SUPPOSED to look like.

While it was lightly touched upon in those original stories that Holmes occasionally used a 7% solution of cocaine in order to alleviate his mental boredom, this updated depiction as a broken down, bottomed out addict who needs a keeper after leaving rehab is simply more of a stretch than I am willing to make. His otherwise appealing superior intellect just comes off as grating, as assayed by Miller, adding to the general air of disappointment which every true Holmes devotee must be feeling about now. The show's one saving grace? The plot lines are both intricate and compelling, although I DID count no fewer than SIX usages of the phrase 'reaching out to thus and so' when they meant phoning them. Hackneyed catch-phrases are the hallmark of inferior writers, so my hope for maintaining the story quality of the first two episodes is actually quite low.

Ultimately, with this latest debasing of two of literature's most iconic characters, what might we next expect...the assertion that Kirk and Spock were gay lovers?!?!
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Old November 5 2012, 03:31 AM   #2
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

That's pretty much... the opposite of a few words.
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Old November 5 2012, 03:44 AM   #3
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

Good grief, you're really stretching to find excuses to be negative. You're judging Miller because of his name?! What in the seven hells of Mongo has that got to do with his ability as an actor or suitability for a role? Perhaps you're unaware that Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch co-starred in a two-man stage version of Frankenstein in 2011 -- and each night they alternated the roles of Frankenstein and his monster. That production was well-received, and proves that the two men are more than capable of playing the same character. (Though it's pure coincidence that they both ended up playing modernized versions of Holmes.)

I'm quite enjoying Elementary. Sure, it's Sherlock Holmes as a modern American crime procedural, but as American crime procedurals go, it's nicely Holmes-esque, with very clever, convoluted mysteries and good character interplay between Holmes and Watson. I like Miller as Holmes; he's definitely playing a younger, softer version of the character, but there's nothing wrong with exploring variations on a theme. Heck, that's the whole reason we have different actors play the same role -- to see what new angles they can find, what new approaches they can bring to the interpretation of a character. How boring it would be if every writer, director, and actor approached Holmes and Watson the same way.

And I've got no problem with Lucy Liu as Watson. I'm enjoying the way her character is written -- the way Holmes has made it a project to cultivate her deductive skills, and the way she's allowed to be an important participant in the cases rather than just the person who needs things explained. (The one big thing that's missing from this Watson is that she's not chronicling Holmes's adventures for publication.) And Gregson's friendship with Holmes is an interesting addition to the dynamic -- a bit revisionist, yes, but reasonable in the context of the show's premise, since Holmes is in New York and would need someone local to anchor him and support his work as a detective.

Oh, and another cool thing about Elementary -- it has an actual honest-to-gosh main title sequence with theme music and credits and everything, as well as a clever visual design. It gives me hope that those are starting to come back in style.
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Old November 5 2012, 03:44 AM   #4
truespock
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

forgot the quote...see below.
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Old November 5 2012, 03:46 AM   #5
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

iguana_tonante wrote: View Post
That's pretty much... the opposite of a few words.
Yeah, I was going for IRONY with that title.

So, did you read it?
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Old November 5 2012, 03:54 AM   #6
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

Yes. Well, skimmed over it. It's not something I haven't read a few times already.

Quite flimsy critique. Overly long and verbose, too. A couple of good points buried in a landslide of petty criticism about nothing, and a depressing fanboy's sense of self-entitlement.
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Old November 5 2012, 03:57 AM   #7
truespock
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

@Christopher: Yes, I am well aware of the professional and personal relationships between Miller and Cumerbatch. I'm not saying he's a bad actor...merely that he's entirely inappropriate as Holmes. Did you know that Cummerbatch begged him not to take the part on Elementary? I AM, however, saying that Lucy Liu IS a bad actor.

Note the care with which the successors to the TOS iconic roles were chosen for the Abrams movie...another can of worms here, I imagine! All I am saying is that such care was manifestly NOT taken with this latest casting of Holmes and Watson--and THAT is, of course, merely offered as my own personal and ever so humble opinion.

If you like the show, bully for you. I DID say the stories were quite good.
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Old November 5 2012, 04:01 AM   #8
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

iguana_tonante wrote: View Post
Yes. Well, skimmed over it. It's not something I haven't read a few times already.

Quite flimsy critique. Overly long and verbose, too. A couple of good points buried in a landslide of petty criticism about nothing, and a depressing fanboy's sense of self-entitlement.
So you're telling me that I'm over-fond of the 'sound' of my own 'voice' and a bit bombastic with my own opinions?

Quite frankly, there's nothing quite as sad as a soul who has something to say in a world of people who are willfully deaf.
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Old November 5 2012, 04:03 AM   #9
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

That presumes the "soul" has something to say.
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Old November 5 2012, 04:08 AM   #10
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

Well, when you begin your critique of an actor's appropriateness for a role by complaining about his name, it's hard to take anything that follows seriously.
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Old November 5 2012, 04:08 AM   #11
truespock
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

iguana_tonante wrote: View Post
That presumes the "soul" has something to say.
Yes, that is exactly what I AM presuming.

You know, sweetie, I left this site after only a week, a year ago, because of number of the existing members jumped down my throat--just as YOU have--the very instant I first appeared.

Nice forum...NOT!!
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Old November 5 2012, 04:25 AM   #12
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

Wow. Expect you'll be heading right back out again, then. Not going to fit in well throwing up a wall of flimsy text and then insulting anyone that attempts to wade through it and respond...

If it's happened twice now, and with different posters, maybe it's not us?

Has nothing to do with YOU, no one's reacting to your name. It's your posting style, "sweetie"...
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Old November 5 2012, 04:27 AM   #13
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

Well, of course. It's not him, it's everybody else.
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Old November 5 2012, 04:35 AM   #14
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

truespock wrote: View Post
All I am saying is that such care was manifestly NOT taken with this latest casting of Holmes and Watson--and THAT is, of course, merely offered as my own personal and ever so humble opinion.
No, it's not offered as an opinion. An opinion would be "I don't think the actors work well in the roles." What you're doing is making an unsupported assumption about a question of fact, namely the specifics of the decision-making process of the show's producers. An opinion is an expression of how something makes you feel. An assertion about what another person actually did, how they acted, or what motivated them is not an opinion, it's an allegation.

Different people have different tastes; someone can put great care and attention into making something as good as they possibly can according to their own tastes and goals, but it can still be unappealing to a person who simply has different tastes. For instance, I don't like Chinese food, but of course I don't assume that's because all Chinese cooks are incompetent. That wouldn't be my "humble opinion," it would be incredibly arrogant and egocentric, because I'd be assuming my personal tastes were an objective measure of quality. Of course many of them are brilliant at what they do; it's just that my tastes are very different from theirs.

I'm sure the producers of this show took plenty of care in casting the roles. Of course they would. This isn't some YouTube fan video; there are hundreds of millions of dollars riding on it. Naturally everyone involved is putting their best effort into it. But the parameters they used in deciding who was best for the roles were simply different from yours.

The best casting isn't about having a preconceived notion and trying to force someone into that mold. It's about finding out who has the best talent and presence and the best chemistry with other actors, and adjusting the writing of the character in order to bring out that actor's talent as fully as you can. If it's different from what a given viewer expected, that's not because the producers failed to do their job, but because they did what they're supposed to do: found an actor who stood out from the pack and brought something new and surprising to the table.

For what it's worth, Elementary has the same casting director as Numb3rs, Medium, The Good Wife, and Person of Interest. What do you think of the casting on those shows?
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Old November 5 2012, 05:04 AM   #15
Technobuilder
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Re: A Few Words About Elementary...

Generally I was wary of Elementary upon first hearing of it.

Another attempt to cash in on the success of a currently popular British Television series (BBC's Sherlock)

Another Americanization ala retread of a British property, where the original would do just as well if not better in its place.

And the capstone....

Another twist. This time Watson's a Woman.


Sigh.


And Yet... It's another take on Sherlock Holmes. I knew I'd at least be checking it out.



Flash forward to the present and BAM. Elementary is one of the few new shows I'm following and probably in my top 3 of the current crop this season.


Just goes to show, it's never really the complexity of the idea, but rather the quality of the execution.


And I'm enjoying both Liu & Miller's performances quite nicely.
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