The launch of Elementary has the Sherlockian world talking. The programme has a virtual monopoly on the attention of Sherlockians due to the lack of any current competition. I have not seen it but I have noticed from Twitter that opinion is polarised.
To my mind the core elements of the original stories are:
1. The lead characters are Sherlock Holmes and John Watson
2. Sherlock Holmes is a consulting detective with an amazing deductive faculty
3. John Watson is a former army doctor
4. The adventures are mostly set in London
5. The time period is Victorian
6. Holmes is an occasional user of cocaine and a heavy smoker
7. Sherlock Holmes lives at 221B Baker Street – where Watson occasionally also resides (between marriages)
There are probably some I’ve missed and you may not agree with all I’ve listed. However, if we take my list for the time being, how many of these items can you lose before a screen adaptation is no longer truly Holmes?
The ITV/Granada adaptation adheres to all seven.
The BBC’s Sherlock adheres to points 1,2,3,4 and 7 and is clearly still very much Sherlock Holmes.
The Warner Bros films adhere to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 with alcohol largely taking the place of the cocaine in point 6.
To the best of my knowledge Elementary only adheres to point 2. I freely admit I haven’t seen it and am relying on what I’ve read about it and heard from those who have seen it. However entertaining it is, if its grip on the source material is as weak as it seems is it really a Sherlock Holmes adaptation or just an US based crime series featuring a character called Sherlock Holmes with an intelligent but relatively ordinary partner?
UPDATE - A link to this post was posted on Facebook and while the response was apparently positive there were some who thought I should not be commenting until I'd seen it. There may be some merit in that but I think it only fair to point out that I'm not commenting on whether or not it is an entertaining program just on the strength of its links to the source material. Rest assured that when I do see it (whenever that is) I shall revisit this post if my mind has been changed.
Follow up post - My Elementary pilot review can be found here.