Is it possible to legitimately criticise Sherlock or Elementary?

As I have remarked before, Sherlock and Elementary find themselves compared against each other all the time. The problem I feel now is that legitimate and objective criticism of either series is virtually impossible thanks to the, frankly, tribal followings that the shows “enjoy”.

Some love Sherlock and hate Elementary. Some vice versa. Another group seems to like both equally (or almost equally – perhaps favouring one slightly above the other). In some respects I think the loneliest group to belong to is the latter. That is not to say that this group is the smallest. I do suspect though that it is likely to be the least vocal because it has not come down on one side or the other.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not regarding such people as fence sitters. There’s no reason why you should be (or feel) forced to be a card-carrying fan of one or the other. There is however a decided advantage in nailing your colours to the mast. It frees you up to argue passionately (and often irrationally) for your favourite and against its opposite number.

But what if you want to make a legitimate criticism of either show. It’s barely possible. Most privately run websites/blogs tend to be partisan and the websites of newspapers or other review outlets may attempt to offer an opinion but you can guarantee the comments section will deteriorate into a battle between those who interpret the parent article as being either pro or anti "their" show. Even worse, these comment sections often completely lose sight of the original article with the contributors turning fire on each other and omitting all reference the article that started the exchanges in the first place.


Written by Alistair Duncan
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  1. My short answer would be yes. But I agree with your point about fans of either show seem to feel the need to chose sides.
    I post about every 'Elementary' episode and have fun doing so.
    I try to post about every 'Sherlock' episode also, and also have fun doing so.
    I my more recent post about 'Elementary' I have tried not to get sucked into another bloggers attitudes about the show. I do fairly well at that goal, but sometimes slip.
    I like both shows for the same reason. It brings me into the world of Holmes more often.
    And I dislike both shows for the same reason. It is not really Canonical enough.
    If we look at either purely Canonically, they both really miss the mark. One much more so than the other. Looking at them purely Canonically one can legitimately criticize either show. You could say they are not about Sherlock Holmes at all.
    But if we 'Play the Game' on a less 'pure' level you can fun with either.
    Is 'Elementary' a good Sherlock Holmes show? No, not really. Most Sherlockians would probably agree this is not how we would really like to see our Holmes. But, since we have it, why not have fun with it.
    If given a chance to rewrite it, most of us would raise our hands.
    Same goes for 'Sherlock'. Most would agree that it is the stronger of the two shows. But again, it is not perfect. We would all change something about it. But again, we have it (although not as often as we would like), why not enjoy it.
    I love discussing whats good and bad about each. What's Canonical or not about each. As long as 'your' argument is not just a rant.
    I don't think the two shows should be compared to each other, just to the books. But, us bloggers, when we get defensive, sometimes slip into the "well, if you are going to say this is bad about 'Elementary', I am going to say this is bad about 'Sherlock'!" Wrong approach, I will try to refrain in future.
    Great post, thanks for the topic.

  2. As I have mentioned here before, I started out as a young Sherlockian not liking cinematic Holmes offerings. All are flawed compared to the Canon. I've mellowed with age. I enjoy both "Elementary" and "Sherlock". Both are flawed. The shows cam be compared to a point--with three episodes and two years between series, "Sherlock" is more like a movie that "Elementary" with its 24 episodes and eight month shooting schedule could ever be. However, their merits will only be seen in the fullness of time, after their runs are over and the passion of the fans becomes muted. Matt Frewer has his defenders and Jeremy Brett has his detractors. In matters of opinion, there is no objective right or wrong.


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