Why Elementary scores one over BBC’s rendition of Sherlock Holmes?
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes is probably one of the most renowned detectives in the world of literature. The Guinness Book of World Records even lists him as the most portrayed literary human character in film and TV. For a personality who has had multiple portrayals in pop culture history, it is interesting to see which modern day rendition portrays Sherlock closest to his literary version.
While there have been many renditions of Sherlock Holmes in recent years, the ones that come to mind are those rendered by Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC’s Sherlock and Jonny Lee Miller’s version for CBS’s Elementary. While another popular version is the one played by Robert Downey Jr. in the Guy Ritchie film series; with a total of around 5 hours of screen time given to the character, the series was really unable to build on the finer traits of Mr. Holmes and served more as an action-oriented version in line with the director’s previous outings.
The BBC Sherlock series, in particular, has been critically lauded for the quality of writing, direction and performances especially Benedict Cumberbatch’s amazing turn as the titular character. Elementary on the other hand is the more under-appreciated show that has consistently registered a stronger performance with each season. When you analyze the two Sherlock’s from each of these shows, you realize that both have pulled off a phenomenal likeness of the literary character. However again, with the longer running time per season and 5 seasons in the bag, Elementary manages to pull off a much more detailed version of the detective than the BBC version.
Mind you, Benedict Cumberbatch is quite the actor and is globally known for making the role his own; however, the finer eccentricities from the original literature are better portrayed by Jonny Lee Miller. Like his show, Miller too is a highly underrated actor who has somehow managed to stay under the radar. While he does have accomplished roles in cult hits like Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting, Miller manages to portray the most realistic version of Homes till date. Portraying the finer details of the detective’s behaviour including a continuous struggle with drug addiction, his proficiency in the art of single stick, his avoidance of casual company, his fondness of bee-keeping or his large network of allies who assist him on his assignments, Elementary manages to take a deeper look at these characteristics of Holmes. While the show makes several mainstream changes from the original text, including shifting the scenario from London to New York and most importantly, introducing a female Dr. Watson, it still manages to retain the finesse of Holmes’ character making for a very interesting watch, for fans of Doyle’s original literary works.
Cumberbatch’s Sherlock on the other hand, while trying to cover all these intricacies, only manages to touch the surface of some of these traits. His eccentric and superior nature, almost bordering arrogance, his knowledge across subjects as well as his affinity for the violin, however, is captured equally by both shows. While Sherlock continues to be the more popular modern day rendition of the ever-loved detective, Elementary will hold a better appeal to fans of the literature and with time gain the recognition it truly deserves – as the quintessential modern day adaptation of the legendary detective. Well, for now at least Rotten Tomatoes agrees with us. (Elementary – 95% fresh vs Sherlock (BBC) – 84% fresh)