American Sherlock Holmes Show Figures Out How to Get Us to Pay Attention To It: Lucy Liu as Watson
Okay, we admit it. We haven’t been following Elementary, the upcoming American television adaptation of the life of Sherlock Holmes, that may or may not be ripped directly from the BBC’s smash hit Sherlock. Look, it’s just that, treatment of its female characters notwithstanding (and for most anything but a Sherlock Holmes story, that wouldn’t be a ‘notwithstanding’ I’d readily accept), Sherlock is very good television. And while there are lots of good stories out there that use the Holmes/Watson/mysteries dynamic for great story telling (House is one long running one), we weren’t sure the world needed two shows that directly reference the original source material. Market saturation, and all that.
But then Elementary had to go and reveal that it’s plans for the traditional Smart bro! Loyal bro! They solve crime! Sherlockian dynamic would, in fact, not be about two bros at all.
From The Hollywood Reporter:
For the first time, Holmes’ famed sidekick, Watson, will be played by a woman with Lucy Liu nabbing the part, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.
Described as a modern take on the cases of Sherlock Holmes, with the detective now living in New York City, Dexter killer Jonny Lee Miller has been tapped to star in the project.
Yes, Joan Watson, although my first assumption was for Jane. Yes, Jonny Lee Miller was in Hackers.
So, now the adaptation is interesting to me. Everybody likes a good story about a friendship, and I’m content to let Sherlock stories be just that. If BBC Sherlock would add one recurring but minor female character (other than the adorable but ultimately utterly passive-for-plot-purposes Mrs. Hudson) who does not either despise Holmes because of he’s better at her job, earning his, and it is implied, the audience’s, derision; or moon pathetically over him despite his uncaring abuses, earning his, and it is implied, the audience’s derision… I’d be happy. (Disclaimer: I haven’t actually watched Season Two with it’s appearance of Irene Adler, so I can’t honestly speak to that.) That’s the place of secondary characters in a Sherlock Holmes story: harmless orbiting satellites who tidally affect the central relationship but never actually change it. And if the only roles writers can come up with for secondary female characters in that situation is harpy (Sgt. Sally Donovan, Sherlock), infatuated fan (Molly Hooper, Sherlock), or sometimes-effective detective who still needs to often be saved who will be killed as soon as we don’t need her any more and it might convince the audience that the stakes have been upped (Irene Adler, Sherlock Holmes/Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), I’d frankly rather they left them out entirely so I can watch my lovely British intellectuals verbally sniping at each other without rolling my eyes right out of my head. (While I found A Game of Shadows to be frightfully boring, I thought Noomi Rapace‘s Simza was actually pretty cool, so, not a bad job there if the aspects of her that I liked were intentionally created.)
Now, if Watson is a woman, that’s potentially very interesting. Well, boring if they decide to just make it an immediate love interest story a la Bones (oh hai, other show that uses the Smart/Socially Awkward Friend! Loyal Friend! They solve crime! dynamic), because that gets really tired after a season or two. But if this is a show that features an honest-to-god platonic relationship of equals between a man and a woman, roommates, no less, well. I’m just saying, I’ve been rewatching The X-Files lately and truly enjoying the Mulder/Scully dynamic. Alright, Elementary. You’ve gotten my attention. But that’s all, so far.