How many Sherlock Holmeses can peacefully coexist in pop culture?
That was the big question hanging over CBS’ Elementary panel at Comic-Con Thursday, with the show seeking to be the third major Holmes vehicle vying for audiences’ attention in recent years.
There is, of course, Robert Downey Jr.’s bombastic big-screen steam-punk version, in which Holmes is more keen on using his fists than his wits. And, more impressively, Benedict Cumberbatch’s marvelous take on the BBC’s Sherlock — a crime drama so brilliant it makes U.S. cop shows look like they’ve been asleep for the past decade.
Judging from the enthusiastic response to the Elementary pilot screened in Ballroom 20 this afternoon, there’s room enough for one more — and we already guessed that, right? The crime drama is the most popular hour-long scripted format on TV. There’s always room for one more, especially a character as iconic as Holmes.
“The fact that there have been so many interpretations over the years actually takes the pressure off,” star Jonny Lee Miller told the audience. “You can take what you want, what you feel hasn’t been seen before.”
Miller is friends with Cumberbatch and says the actor was “very supportive” of him taking the role. “We wanted to be sure it’s very different,” Miller said. “I went back to the books, that’s where I got most of my information.”
The biggest change, of course, was “Starbucking” Watson, who will be played by Lucy Liu. Executive producer Robert Doherty says the change was inspired by Holmes’ amusing discomfort around women in the books. One must also wonder if other factors were at play too — like not making the CBS version too similar to Sherlock (whose production company accused CBS of knocking off their show anyway), and sticking with the tried-and-true CBS format of pairing male and female cop partners. At any rate, one shouldn’t expect much romance between the two.
“It’s a challenge to not turn into a ‘will they or won’t they,'” Doherty said. “The relationship should still function the same way [as in the books].”
“It gives it a different shift,” added Liu about the characters’ relationship. “A little bit of a tingle.”
Judging by producers’ hints, you can expect Holmes’ arch-rival Moriarty to show up, possibly in the first season. But Holmes’ brother Mycroft won’t be introduced anytime soon. The show will instead focus on fleshing out the relationship between Holmes and his father. Elementary premieres Sept. 27 on CBS.