A Holmes twist in 'Elementary'
A scene from the BBC's "Sherlock". "Elementary" will debut on CBS. (Handout)
One thing Elementary doesn't have going for it is the element of surprise.
Sherlock Holmes has been around for quite a while, after all.
But here's the surprising thing about Elementary, which debuts Thursday on CBS and Global: The Sherlock Holmes part of it really shouldn't sway you one way or the other.
The first episode of this series, which is set in present-day New York and stars Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson, is compelling enough on its own.
With just some slight tweaking, if I hadn't known this was based on Sherlock Holmes, and if the characters were named, say, Sherman Holt and Dr. Watley, I would have accepted it anyway as an intriguing new TV series for the fall 2012 season.
There obviously are many ways to tackle Sherlock Holmes, and this is one of the more subtle forays, actually.
"For me, there are two different things that make Sherlock Sherlock," Miller said. "One is, you know, within the books, obviously, he's a genius with an attention to detail, his ravenous hunger for all aspects of knowledge that might feed into his work.
"But the major thing that makes him Sherlock is his relationship with Watson. The book is being written from Watson's perspective, and (the relationship) feeds that massively.
"It's about two people. It's about a relationship between two people and their friendship. For me, that, I guess, is the biggest side, the more interesting side than the genius."
What's more, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson are never ordinary. They wouldn't be boring in any era.
"I think flawed characters, having a history and a mysterious past, are always going to keep the audience engaged," said Liu, who thankfully is engaged with the source material and is playing down the Hollywood-cemented comedic-sidekick element of Dr. Watson.
"I think, naturally, the connection between the two of them is his oddities and, you know, his inability to be as stable as most people would like to be. She's just as unstable, but not as obvious because she's trying to distract her own problems with his problems.
"There's an aspect of humanity that is brought to the two characters through their relationship. And I think that's what, hopefully, the audience will enjoy, because there's a personal relationship outside of the procedural or the crime that is going to occur every week."
Some people will be attracted to the Sherlock Holmes element of Elementary. But others -- including myself, initially -- will be somewhat put off by that. So I'm speaking directly to those people when I say this: You don't have to be a Sherlock Holmes devotee to enjoy Elementary. Take a Liu day and check it out.