Wow, so CBS must be really scared of legal action from the creators of the BBC‘s “Sherlock,” because otherwise this casting makes no sense at all: Lucy Liu will play Watson in CBS’s Sherlock Holmes pilot, “Elementary.”
After previously speaking to the BBC about buying the remake rights to their popular (and rather excellent) “Sherlock,” CBS eventually decided to go it alone and unsurprisingly then faced accusations of plagiarism from across the pond. Any subsequent legal action, however, would depend on how closely the finished product resembled the BBC’s current iteration of a modern day Sherlock Holmes, and so CBS now look to be doing everything they can to make their show seem in some way different to the one they’re quite clearly ripping off — moving the show from London to New York alone would not be enough.
Casting Jonny Lee Miller as the great sleuth probably wasn’t the best start in trying to differentiate the projects — the actor had recently shared roles with the British Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch, in Danny Boyle‘s stage adaptation of “Frankenstein.” A better idea was changing the title to something more unique, but then they went and called it “Elementary,” which is frankly awful, no? But here’s the secret weapon — WATSON IS A WOMAN NOW!!! SO IT’S TOTALLY DIFFERENT, ISN’T IT!!! Erm, no CBS, it sounds like an cheap trick to create the illusion that this is a totally original idea, whilst creating a lazy USP to sell the show to potential viewers.
Deadline reports that Lucy Liu will play Jane Watson, “a former surgeon who lost her license after a patient died.” They also reveal that Holmes is in New York after moving to attend a rehab centre to treat his addiction problems, and is now living with his “sober companion” Watson, and consulting for the NYPD. We can only imagine that “Elementary” will be replacing the latent homoeroticism of the Holmes-Watson relationship with outright flirting, and who knows, maybe we’ll finally get to see Holmes and Watson going at it.
It’s not that we don’t like Liu or Miller, and it’s not that the idea of Sherlock Holmes in New York City sounds inherently like a bad idea. It’s more the fact that the show is so clearly cashing in on the success of the British version, and is now compromising the quality of what could have been (if they’d been willing to pay for the idea) an interesting US re-imagining of the series in their desperate attempts to differentiate. If there’s any justice the pilot will be an unmitigated failure and won’t be picked up by the network, but we’re secretly hoping that the show proves successful. That way viewers will have a great new show to watch, and should prompt that threat of legal action to become a reality — forcing CBS to pay the creators of “Sherlock” the money they’re due.