Greg Dixon 's Opinion

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

Greg Dixon: Someone to call Holmes

12 comments
Jonny Lee Miller is a tattooed Holmes, with a female Watson (Lucy Liu).  Photo / Supplied
Jonny Lee Miller is a tattooed Holmes, with a female Watson (Lucy Liu). Photo / Supplied

Call me old-fashioned. Call me a square, if you like. But it just doesn't seem right for Sherlock Holmes to have tattoos.

It was more or less the first thing I noticed about this latest Holmes, played by Jonny Lee Miller, an actor who I thought, until last night, had a great career behind him.

Miller/Holmes had no shirt on when we first sighted him on Elementary (Prime, 8.30pm, Wednesdays) and all I could think was, "what a lot of tattoos he has". Actually, that wasn't the only thing I thought. I also thought, "what a lot of body hair he has; is he wearing a monkey suit?". But I am being unkind, though not about the tattoos; there is no way that Mr Sherlock Holmes should have what some like to call "body art". So there.

Still, as this premiere episode went on, I decided that Mr Miller as Mr Holmes - thankfully both had their shirts on for the rest of the show - was no bad thing. Which, I should say, isn't elementary at all.

At last count there were 1.5 trillion different adaptations of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories. I am of course exaggerating about the 1.5 trillion, but possibly not by much. There have been many, many adaptations. So bringing anything new to the role is surely a task best left to actors with some flair and a bit of imagination.

It is early days yet for Mr Miller's Mr Holmes, but there is a sort of loose limbed-ness, a vulnerability and, oddly enough for this obviously heavily heterosexual Holmes, a slight campness to Miller's Sherlock that suggests Elementary might be worth watching each week simply for his reading of the character.

And he certainly has a hard act to follow, following so closely behind Benedict Cumberbatch's absolutely terrific Holmes in the BBC's absolutely terrific Sherlock.

I am certainly no Holmes expert or aficionado, but I think Cumberbatch's interpretation has imprinted itself on my mind in the same way Jeremy Brett's Holmes did back in the 1980s.

Cumberbatch's flinty, peppery and really rather snobbish modern-era Holmes dashes about an exciting modern London like an Earthbound Doctor Who. The production is dead cool too, with a filmic quality and plenty of surprise. Elementary just can't compete with it but Miller, I think, manages to be his own (if not quite-as-good) Holmes.

It is in the part of Watson that Elementary gets a little too close to falling off the Reichenbach Falls. Unlike the BBC which has, in Martin Freeman, a fairly orthodox Watson, Elementary, an American production, has not only cast its Watson as a woman, but has cast her as an Asian woman. This might have been bold and brave, it if wasn't for the fact that the Asian woman is Lucy Liu, an actress typically cast for her looks rather than her acting chops.

If that casting seems a bit lame, at least the show's creator Robert Doherty has been playful with his recasting of Holmes' situation: he is in Manhattan having just finished a stint in rehab, a place he was sent by his father after the younger Holmes had some sort of drug-induced meltdown in London.

Liu's Watson is his "sober companion", the person assigned (with his father's money) to make sure he stays off the drugs.

If last night's first case was a forgettable thing about a psychiatrist who'd manipulated a patient into killing his (the psychiatrist's) wife, then there was some pleasure to be gained from the Miller's Sherlock and Liu's Holmes getting to grips with each other.

Elementary is no Sherlock (a programme which, each time a new series turns up, makes me near weep with joy) but, using my astute logic and powers of televisual deduction from the evidence, I conclude that Elementary might be fun way to kill an hour on a Wednesday.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

Greg Dixon

Greg Dixon is deputy editor of Canvas.

It has been said the only qualities essential for real success in journalism are a rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability. Despite having none of these things, Canvas deputy editor Greg Dixon has spent more than 20 years working as a journalist for the New Zealand Herald and North & South and Metro magazines. Although it has been rumoured that he embarked on his journalism career as the result of a lost bet, the truth is that although he was obsessed by the boy reporter Tintin as a child, he originally intended to be an accountant. Instead, after a long but at times spectacularly bad stint at university involving two different institutions, a year as a studio radio programme director and a still uncompleted degree, he fell into journalism, a decision his mother has only recently come to terms with. A graduate of the Auckland Institute of Technology (now AUT) journalism school, he was hired by the Herald on graduation in 1992 and spent the next eight years demonstrating little talent for daily news, some for television reviewing and a passable aptitude for long-form feature writing. Before returning to the Herald in 2008 to take up his present role, he spent three years as a freelance, three as a senior feature writer at Metro and one as a staff writer at North & South. As deputy editor of Canvas, his main responsibility is applauding the decisions of the editor, Michele Crawshaw. However he prefers to spend his time interviewing interesting people -- a career highlight was a confusing 15-minute phone interview with a stoned Anna Nicole Smith -- and pretending to understand what they're going on about. He has won awards for his writing and editing, but would have preferred a pay rise.

Read more by Greg Dixon

Have your say

We aim to have healthy debate. But we won't publish comments that abuse others. View commenting guidelines.

1200 characters left

Sort by
  • Oldest

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production bpcf01 at 25 Oct 2014 18:58:12 Processing Time: 406ms