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Welcome once again to our annual "first look" at the broadcast networks' offerings for the 2012-2013 season, now in its seventh year! Each day we'll walk you through one of the new series set to premiere next season (or one that didn't make the cut) and go over our initial impressions after viewing the pilot. Keep in mind that a lot can change from what's being screened right now - recasting, reshooting, etc. - but we still want to give you a heads up on what you should (and shouldn't) keep on your radar in the coming months. So enough of our rambling, on with the show!
[IMPORTANT NOTE: The following is based on the original sales presentation which was screened to us privately or supplied by a third party NOT an informational, not-for-review screener provided by the network in question.]
(written by Robert Doherty; directed by Michael Cuesta; TRT: 47:34)
The network's description: "ELEMENTARY stars Jonny Lee Miller as detective Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson in a modern-day drama about a crime-solving duo that cracks the NYPD's most impossible cases. Following his fall from grace in London and a stint in rehab, eccentric Sherlock escapes to Manhattan where his wealthy father forces him to live with his worst nightmare - a sober companion, Dr. Watson. A successful surgeon until she lost a patient and her license three years ago, Watson views her current job as another opportunity to help people, as well as paying a penance. However, the restless Sherlock is nothing like her previous clients. He informs her that none of her expertise as an addiction specialist applies to him and he's devised his own post-rehab regimen - resuming his work as a police consultant in New York City.
Watson has no choice but to accompany her irascible new charge on his jobs. But Sherlock finds her medical background helpful, and Watson realizes she has a knack for playing investigator. Sherlock's police contact, Capt. Tobias "Toby" Gregson (Aidan Quinn), knows from previous experience working with Scotland Yard that Sherlock is brilliant at closing cases, and welcomes him as part of the team. With the mischievous Sherlock Holmes now running free in New York solving crimes, it's simple deduction that he's going to need someone to keep him grounded, and it's elementary that it's a job for Watson. Rob Doherty, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly and Michael Cuesta, who directed the pilot, are executive producers for CBS Television Studios."
What did they leave out? The pilot will make its world premiere today at Comic-Con International: San Diego.
The plot in a nutshell: Freshly escaped from rehab, Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) has a plan for his recovery: resume his consulting duties for the police, this time in New York City for Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn), an acquaintance from his days at Scotland Yard. His father however has assigned him a sober companion, Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), to keep him on the straight and narrow. Holmes is initially none too thrilled by said arrangement, but it's a prerequisite to continue residing in one of his father's homes, not to mention could be a little fun to have someone to kick around. You see, Holmes is always the smartest person in the room, a fact he's more than happy to showcase.
And as Joan will quickly discovers, it's not braggadocio on his part. Case in point: the wife of Richard Mantlo (Dallas Roberts), a successful psychologist, has gone missing following an apparent break in. Holmes however uncovers, through what will become his own brand of quasi theatricality, that she's not missing at all: her body is actually in the apartment's safe room. The police quickly eye the husband as the responsible party however it doesn't sit right with Holmes, who proceeds to follow his own leads. (Joan: "But the police still think Mantlo is their guy."
Holmes: "Well, the police think lots of things, it's adorable.") The ensuing investigation opens a few cracks in Holmes's scruffy facade, awakens an unexpected affinity for police work in Joan and ultimately a partnership is formed.
What works: You couldn't ask for a better constructed, thoughtfully performed or slickly executed pilot as this one. What could have been a cringe-inducing take - Holmes lives in New York, wears ironic T-shirts ("I am not lucky, I am good") and is covered in tattoos; and oh, and Watson is a woman, how blasphemous! - proves to be anything but. Liu's Watson is particularly wonderful, as watching her transition from reluctant babysitter to discovering her own investigative mind is a joy. (Joan: "How do you do it?" Holmes: "Do what?" Joan: "Guess things." Holmes: "I don't guess, I observe. And once I observe I deduce.") Miller is likewise an all around hoot - giving Holmes both a dangerous and a playful edge, as his zeal to be right nearly unhinges him. It's "House" as a police procedural, you know, if "House" wasn't an ode to Sherlock Holmes in the first place.
What really surprised me through is that all the stuff I'd normally be bumped by - whether it's how Holmes's abilities frequently border on magic or how some of the dialogue feels too refined and pointed to come from a human being ("That's so incredible, the way that you can solve people just by looking at them," Joan notes at one point. "I noticed you don't have any mirrors around here.") - actually feel earned here. There's a disarming aspect to Miller's performance that lets him get away with the above (he even jokes that if all else fails, there's always Google) not to mention an elevated intelligence to the script that gives credence to all the on-the-nose things that are said.
What doesn't: All in all, other than Miller's accent being a little impenetrable to these Yankee ears at times, I...
The bottom line: ...just love when shows come out of the oven fully cooked like this.