CBS Explains Why We Need Another ‘Sherlock Holmes’

by | July 29, 2012 at 2:35 PM | Elementary, Fall TV Preview 2012

Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu in 'Elementary' (Photo: CBS)

“There’s plenty of room for many Sherlocks,” said CBS President of Entertainment Nina Tassler Sunday at the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour in Beverly Hills. It’s a “timeless” tale.

Instead of just giving us another cop show this fall, CBS is giving us another Sherlock Holmes in the highly anticipated procedural drama “Elementary,” starring British actor Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu.

There’s a twist, of course.

This take on the famous sleuth is set in modern day New York and features a female Watson, played by Liu. She’s introduced as a sober companion for Miller’s Sherlock Holmes, an eccentric genius detective from a wealthy family who’s traded London for Manhattan following a “fall from grace” which included a trip to rehab. Before long, the sexy sleuths are on the case helping the NYPD solve crimes.

“I feel like I see Sherlock is everywhere – his fingerprints are on every procedural show,” series creator Rob Doherty (“Medium”) told TV reporters. “Most shows have a Sherlock, they just call them something else.”

Get a Clue About What “Elementary” Is All About in This Sneak Preview:

A huge fan and expert on the legendary character from literature, Doherty points out that “Sherlock’s been through many, many hands…I don’t know if he would exist in popular culture in the way that he does if that hadn’t happened.”

“The source material is incredible,” he continued. “These are amazing stories and characters to work with, and it’s a paradigm that works no matter what…. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle knew what he was doing. He was ahead of his time.”

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When asked to explain the decision to turn Holmes’ assistant Dr. John Watson into Dr. Joan Watson, Doherty said, “Sherlock’s relationship with women was very complicated and awkward.” Since their partnership is at the core of the show, he liked that dynamic.

It’s “very forward thinking,” says Tassler.

Adds Liu: “It’s a fresh and wonderful take on who Watson is.” She also revealed a bit more about Lady Watson. “She was a surgeon who lost her license, and we may not discover why for a while … they will slowly unravel the mystery of her backstory.”

“They are both flawed characters with a history and that keeps audience engaged,” Liu said of the crime-solving duo. “Hopefully the audience will enjoy that there’s a personal relationship outside of the procedural crime of the week.”

Producers teased that in addition to meeting Sherlock’s father soon, viewers can also look forward to the introduction of the James Moriarty character — Sherlock’s archenemy.

“We have a plan for our Moriarty,” Doherty said. “We’ll introduce him to you as we go.”

More on Moriarty: “He needs to be true to the character but we have a bit more wiggle room with him because he was shadowy figure. Quite often you’re dealing with his agents — he’s the man behind the man behind the man…

“There may be a few dominoes we knock over before we get to him, but we want to keep it a surprise so I can’t say too much,” Doherty teased.

Coincidentally, CBS’s Sherlock Johnny Lee Miller is good friends with Benedict Cumberbatch, who stars in the BBC’s “Sherlock,” which debuted in 2010 and has been an addictive hit ever since. (Robert Downey Jr. also recently played Sherlock Holmes on the big screen.)

Miller admits the two Brits have discussed their dueling detectives.

“I love the work Benedict has done with this show, and I would call him up like a groupie to talk about it,” Miller told TV reporters. “We had a private discussion about this show as well, and he’s been very supportive. I assured him how different this project was … it’s another country, a different vibe and all that. But, yeah, obviously we discussed it.”

While viewers can expect this to be a very CBS-like version of Sherlock Holmes, Miller’s detective will be a “volatile, impulsive” character with an addictive personality.

“He’s not a sociopath, but he is driven. That’s his obsession,” said the EP. “Obviously he’s a genius with an incredible attention to detail,” but he will also have “a kernel of self-doubt.”

One perk the actor is thrilled about is not having to cover his many tattoos for the role.

“I don’t have many regrets in my life but some of my choices in the ‘90s have made for some rather time-consuming make-up calls,” Miller said, “so it’s a huge relief here. It absolutely fits this character.”

“Elementary” premieres Thursday, Sept. 27 at 10/9c on CBS.