Battle of the Sherlocks

Dave Bartlett
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The great lost argument and a missed opportunity

For more than a year I’ve preached an unpopular opinion, lost several arguments and have yet to find anyone who agrees with me.

Lucy Liu and Jonny Lee Miller star in the CBS Drama “Elementary,” which columnist Dave Bartlett still prefers to the BBC’s “Sherlock.” — Submitted photo

But I still prefer the sophomore CBS, hour-long network drama “Elementary” to the BBC’s “Sherlock,” which is presented in a 90 minute, commercial free form.

Everybody loves the Benedict Cumberbatch/Martin Freeman lead series, which has given us nine episodes and is now in its third season (or series as the British say). Apparently there is also an unaired pilot.

I love it too, but not as much as “Elementary.”

I love Cumberbatch as a villain — his eyes are so wee and cold. He was great in the last “Star Trek” movie as Kahn, and he gives Smaug the dragon the right amount of playful menace in the latest Hobbit feature film.

And though the consumer of the story is supposed to relate more with the Watson character — and find Sherlock Holmes somewhat aggressive, cold and aloof — I prefer Jonny Lee Miller ‘s obsessively driven yet twitchy, recovering addict with a temper as opposed to a impeccably dressed aristocrat who solves murders out of boredom.

Lucy Liu is a great Joan Watson in the American show, as good as Freeman is in the U.K. version, (and he’s tremendous). While I’ve read that some have a problem making the character of Holmes’ right hand female, I think it certainly works.

Liu’s Watson is a little more everyday despite being a brilliant surgeon and forensics expert. I like that she gave up medicine after losing a patient. Freeman’s Watson has also undergone recent trauma and the show opens with his return for Afghanistan, a wounded medical officer.

I do love the landlady in the BBC series and think she adds a nice, light-hearted touch of comedy.

That being said, I’m a little disappointed “Elementary” missed an opportunity to inject some new fuel to its story, and instead chose to follow a thread that has basically led the viewer back to where we started from, a handful of episodes back. It has to do with characters and a shake up I was expecting that did not come.

I’ve written before that I hoped to see more of Sherlock’s Narcotics Anonymous sponsor Alfredo in the American series. The former car thief, who now makes a living testing alarm systems for the elite motor companies, took a few episodes last year to show both Sherlock and Joan how to refine their lock-picking and alarm disarming skills.

He’s the potential to be a great character if he gets more screen time, but unfortunately, Alfredo has been in very few episodes this year. He did appear just before Christmas to convince Sherlock to become a sponsor and set him up with a recovering addict to mentor.

I thought the new recruit and Alfredo may even become part of the central cast, especially in light that Detective Bell (Jon Michael Hill), Sherlock’s New York City police pal, has been wounded, can no longer fire a gun and holds Holmes responsible.

But after three or four episodes of Bell transferring and working at a desk job for the city’s anti-terrorist unit, it looks like he’s back on the NYPD and ready to work with Holmes and Watson again after last week’s episode.

I like Hill, he’s far better than Aidan Quinn — a cardboard cut-out  of a police captain who hasn’t done much with the character — but I though making the cast a little broader and giving Sherlock a consistent and reoccurring team would be good for the show as it starts to add a progressive story arc to its cases-of-the-week.

So my question is what has been the point of this exploration? I don’t have an answer. Will these other characters return and play more prominent roles? Who knows.

However, I did enjoy the return of Moriarty in a recent episode during this recent mini-arc of “Elementary.”

Again, I prefer Natalie Dormer (also known as Margaery Tyrell in “Game of Thrones”) as a brilliant seductress to the pompous and button-down Andrew Scott who plays Sherlock’s nemesis in the British version — though he is gleefully evil and amusing in his own way.

I’ll continue to watch both shows, but I’ll also hold steadfast to my opinion that “Elementary” is simply more entertaining in it’s 45-minute bite-sized package.

Hooray for “The Breakfast Club”

When I was in high-school, if I entered a classroom with a TV and VCR in it I knew there’d be a good chance I would be spending the next period watching the John Hughes movie “The Breakfast Club,” about five teen stereotypes serving detention on a Saturday, and turning into real complex characters struggling with their individual lots in life. I’ve always loved the movie, despite the ad nauseam viewings, and was thrilled to see it appear on Netflix this week. It’s still as good as ever.

What shows do all your friends hate, but you love despite them? Also What movie did you watch over and over in high school? Send correspondence to Dave Bartlett at

Organizations: BBC, CBS, Breakfast Club

Geographic location: U.K., Afghanistan, New York City

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Recent comments

  • Eel
    January 24, 2014 - 07:17

    Benedict Cumberbatch is the best thing to happen to tv in a long long time.

  • Michelle
    January 22, 2014 - 07:03

    I love Elementary. I'm sorry to say I haven't seen the BBC show but it doesn't stop me from agreeing that Elementary is awesome :)