Last month, the news broke that CBS was working on a new TV pilot, Elementary, which is a modern-day retooling of the adventures of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary consulting detective, Sherlock Holmes, and his trusty companion, Watson. But, two classic and iconic Holmes’ plot elements will be noticeably different in Elementary: 1. the series will be set in present-day New York City, where the pilot is currently filming and 2. for the first time, Sherlock’s famed sidekick, Dr. Watson, will be played by a woman (Lucy Liu)… with Watson’s first name making the gender switch from John to Joan.
Jonny Lee Miller (Trainspotting, Dexter, Eli Stone) plays the role of Elementary’s very contemporary, yet still eccentric and British, Sherlock Holmes. In this new characterization of the famous sleuth, Holmes is a former consultant to Scotland Yard whose addiction problems led him to a rehab center in New York City. Lucy Liu (Ally McBeal, Charlie’s Angels) plays the role of Joan Watson, a former surgeon who lost her license after a patient died while consulting for the New York Police Department. The two live together in an apartment in Brooklyn, New York with Liu’s Watson working as a “sober companion” to Holmes.
With this character and casting decision, “Liu becomes the first woman to play the popular sidekick, most recently played on the big-screen by Jude Law. She joins a roster of actors who have filled the role, including Nigel Bruce, Roland Young, Reginald Owen, Ben Kingsley, Arthur Lowe, Dudley Moore, James Mason, Robert Duvall, Martin Freeman and Ian Hart, among others”, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
News of CBS’s plans to create Elementary, not even an official TV series yet, has been raising eyebrows across the pond, which some speculate was the impetus behind the network’s daring sex change for Watson. The New York Post reported just last week that although the reason for casting Liu might have something to do with shaking up our expectations, it also may help avoid a possible lawsuit. “Earlier this year, the BBC threatened possible legal action against CBS when it learned its American counterpart was doing a Holmes series that sounded suspiciously similar to its series, Sherlock – a modern-day take on the Arthur Conan Doyle classic.” The BBC’s reimagined, 21st century Watson is a man in Sherlock, so having a female Watson in Elementary easily takes care of differentiating the CBS series from that of its British predecessor.
Hhhmmm… sounds like a case for Sherlock Holmes.
If picked up to a full series, Elementary will most likely debut as part of the CBS 2012 fall TV schedule.