Benedict Cumberbatch‘s “Sherlock” is about to face some competition across the pond. But “Elementary,” CBS’ new fall procedural starring Jonny Lee Miller, is not a clone of the hit BBC series’ own modern interpretation of the classic mysteries.
Miller confirms he spoke with Cumberbatch about playing the same iconic character of his former stage costar. (Coincidentally — or not — they alternated roles in Danny Boyle‘s stage production of “Frankenstein.”) “I wanted to reassure him about how different this script was,” he said. “Benedict’s been very, very supportive.”
At the TCA press tour, CBS head honcho Nina Tassler denied that the network developed “Elementary” in response to “Sherlock” creator Steven Moffat‘s refusal to hand over the adaptation rights. Instead, she insists, showrunner Rob Doherty “tapped into the DNA of this character in a way we’d never heard before,” she said. “Listing all the incarnations that character has gone through over the years, I think there is plenty of room for another Holmes in our world.”
Here are some other major ways “Elementary” differs from “Sherlock”:
“The Woman”: The most striking difference between “Elementary” and “Sherlock” is Lucy Liu‘s casting as Watson (“The Hobbit’s” Martin Freeman plays the part in the BBC series.) Tassler calls this twist “a very forward-thinking way of depicting the character,” and Liu emphasizes that like the original Conan Doyle character, Miller’s Sherlock “has an awkward relationship with [the other] gender.” Their relationship on the show, she says, serves as a “constant reminder of that awkwardness.”
Daddy Issues: The only relative of Sherlock’s we see in Conan Doyle’s original series and most adaptations, including the BBC hit, is his brilliant brother Mycroft. “Elementary,” however, focuses on the detective’s relationship with his father “I feel like I haven’t seen that before,” says Doherty. “I’m sort of fascinated to meet the guy who helped raise this person — or didn’t help raise this person.”
Just Say No: Joan Watson is hired by Sherlock’s father to be a “sober companion” after the recovering addict’s stint in rehab. Although Doherty says the source material mentions Sherlock’s drug use, “it never dictated plot or altered the course of the story. [But] our Sherlock broke down and is in a state of repair and recovery…Something terrible happened to him in London and he spiraled out of control. Our Sherlock has emerged with tiny kernel of self-doubt where none previously existed.”
New York, New York: “I was immediately attracted to the Englishman in New York vibe” when EP Carl Beverly suggested the idea, said showrunner Doherty about Sherlock’s relocation from London to the Big Apple. “We are in a completely different setting — to the best of my recollection we haven’t seen Sherlock in America before. He struggles with the New York of it all.”
Showing Some Skin: When we first meet Sherlock Holmes in “Elementary,” he is getting dressed after a one-night-stand. That’s a huge enough difference from previous portrayals of the consulting detective, but we also see Miller’s real-life tattoos decorating his toned torso. “I don’t really have many regrets in my life,” he laughed, “but some of my choices in the ’90s made for some rather time-consuming makeup calls.” Not only is it a “huge relief” not to have to cover up his ink, but it “absolutely it fits” with his character.
“Elementary” premieres on CBS on Thursday, Sept. 27 at 10 p.m.