Thursday, September 27, 2012

In-Class Movie: "Pilot" (S01E01)

“Then, of course, this blood belongs to a second individual—presumably the murderer, if murder has been committed. It reminds me of the cicumstances attendant on the death of Van Jansen, in Utrecht, in the year ’34. Do you remember the case, Gregson?”
“No, sir.”
“Read it up—you really should. There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before.”
--Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

Austin: A lot relies on this blog entry. Not in our lives, our reader's lives or any consequence to the show itself. This entry determines the life of this blog. If we love this episode, our mission statement will dramatically change. If we hate it, then we can cynically pat ourselves on the back before realizing what we committed ourselves to. To make a different type of television allusion, what kind of day has it been?
A Wednesday.

That's my answer: a Wednesday. I know tonight is Thursday, Elementary aired on Thursday and you may be reading this on a Friday. The pilot for Elementary feels like a Wednesday. A low-key day where you go to work and come home and nothing happened. You're right in between the verge of the weekend and being too far from the weekend.

Elementary is not the train-wreck we all morbidly wished it would be. Don't get me wrong, it's still awful. It's just not a "I'm pretending to be pregnant and planning on stealing a cheerleader's baby" kind of awful. This is a show that just doesn't know what it's doing.

We'll talk about the plot of this episode in a bit, but the real reason people are so curious about this pilot is because of the lead characters. (We can discuss Aidan Quinn and Other Cop if you want but I'm not really an expert in analyzing blank space.) We have Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) who is now living in New York City after an incident and Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) who is a surgeon working as an addict companion after an incident.

Hand me my shirt. Please?

Their first interaction better be a wink to the fans and hopefully not CBS foreshadowing when Sherlock gives a monologue about love at first sight to her and then reveals he was replicating a soap opera, presumably to practice human interaction or something. Watson responds by looking at him. She later goes with him to a crime scene and Sherlock argues that she has to go in. Why? She has displayed nothing of interest to him. He isn't entertained by her, he isn't curious about her. He just has her join him because there should probably be a Watson. Once in the room, she does nothing.

On one level there is an acting lack of chemistry, but more importantly there is not a single reason in the script for these two to be friends. In fact because their characters are so flat, it further hurts their characters by trusting each other. Since the show doesn't know what purpose Watson can solve with the mysteries, everything she brings up as a clue is something really obvious that Sherlock really should have noticed considering he's Sherlock Holmes. She's supposed to be a recovering guide for addicts, but this episode just shows she's incredibly incompetent at her job by the way she lets this man in recovery control her. Not through complicated manipulation, he just asks kindly for the keys to her car and she gives it to him. Why?

At this point, playing Sherlock Holmes could be the worst job ever. What new can you do with that character? Surprisingly Jonny Lee Miller has something. He plays him like a drug addict. That is a great role because then you can play off his sporadic side while always having a layer of doubt on whether he can function entirely. He's not playing him like a showman, but someone oblivious to his own psychologically and chemically affected behavior. His best moment is when he gets dressed because when he puts on his t-shirt you’re not sure where he’s going with his outfit, until the end here he pulled off a snazzy outfit. 

Sure I bet he predicted the end to the Packers/Seahawks game as well. Topical!

That said, none of this matters because the script gives him nothing to do with this take. His observations are obvious, he disregards deduction majority of the time and goes for humanistic assumptions (Hey I thought he was supposed to be bad at that...). If he's not allowed to earn his clever moments he's not clever. If you had him reading baseball stats at one point, then he would be able to hypothetically deduce the probability of the end of that game. Watching one game without any sense of the team's history cannot make you a psychic.

Watson has a blank face a lot.

Let's just accept that this is going to be a long blog post, everyone. Every week won't be like this but there is so much to cover with first impressions.

Leigh, what did you think of our dynamic duo? Do you think that Jonny Lee Miller has potential? Did Lucy Liu nod off during one of the scenes? What is being said about this crime solving friendship? Also shall you start the discussion about the female elephant surgeon in the room?

Leigh: A Tuesday. You said a Wednesday, but I think a Tuesday. It’s a boring day at the beginning of the week and similar to a Wednesday when nothing really remarkable ever happens. It isn’t quite the hellishness that Monday is but it’s close enough to the previous weekend that you still remember what it was like to be carefree for those few days.

Before I get too far into my response I would like to take a moment to explain something. I didn’t expect much from the pilot. I was hoping for it to be amazing but I am a realist and expected to be disappointed. It wasn’t because of Watson being cast as a woman. I thought that this could be incredibly interesting…Just not done by CBS. Also, I didn’t like who they got to play Former Surgeon Joan Watson. Lucy Liu, the boring one from Charlie’s Angels? Really? Her best acting role ever is when her head is lopped off by Uma Thurman. My hypothesis for why Lucy Liu is so stale and emotionless is because she’s actually a robot. My guess is they cast her for the part, she mysteriously disappeared or died or something but they didn’t want to recast the role, so they built Lucy Liu-Bot. Someone must’ve watched an episode of Futurama and well…You know the rest.

I would also like to state that I don’t automatically hate this show because it’s a formulaic genre. It wasn’t a surprise when I fell in love with the Sherlock Holmes stories. It was natural. It was fate. It was meant to be. A good portion of my childhood was spent watching Law and Order with my mom. We like to joke that because of all of the episodes we have watched, we could pass the New York Bar. I like to think of Lenny Briscoe as my surrogate grandfather. Police procedurals are apart of my DNA.


This had so much potential. It’s like that friend who was really awesome and could do anything they wanted in high school then you don’t talk to them for five years and when you do catch up, they’re on their 3rd kid with just as many women and divorced twice. That’s the level of disappointment I had with this show. It had so much potential and then…ugh.

I’ve been told recently that because of my love of Sherlock Holmes, I’m anti-feminist. I do not think this is the case at all and it will be further discussed when we get to “A Scandal in Bohemia”. (Hint: Irene Adler is my Victorian Era heroine.) People are giving the producers of Elementary a lot more credit than they deserve. Sure, they cast a woman to play a traditionally male role. It has been done before. If they want to blow me away with their advancement of sexual equality, they wouldn’t have made Joan Watson the weakest Watson ever. She is Joan Watson, FORMER SURGEON. One could make some Sherlock Holmes type assumptions and assume that she is used to seeing blood and dead bodies and limbs laying about the place. And yet, when Sherlock Holmes says to the investigators, and Watson who is needed but it isn’t explained why she’s needed other than the fact that she “must follow him where ever he goes.” Later he basically says ,“There’s a body behind this door I’m about to open!” and then opens the door, Lucy Liu shows the most emotion she’s shown in the entire show when she gasps and leaves the room.

Let me reiterate the important facts here. Former surgeon. Warned about the dead body. Runs away like a little girl seeing a dead body. This is not writing an equally dominant character, this is writing a woman character like television has written women characters for ages.  They could’ve given her more power and exerted her dominance over her watch but, nope, she’s foiled by a simple unplugging of alarm clocks. The most assertive thing she does is when she swabs Holmes’ mouth. This is also when she shows a lot of emotion for the second time.  And yet the drawing of Lucy Liu I did has more emotion than that

Stick figure of Lucy Liu as she watches that one ASPCA commercial with Sarah McLachlan singing about abused animals.

I think that Johnny Lee Miller did a fantastic job with what he was given. To me this episode really did seem like it was written with the Wikipedia article about Holmes open the entire time. “Bohemian? Uh, we’ll have him smell his clothes before he puts them on. Bees? We got bees! Um, drugs? OH! Drugs! He’ll be an addict! PERFECT! Alright boys, lets call it a day.” And then there were other things that they wrote that seemed to be a blatant “BUT OURS IS DIFFERENT!” jab. The main one that sticks out to me is the vast amount of sex that Sherlock has/claims to have. –eye roll. – This combined with the introduction between Watson and Holmes where Lucy Liu shows the 3rd most emotion for the whole episode when she is caught off guard and blinks a couple of times when he professes love at first sight or some such nonsense and him commenting on how he loves her perfume later in the episode, I predict by the end of the season there will be at least one awkward sexual encounter between the two, at which point, I will projectile vomit at the TV. [I apologize and realize that that’s one hell of a sentence. I might be enjoying a Woodchuck right now. Woodchuck, the freshmaker!]

We know it isn’t the source material that’s at fault here, so, Austin, who’s to blame for the mediocrity that I just endured? Will the Elementary pilot have a similar effect as A Study in Scarlet where it sets up the characters but has a completely different format? And how many episodes do you give the series before Irene Adler shows up?

Austin: Yeah, but I hate Tuesdays. That's the worst day of the week because we've been predisposed to hate Mondays. Yet Tuesdays are just as bad being so far from the weekend, it's basically Monday Part II but we don't have the societal warning like we have about how much Mondays suck. I don't hate Elementary; I just think it's lazy and boring.

Before I start in on my next rant, I want to say that you're dead right about Watson's characterization as a surgeon and I think that we should be sponsored by Woodchuck. Also if this show gets picked up for a back 9 episodes, they'll cast Irene Adler this season or that is what they'll use to excite people for Season Two. No later than that.

Now I believed everyone is accustomed to recognize that pilots for TV shows are going to be rough. They often haven't found their voice yet so you're really tuning in for potential. Very rarely do you get something like LOST or The Shield where the pilot could be in consideration for one of the Top Ten episodes. So I'm optimistic (because what else can I be? We're covering this show every week.) that they could have a better understanding of how to treat Sherlock and Watson. 

Or they can continue being really lazy and that could very easily happen seeing how they treat the mystery in this pilot. Pilots are filmed separately than the rest of the series so the network can see if it works and then pick it up for a season. It's a wonderful way to waste a lot of money. So this episode had the time to really come up with a story unlike when they're going to be in production where they have to get several scripts ready to shoot.

One of the joys about the Sherlock Holmes stories is that since he is the smartest detective of all time, regular cases are too easy for him. He needs murders that are so strange, they need to be named. "The Case of the Speckled Band", "The Adventure of the Six Napoleons". Even House M.D. only covered the crazy cases.

Tonight's episode of Elementary could be called "The Case of the Murdered Woman." 

This is such a bland and boring case that I really felt that my computer zapped to a random episode from the 149th season of Law and Order. It was by the books for everything. I even kept waiting for the opening scene to take a twist like she would write RACHE on the wall or find an eggbeater under her bed to use on her attacker. ANYTHING. Nope. Everything about this was bland bland bland even down to interviewing the suspects and the motivation for the killer. 

I just met you. And this is crazy, but......we should be best friends who solve mundane crimes for no reason.

If this is what they came up with enough preparation before hand and a case to hook new viewers, this is pitiful. I would allow it to be a weaker story if the real plot of the episode was the introduction of Sherlock and Watson, but that didn't happen. This had a few scenes devoted to their introduction and then way too many scenes that were just copy and paste procedural scenes. I watched this Tuesday (thanks to time travel) and by Thursday I've forgotten most of the details.

I'm fine with episodic shows. They're not my favorite, but their mystery of the week has to be done with care. I think The Good Wife does a great job with making a creative logline for each case. White Collar is pretty good with that too most of the time. This is just an awful beginning.

Especially considering it hurts the character because it's so routine. None of the detectives need to bring in an expert for this case. Every "brilliant" discovery is something that should be found by a regular detective, especially the glasses and the pictures. The only thing worthy of Sherlock's talents seemed to be the discovery of the safe room. Following the marble was my favorite part of the episode because that was such a great visual reveal, especially as it stops in its path in the blood. Of course, why was the safe room even in the episode?

Did the plot frustrate you as much as it did me or is it completely wiped from your memory? Do you have a lone stick figure summary for the mystery?

Leigh: I feel like Tuesdays though there is some sort of expectation because it’s NOT Monday and therefore there should be something shiny and new about it and yet there never is. Tuesday is just a day full of disappointment. That’s what I feel this pilot is.
The key to a formulaic show like Law and Order or House is that you have to give the viewers a reason to watch. They know at the end of 42 minutes that the bad guy will be caught, we’ll find out it’s not Lupus, or in worse case scenario, we’re obligated to watch another episode when those sometimes frustrating words, “To be continued,” pop up. We know that the case will be solved like we know that the sun rises in the east and that baseball games will always interrupt our Primetime lineups. It’s fact. As an audience, we have accepted this and we’re okay with it. But why do we continue to watch shows that don’t shock and surprise us? Because of the characters. You have to make the characters interesting. You have to make the audience want to watch and see what’s wrong with Detective Stabler’s marriage this week or what new addiction House has or what quirky thing Bones is going to do next. The characters make us want to endure 42 minutes of predictable television. Based on the pilot, I don’t know if Elementary can do that.
We know that pilots can set the tone or just introduce us to the characters but what Elementary did was briefly introduce us to these two people like we were meeting them in passing at a conference or at a Starbucks. We know as much about these two characters as you would know about an acquaintance. Yes, it’s the pilot and I understand that we don’t want to give away all the plot points at once, but we should at least see some of their personality. I don’t really know that one girl who was in a group project with me last semester but I know that I liked her personality and I got that from the way she held herself and presented herself. Lucy Liu stood almost motionless on screen for 42 minutes. There were moments when I didn’t think she actually moved her mouth to speak. I would like to revise my theory. She wasn’t replaced by a Lucy Liu-bot, they just used a promotional cardboard cut-out instead.

We at least get some personality from Miller but I don’t think it’s enough to keep me interested as a viewer. One of the fantastic things about Sherlock Holmes is that he is constantly surprising Watson whether that be in his disguises, his hidden talents, his acting skills, what have you. As an audience, we don’t get that surprise. Oh, he’s an addict. Okay. He does and says things that TV audiences have come to know as the norm for addicts. Nothing surprising at all.
I took notes when I first watched this episode and looking back on them, I honestly didn’t remember what some of them were referring to. I’m sure they were important at the time, but right now, I couldn’t tell you what “rubber gloves?” means. Everything about this plot was, as you said, bland.
A husband who looks too much like Val Kilmer for my liking, wants to kill his wife, gets some crazy person to do it for him. –eye roll- Like you, I was expecting SOMETHING, someone to jump out from behind the couch, an odd voicemail left from an anonymous source, Lucy Liu cutout to fall over, anything! And instead we get nothing. As an audience, we aren’t rewarded for our viewing. I’m gagging as I’m typing this, but we aren’t even rewarded with lingering eye contact between Miller and the Cardboard Cut-Out.
While I don’t have a stick figure to sum this up, I think this picture will.
Bland showing more emotion than Lucy Liu

Maybe we'll be rewarded for tuning into the second episode or maybe we'll continue to forget what it was about. Maybe it's all part of a secret plot to make Americans forget things. Now THAT would be an interesting episode. But next installment, we'll actually see what a real drug addict is like. 
And here is Austin Lugar with the last word.

Austin: Her?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Book Review: “A Study in Scarlet” (Doyle, 1887)

“There are no crimes and no criminals in these days,” he said, querulously. “What is the use of having brains in our profession? I know well that I have it in me to make my name famous. No man lives or has ever lived who has brought the same amount of study and of natural talent to the detection of crime which I have done. And what is the result?”
--Sherlock Holmes, A Study in Scarlet

Leigh: I am currently trying to figure out how to start this whole shebang off. Please forgive me if nothing sounds coherent and everything is just a bunch of rambling words strung together, I'm currently dealing with the allergies that come with the changing seasons and the decongestants that follow that. I haven't started the cold meds yet so time hasn't lost meaning and my hands don't have vapor trails. Yet.
When I first read A Study in Scarlet, it was only a couple of summers ago. And when I mean "read," I mean listen to on audiobook while I cleaned toilets. I worked at a movie theater on the cleaning staff. This was one of the best jobs I've had even though at times it was, literally, crappy.
Before I started listening to Study in Scarlet, I had very little experience with anything dealing with Sherlock Holmes. Sure I had seen The Great Mouse Detective, but the last time I watched that I was probably under 10 years old and my memory of it is very limited. I know there's a rat that they sing a song about and there's a little girl mouse and that's the end of my memory of The Great Mouse Detective. I had seen the Robert Downey, Jr movie and really liked it. I liked how Holmes was portrayed as a definitely non-traditional Victorian. This is the extent of my experience with Sherlock Holmes before I had read any of the stories. I had decided on the Sherlock Holmes stories because I wanted to become more educated about the popular figures in English pop culture because I am a self-professed Anglophile. Sure, I had heard of Holmes and yeah, I had seen parodies of him but I wanted to know the truth and read/listen to them for my self. It might seem pompous, but I wanted to appear more educated to others when I told them that I was reading the Holmes stories. I didn't know how much he would take over my life, that bastard.
The first time I read, and by read I mean listened, to Study in Scarlet, I only actually listened to half of it because I fell asleep during the second half so in all actuality, I only read half the book. I had listened to the first half of the book at work then came home and tried to listen to the second half but because of my incredibly interesting sleep schedule (read: messed up), I fell asleep. I remember waking up halfway through the second half and hearing about Utah and being really confused, but not so confused to wake up and start over, just confused enough to take note then fall back asleep. The next day at work, I tried again and finally understood what all that Utah talk was about.
This story started my love affair with the 120+ year old man. I could talk for hours about how wonderful and creative these stories are, but we're trying to focus on one. Here I go.
As I previously stated, I really had no expectations of what to expect when I started reading this book. The only other things I had read from about that time period were Pride and Prejudice, which took me three times to finish, and Great Expectations which I always joked in high school that the best expectation of the book was it ending. I know, I'm hilarious. I was expecting more stuffy language and hard to understand sentences full of archaic vocabulary but I found that this wasn't true at all. Yeah, some words are used differently like "ejaculate," (teeheehee) but for the most part, Study in Scarlet and the others are written to be understood by all sorts of people, not just those who are well educated and speak with a posh accent.
I will admit, I was just as enamored with Holmes as Watson was when they first met. I didn't think him impossible, I didn't think him arrogant or vain, I thought he was a truly interesting character who just got to the point and knew what he wanted. I can definitely admire that in a character. When the crime is announced and Holmes and Watson travel across town to an abandoned house, I was expecting to know what the twist was and figure out the whole story once the evidence was presented to me. I do have a bachelor's in TV Crime from Television Tech University, you know. I was so delighted that I couldn't figure out what the twist was. I was willing to forgive a predictable plot twist because of the ever-interesting Holmes but because of the handful of seemingly random clues, RACHE, the blood, the wedding band, I was officially hooked.
There were two things I found interesting about this book when I finally listened to it all. 1, there were two definite halves, almost like two separate books and 2, Either Arthur Conan Doyle really didn't like Mormons or the general mindset at the time was against Mormons. With my impending cold/sinus infection, I am in no shape to talk about religion. Even if I were healthy and not bogged down in a never-ending stream of snot, I don't think I would be in a shape to talk about religion.
What I am willing to talk about though is how this book is in two distinct halves. As the first book in the canon of Sherlock Holmes, I expected more stories to be like this. Boy was I wrong. The only other story that sorta has two halves is Sign of Four. It also shares the device of someone besides Holmes or Watson telling the story and instead it is a different character.
What were your expectations for Holmes before you cracked open any of the stories? As a mystery person, how does Holmes stand up to other classic mystery characters? Do those work? They do? Good.

Austin: I'm trying to think where I first saw Sherlock Holmes and I believe my answer is also animal related. That's right. Wishbone. The awesome PBS show that adapted classic novels but recast the lead as a basket hound. From there I adored The Great Mouse Detective and went on to read some of the short stories.

I had thought I had read A Study in Scarlet but within a few chapters, I realized I must have missed this one. This was even more realized when the story gets absolutely nuts but let's hold off on that. For this story does start off brilliantly. Essentially Watson is just telling us his CV but even that is done so well because we see a purer Watson than what is often portrayed in the media, the goof. Their introduction is very fun because Sherlock is able to deduce that Watson was recently in Afghanistan; I was all ready for the rambling explanation but they don't do it. They move in together and it's Watson's curiosity about Sherlock's guests that eventually lets him learn how brilliant the detective is.

The character of Sherlock Holmes really does remain the staple of the entire genre. He represents what we want most from a mystery: a puzzle able to be solved, intelligence overcoming adversity, a wondrous force of good. Especially now in the genre, detectives are realistic like Harry Bosch. Bosch is a very smart cop, but Sherlock is a superhero who was bit on the brain by a radioactive bookworm. It's impossible to have a super smart detective without playing ode to Sherlock. He is the ultimate prototype. And he knows it! Sherlock/Doyle insults Émile Gaborau for his amateur detective Monsieur Lecoq and Edgar Allan Poe's C. Auguste Deupin for their shotty methods.

In this story it's so obvious why. He has swallowed an encyclopedia and can recount facts and deductions in the blink of an eye. (Excluding the solar system, of course.) I shall admit, I found some of his deductions in this story a little suspect. (MYSTERY PUN!). Twice he used the "air" of someone to determine their professions, which seems not very Spock. Everything else was so much fun though. He knows it's all about theatrics. He compares himself to an entertainer as he holds back information he knows to be facts so he can give the big reveal. We can't complain because that reveal was awesome!

This is the story that everyone remembers. Sherlock and Watson meeting each other, a twisty fun mystery and plenty of small nuggets that we love now like the Baker Street Irregulars. What people don't remember are the batshit crazy parts of this story. Leigh, what the hell was happening in 60 page tangent about malicious Mormons? Did Sherlock Holmes straight up murder a dog? What is happening here?

Leigh: First, Wishbone was a Jack Russel Terrier. Second, basket hounds aren't a breed.

Wishbone, the Jack Russel Terrier

A basset hound, which is what I'm assuming you spelled wrong

And this is what showed up when I searched for "basket" hound

And here's a picture of a dog with a mustache and monocle 

Now that we have the correct terminology out of the way, I feel we can proceed with this email.

The introduction we get of Watson is one of the best character introductions ever. He tells about himself but not to a point where the audience gets bored. We don't care what school play he was in while he was in grade school. We get the important parts like that he served in the Afghan war and he was injured and he's a doctor. Anything we don't know that might become important later is told when it becomes important. And when Watson does his own observation of Holmes, the audience is shown again that he's a smart cookie, not a jam loving dweeb. (

I find it interesting that you brought up Poe's C. Auguste Deupin! In my research, I've found a couple of times that Conan Doyle actually really liked Poe's character and Deupin is one of the inspirations of Holmes. Holmes himself doesn't like him because he gets some of the methodology wrong or what ever it is that Holmes doesn't like, but I've found that Conan Doyle didn't have Holmes be a direct copy of all of his thoughts and opinions about things. One that we will probably discuss more in detail later is Holmes' view on women versus Conan Doyle's view on women. We can save this for later though.

I was debating on discussing Mormons but I think at this point we can look at it from a historical aspect and hopefully not be nice-d to death by modern Mormons. We're not talking about Scientologists so we should be okay. My theory is that Conan Doyle was using some real life events to help the story stay in reality. While he might not be using complete facts, it does look as though he got some inspiration from the stories of Mormons in the American West who weren't too kind to the people trying to make it big in Hollywood, I mean strike gold in California. There is a very famous example, and by famous I mean I stumbled across the Wikipedia article about it earlier this summer and read it, where Mormons attacked a wagon train of settlers from Arkansas. The Mountain Meadows Massacre left over 100 people dead, including children. The attack was done by a Nauvoo Legion who were a militia group to protect settlements in the West and they share a lot of similarities with the Mormons in A Study in Scarlet. I believe that Conan Doyle was just using reports of the brutality of the Mormons to help tell his story. While I haven't read anything specific on A Study in Scarlet, the Wikipedia page has quotes from Conan Doyle saying that he was using history as a basis of his story. There also aren't any direct sources quoted so this might be something I have to look up later and report back. 

And to bring this email full circle: NO! Of course he didn't kill the dog! He just *almost* killed the dog. I think this is one of the funnier parts of the book because Watson is so upset about this dog being sick and looking like it was getting ready to shuffle off it's mortal coil but then Holmes is Holmes and makes him all better. I think the Guy Ritchie/RDJ Sherlock Holmes did a great job of using part of an actual Holmes story to explain their version of the Holmes character. They didn't do it a lot, but this was a funny, easy way to do that. I think this is another great way to have the audience see that Holmes really does know what he's talking about and he's not just a shyster or a conman but an actual detective/scientist/superhero. 

Austin: I'm editing this sucker. It would be so easy to go back and make my canine correction, but those pictures are so awesome I'm leaving them in.

Now my problem with the second half isn't exactly the treatment of Mormons. That can be seen as just this group of people are hostile and whatnot even though every Mormon I've met has been nothing but the nicest imaginable. My problem is that structurally this is just insane. For a really great 60 pages (We're all just going by my paperback for page count, right? Don't need to clarify which edition, right?) you have a first person perspective from Dr. Watson of what happened. Then there is this giant section of backstory set in third person in a different continent about a character that Sherlock literally just said he will answer all of your questions about. It ended up being a fine story but since it's right in the middle of this amazing story all I was thinking was when we would get back to Sherlock and Watson. And even if we'd get back because it honestly would be really entertaining if the detective just named the murderer, provided no evidence and the story ended.

The story brought more of a dimension to the murderer, but Doyle could have also....not done that. It's just that I adore everything else about "A Study in Scarlet" except for 40% of it. It's an incredible start to this series and it's obvious how this became such an instant hit.

Obviously I'm sure we will see the same sort of merging of brilliance in Thursday's pilot of "Elementary"! Join us next Tuesday as we read Arthur Conan Doyle's second novella, "The Sign of Four."

And here is Leigh Montano with the last word.

 Leigh: Potato!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

So It Begins...

It is alarmingly easy to upset nerds. We don’t mean knock over their carton of chocolate milk or burden them with a wedgie. You have to hit them where it hurt: their geeky loves. Every time The Doctor wields a gun, Michael Bay tries to make the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles aliens or Greedo shoots Han, nerds race to their place of comfort—the Internet—to rant, revile, and accomplish nothing.
Now it is time for us to do the same.
When CBS announced it was making a pilot of “Elementary”, Sherlockians flipped out. Suppose we need to clarify. “Sherlock”-ians flipped out. From the ones we’ve encountered, the Doyle aficionados are always happy to see a new incarnation of their beloved Victorian detective. Fanboys and Fangirls of BBC’s “Sherlock” had a different emotion.

In 2010, Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss created a new series for the BBC placing Sherlock Holmes in modern day London starring Benedict Cumberbatch as the “highly functioning sociopath” and Martin Freeman as the Afghanistan war veteran Dr. Watson. After two seasons and six 90-minute episodes, the series has become not only a wonderful adaptation of the classic stories but easily one of the best TV shows on the air.
The story goes that CBS wanted to adapt “Sherlock” for modern audiences…despite the show already being a huge hit for PBS (by their ratings standards.) Moffat and Gatiss said no. CBS read the Wikipedia article on public domain and realized they could make their own Sherlock Holmes story set in modern day without the BBC. They called it “Elementary” because…ugh.
Casting made the story even stranger. The former consult of Scotland Yard shall be played by Johnny Lee Miller, an actor respected from the underrated ABC series “Eli Stone”. He’s also known for the Danny Boyle directed theatre adaptation of Frankenstein where he and the co-actor switched roles every night of Dr. Frankenstein and The Monster. Who is his co-actor, you may ask, you questioning blog reader? Benedict Bloody Cumberbatch.
So that was odd.
Then this case became even more curious when they cast Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson. Yes, Lucy Liu of the “Charlie’s Angels” movies, “Kill Bill” and the female gender.

Angry nerds crossed their fingers this will be like “Wonder Woman” last year where it would be a highly talked about pilot but never be greenlit to series. Nope. CBS loved what they saw and gave it a full season order, advertising it as one of their highly anticipated new series. In a year of rather dismal network outings, “Elementary” is one of the ones that TV critics have been having the most hope for.
We remain stubbornly unimpressed. (Did you not catch the tone of the previous paragraphs? It was subtle.) To vent therapeutically, Austin Lugar and Leigh Montano will review episodes of “Elementary” every week. We have titled the blog “Elementary Schooled” because we are ready to rip apart the episode on a weekly basis, but since we both understand dramatic irony we are also fully expected to be pleasantly surprised so we’ll be the ones being “schooled.” We have our doubts.
Also to show our adoration of the deerstalker-wearing sleuth, we shall also review a classic story of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle every Tuesday staring chronologically with A Study in Scarlet.
Join us as we use our skills of deduction to investigate the earliest days of Sherlock Holmes and the newest incarnation that places him in New York City!  Play along by posting your thoughts in the comment sections!

Austin Lugar has co-edited 3.5 mystery reference books including “Organizing Crime”, “Organizing Crime Classics” and “Mystery Muses”, which featured two essays about Arthur Conan Doyle. Lugar once was a speaker at a holiday party for The Baker Street Irregulars where his speckled band joke totally killed. His favorite incarnation of Sherlock Holmes is Basil of Baker Street from “The Great Mouse Detective.

Leigh Montano is currently working on her Master’s in Media Studies with hopes of one day boring students about how wonderfully evil television is. She has presented at PCA/ACA’s national conference on the sexualization of Sherlock Holmes in modern media as an attempt to stay relevant with a presentation entitled “From Bromance to Romance: the Sexualization of Sherlock Holmes”. She plans on thrilling more audiences with upwards of eleven people on the women of the Holmes canon and their roles at next year’s conference. She also believes that Benedict Cumberbatch is the most perfect Holmes and not just because he’s easy to look at.