Discussion: Is Elementary better than BBC Sherlock?

yesSo, in a previous post, I mentioned having marathoned the hell out of CBS “Elementary” when I should have instead been catching up on ABC’s “Agent Carter” because I am the literal worst and also I wanted something that was a little bit… chill? I guess. Murder mysteries have always been a favorite of mine, and, (as anyone who ended up here from 3CG would know) I was reared on a steady diet of everything Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple. Like, murder. It’s fun. So, anyway, I’ve been a longtime skeptic about whether “Elementary” was as good as “BBC Sherlock” because, well, who wasn’t at first, right? It took me like 2.5 years to even get around to watching it; I expected, at most, mediocrity filled with gimmicks.

So what did I end up getting? Well. Here’s a chat Steph and I have had about “Elementary” and “Sherlock”, and which one, ultimately, is the best one. Ready for the answer to that question? Click through to the rest of the post for all the gory details!

Kate: Okay, so, I’ve finally seen the entirety of Elementary.

Stephanie: And? On a scale of one to ten. How much better compared to Sherlock?

Kate: Cumberbatch looks the part, just how I’d seen Sherlock in my mind really, and the show started off strong but quickly went to hell in a handbasket. Jonny Lee Miller, on the other hand, doesn’t quite look how I imagined Sherlock, but he captures the energy in a way that honestly Cumberbatch cannot. Elementary is a by far more loose interpretation, but the fact that there are more episodes has given them leeway to incorporate and modernize themes and elements from the original source material. Oh, and it also gave Joan space to develop more as a character. John’s kinda… blank. “Damn my leg, damn it Sherlock, there’s a head in the fridge I’m going to not react.”

Stephanie: So… about a 6?
Kate: More like a 7.6. 8 if you factor in the turtle. And that little turtle cozy that looks like a shark. Like, I have no doubt that if there were as many episodes of Sherlock as there are of Elementary, Sherlock would have long ago devolved into something far worse and far more boring. Think, like, way worse than what season 3 was.
Stephanie: Yeah… I’m gonna name some characters and you tell me which version is better.
Kate: Okay, shoot.
Stephanie: Sherlock.
Kate: Miller wins that crown.
Stephanie: Moriarty.
Kate: Ugh, that one was a draw. Both were captivating as villains in their own way.
Stephanie: Okay, Irene then.

Kate: Also a draw. I knew about the Irenearty plot twist like the moment it aired; and Scandal in Belgravia was a total carbon copy of Girl in the Fireplace, and I didn’t really like their Irene, so both were kind of ruined for me.

I think had I seen CBS!Irene at first without prior knowledge of Irenearty I would have thought her quite… 2-dimensional? But… that’s the point, isnt it? She was SUPPOSED to seem a little bit… hmm, off?
Stephanie: Yeah.
Kate: But BBC really dumbed Irene down. So that sucked.
Stephanie: Lestrade.
Kate: Both Lestrades are great, but Elementary has by far made him more distinctive. I know this is because everything has limited screen time in BBC Sherlock but… I feel like BBC Sherlock didn’t give enough character development to anyone in the police.
Stephanie: I like Elementary, because it’s more faithful to the stories. Lestrade was only doing it for the fame.
Kate: We never really go into Lestrade’s motivations in BBC? And they just went ahead and demonized Sally and turned Anderson into a laughingstock and running joke. With that same screen time they could have given us, idk, someone who wasn’t just a 2-dimensional antagonist. Yes it was funny but it also wasn’t substantial.
Stephanie: That’s because they haven’t introduced the other investigators in the stories. There are so many different characters and they just stick with the same ones. Gregson was the one Sherlock liked more.
Kate: Donovan and Anderson serve no real purpose. Lestrade’s just there for the jokes and we don’t know why, exactly, he’s letting a strange, abrasive, unprofessional dude prance around his crime scenes. Like… how did this even come about?
Stephanie: And, also there’s Hopkins. Hopkins kisses the ground Sherlock walked on. I mean, don’t just create new characters when you have so many to work with. There are so many development issues in Sherlock, it’s ridiculous.
Kate: Everyone’s kinda… not fully realized. They exist? But they could be replaced with anyone. It’s a great story and a great premise and they paid attention to so much… but they also neglected a great deal more.
Stephanie: Like sure, Elementary has more episodes and time to develop the story. But, they worked out the backstory of why Gregson and Holmes are working together on day one.
Kate: Sherlock revolves around everyone looking at how clever he is. Elementary is about a bunch of clever people pulling together to solve things.
Stephanie: I think they were trying to keep Sherlock all mysterious and now it’s coming to bite them in the ass.
Kate: And while three, or six episodes of that mysterious cleverness rolled into traditional Britishness is at first alluring to viewers… well, it gets old, and it gets tired. There’s so much on the surface but once you get past all of it it’s… empty?
Stephanie: Elementary has heart. Sherlock has Sherlock.
Kate: I think a big reason Sherlock HAD such an active creator community at one point… They’re a blank canvas.
Stephanie: Oh my god that makes sense.
Kate: We know jack shit about them.
Stephanie: The characters weren’t developed, so we had to develop them ourselves.
Kate: We don’t know anything about John Watson other than he’s angry a lot and he was an army doctor and he likes drinking tea and pretending he’s normal and he has an alcoholic sister we never meet.
Stephanie: That’s why the AUs were always so good. Because we aren’t dealing with characters, we were dealing with archetypes.
Kate: We invented Sebastian Moran, and Hamish Watson. Prior to season 3, Mary Morstan. And Harry Watson. Clara. They were people we NEVER saw and who basically never existed as far as we knew… But there were cosplays. Fanfiction. OTPs. Bloody tea blends, even, all for characters who had never been seen, or who weren’t even canonically existing.

i ship it. (source)

Stephanie: Ugh. Why did I like this show? Wait, that’s exactly why. There is no show, it’s just tropes.
Kate: It’s not a show, it’s a prompt. And I think, I expected Elementary to be the same… but like… “Sherlock AU” because honestly how many detective shows are there where everyone’s an archetype? Hella, that’s how many.
Stephanie: And yet, three seasons later, there are STILL people I follow on Tumblr who shit on Elementary even though they haven’t watched it.
Kate: Probably because they are expecting the same thing I did. Blank slate but it’s in NYC, and John’s a Joan, and it’s just televised fanfiction. Although, now that I think of it, why were we against televised fanfiction? I’d watch the fuck out of some AUs. I would not be surprised if Elementary exists because someone looked at BBC Sherlock and went, “Man, I bet we could do better!” And someone else said, “Will there be bees?”
Stephanie:But guess what, they did do it better. And there are bees.
Kate: I’ll admit it. I was 100% wrong and Elementary is definitely the winner.
Stephanie: [was, in fact, right all along]


8 thoughts on “Discussion: Is Elementary better than BBC Sherlock?

  1. I haven’t seen either. I’ve been looking for something to watch while on the treadmill…sounds like Elementary is what I will start with. I may watch Sherlock just because I need something to fill in the hamster wheel feeling I get while on said treadmill. Any other recommendations? Thanks Girls.❀Koko


    • I’m super into Brooklyn 99 lately. Steph’s all about Vikings; we both loved Agent Carter and are big Agents of SHIELD fans. Watch Sherlock first; it’ll be pretty and glamorous. Then watch Elementary. I think if you watch Elementary THEN Sherlock, you’ll be very disappointed by the latter!


    • OMG WATCH IT! The only good thing about having waited two and a half seasons to see it is that I got to marathon 2 and a half seasons in the space of a week. That was fantastic. It’s really, really great.


  2. I’m trying to understand this line of thought, I’m sorry but it seems ridiculous to say Elementary is better than Sherlock, no disrespect.
    It would be like saying Stephen King’s film version of the Shinning was better than Kubrick’s!
    Why not just tell me the earth is flat!
    I don’t get it, maybe that is why things I really like don’t usually do well?

    These are all of the ways Sherlock is superior to Elementary.
    1. Cinematography
    2. Score
    3. Production Design
    4. Acting performances
    5. Directing
    6. Costume
    7. Script dialogue
    8. Plot structure
    9. Editing
    10. Respect of source material

    To be fair, I only watched the first Season of Elementary, which totaled more hours than the three season of Sherlock has had.
    Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it is fair to compare the two.
    I would compare Elementary to Castle, The Mentalist, Criminal Minds, Perception, etc.
    I like all of the shows and I liked them better than Elementary.
    Saying that, I couldn’t even begin to make an argument that Castle is better than Sherlock!
    It just isn’t.
    With these type of shows, when they make 24 shows a year, they follow a certain formula.
    Certain beats and plot points happen by the first commercial break, they build performances from multiple takes, the directors job is to give the producers and editors enough material to build an episode from. I get that.

    These shows are like comfort food.
    I get that and I watch a lot of these shows and enjoy them.

    That what makes me appreciate the truly “special” shows even more.
    That is why I still think “Twin Peaks” was brilliant and I bought the Bluray the day it was released last year.

    What I don’t understand is why the majority doesn’t appreciate great, truly artistic shows as much as they should and sometimes will just plain ignore them to watch a repeat of a show that is formulaic in the first place?

    ie. last Thursday, at 10 pm eastern, 4.27 million people watched a repeat of Elementary and only 1.68 million people watched a brand new episode of Hannibal (currently the best show on TV).

    I just don’t get that?

    Sure, I’ll have some McDonalds, but if I have the opportunity to have a peppercorn fillet mignon wrapped in bacon, I’m going to take it every time and savor it and be thankful for it.

    Does the average TV viewer just take the Big Mac, because they know how it is supposed to taste?

    Has there been a scene transition ever in Elementary as good as in Sherlock’s “Scandal”, when Sherlock is drugged in the field and he falls into bed in the field to transition to the bedroom?
    Or a “movie moment” ending as good as in that same episode, when you think Irene is going to be beheaded and she sends Sherlock a text, fade to black, text sound, fade back in to Sherlock being the behead-er?

    I don’t get people who are “OK” to watch SVU, when a child is being abused/molested/raped every episode, but they won’t watch something as brilliant, artistic, fresh, character driven and as well made as Hannibal because it is too violent or artistic or whatever?

    I’ve always tried to champion the “everyman/woman” and say, “we don’t need to have things dumb downed”. People are smart, if you give them something of quality, they will pay attention and they’ll get it and appreciate it!

    Looking at ratings and what shows do the best as far as ratings…….
    Maybe I was wrong?


    • I’m not sure if you’ve actually understood what we were trying to say with this post.

      Here’s the thing we were trying to say… Sherlock is all glitz and glamour and fancy shots and fancy dialogue. Sure, it LOOKS like it should live up to all your expectations. However, when you actually take a moment to watch the show itself, you’ll find that it’s less a dramatic scene and more a paper moon sailing over a cardboard sea. The characters have no substance. The plot is very flimsy and vague, the dialogue is lazy, and the character development (actual on-screen character development, not whatever you’re imagining for yourself in fanfiction) is nonexistent.

      Sherlock LOOKS like the sort of show that is intelligent and brilliant and deep and insightful. It isn’t. It’s just very, very good at pretending to be those things.

      Now, Elementary on the other hand… It masquerades as a simple formulaic crime drama. It’s not set in London, it’s got a female asian doctor for a Watson, and Johnny Lee Miller is nowhere near as universally acclaimed a “hottie” as Benedict Cumberbatch is. But if you give it a chance, and pay attention, and you’ve actually taken a while to familiarize yourself with the original source content, you’ll find that in spirit, Elementary is by far the superior adaptation. The relationship between Joan and Sherlock is deep and caring, and it evolves in every single episode. They are real and vibrant and full of life – something I cannot say about BBC Sherlock.

      Sherlock is like… a dish someone made just to show off how clever and brilliant of a chef they are. One of those tiny small plates that cost $90 a serving and leave you feeling cold, hungry, and unsatisfied afterwards. Elementary is like a bowl of delicious mashed potatoes, prepared for you by someone who cooked because they love cooking, and because they love mashed potatoes.

      Artistic and all, that’s fine, I guess. But what is art if people can’t relate to it? What is art if it’s just a glitter-coated half-effort? What is art if we cannot hold up two adaptations of the original source material to the same standards?

      You can pretend you are higher up than everyone else just because you always choose what looks like the filet mignon, if it really makes you happy. But, as for me? I’ve tasted that particular filet mignon. It tasted good at first, but worse and worse the more I ate. So, I’d rather take the commonplace fare that someone put love and care into, and not something that’s just a shrine to someone’s ego.


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