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'Elementary' review: Sherlock Holmes anew

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and Joan (Lucy Liu)

Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and Joan (Lucy Liu) consult on a case in "Elementary." Photo Credit: CBS

THE SHOW "Elementary"

WHEN | WHERE Thursday night at 10 on CBS

WHAT IT'S ABOUT A woman goes missing from her well-appointed uptown (presumably East Side) apartment. Minutes into the investigation, Capt. Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) is stumped. The call goes out to Sherlock -- that would be Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller), currently under the watchful eye of Dr. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu), hired by Holmes' wealthy father to make certain his son, a recovering addict, stays on the wagon. Holmes is acerbic, impulsive, chatty, obsessive, omniscient and full of himself. "The police think lots of things," he observes. "It's adorable."

MY SAY Back in 1887, within the pages of "A Study in Scarlet," Holmes advised befuddled Capt. Tobias Gregson to check out the "Van Jansen" murder case from "the year '34. ... Read it up -- you really should. There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before."

Fast-forward to '12, when it has all been done before -- although Sherlock never envisioned a "CBS," a "prime-time police procedural" or the former's bottomless appetite for the latter.

We've seen "Elementary" before, too -- most recently "The Mentalist" and even "Unforgettable" -- but to come right out and call your lead character "Sherlock Holmes" takes chutzpah. The name's beyond famous, and the wellspring of a thousand procedurals and their worthy protagonists, from Columbo to Brenda Leigh Johnson to Gregory House to Adrian Monk.

Even trickier, from CBS' perspective, is an excellent BBC adaptation, now airing on PBS. Viewers really have seen it all before. A lot of Sherlock is out there -- arguably too much. Miller effectively channels all those famed Holmesian traits, especially the brittleness and glorious eccentricities. (He's writing a book on bee colony behavior when deprived of the queen.)

But in the opener, you're left to wonder why he's brought in to solve a boilerplate murder case that the NYPD could probably solve in its sleep. Future cases need to be much trickier, much worthier of the master's touch.

BOTTOM LINE Two things are going for this latest adaptation -- solid production values and a talented lead actor. Make that three things -- a network that knows just what viewers want.



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