Much like the BBC’s Sherlock, in Elementary, America’s modern take on Conan Doyle’s creation, the detective is still arrogant, rude and untrustworthy, but that’s where the similarities end. Jonny Lee Miller’s Holmes patrols New York, enjoys sleezy sex, shows emotion and wears jumpers to rival Sarah Lund. But the main difference is that Watson is a woman.
“That takes the story to a different level,” says Lucy Liu, who plays Joan Watson. “We know from the original stories that Holmes is uncomfortable around women… there’s a value in instability.”
Liu also points out the differences in the way the shows are written and produced. Both are centred on Holmes’s quirks, but the CBS series is very much a low-cost procedural. “We have to shoot each episode in eight days,” she says. Contrast that with Sherlock, whose 90-minute episodes run past 1 million.
“Sherlock is much more action-orientated and stylised, more like a mini-series for cable TV. We are more straightforward, and we’re not doing any stunts, really. There are no slow-motion bullets in our show.”
But it won’t be the budget fans are comparing, it will be Miller and Cumberbatch. The last time these two played the same role at the same time (on stage in Frankenstein last year) they both won an award – will one come out on top this time?