Originality isn't the only element that counts in television.
Yes, it's important, which is why one wishes CBS'Elementary (***½ out of four; Thursday at 10 ET/PT) did not feel quite so much like what it is: CBS' attempt to replicate the success of Britain's Sherlock Holmes update, Sherlock. Still, if the idea is borrowed, the approach Elementary takes is all its own, and lets the show stand on its own as one of fall's most promising new series.
Among the many good moves creator Robert Doherty has made, the smartest may have been casting Eli Stone's charmer Jonny Lee Miller (allowed here to use his real British accent) as Sherlock -- and then pairing him with a female Dr. Watson played by the equally fabulous Lucy Liu. Making Watson a beautiful woman adds an unexpected frisson to their relationship; making her a strong, smart woman shifts it even further toward a more equal partnership.
Don't panic. In Miller's highly capable hands, this Sherlock is as shockingly astute, socially inept and humorously rude as any fan of Sherlock might expect. But in keeping with network TV's need for an empathetic weekly lead, he's less of a sociopath than his PBS counterpart; he's willing to admit when he's wrong, and capable of being sorry when he's right.
As we meet Sherlock, he's fresh out of rehab -- and saddled, thanks to the demands of his rich father, with a sobriety companion, Watson. Having destroyed his career as a consulting detective in London through drug abuse, Sherlock needs a new start, and he gets it, thanks to a New York police captain (Aidan Quinn) he'd worked with in London.
Their first case involves a murder that looks like a home invasion, and once it kicks you'll most likely notice how much Elementary looks like every other procedural that has ever borrowed from the Sherlock Holmes stories -- including CBS' own The Mentalist.
Still, you may also take note of how cleverly the clues are planted and discovered, some of them even by Watson. And you may appreciate the flair and poignancy Elementarybrings to the crowded procedural field, and the energy, wit and sex appeal Miller brings to his role.
Original, maybe not. But welcome? You don't have to be Sherlock to know the answer is "yes."