Sherlock vs Elementary – Do I Really Have to Choose?

Holmes and Watson - Elementary and Sherlock

With the new season of the BBC’s Sherlock premiering in the US on January 19, and CBS’s Elementary having started back up after the mid-season break on January 2, I thought it would be fun to do a comparison of the key elements of the two shows. Full disclosure, I love both shows, so this will not be a scathing comparison full of vitriol. Rather, it will be a lighthearted look at the two shows. So, that said, let’s begin!


Miller and Cumberbatch as Sherlock Holmes

The leads of these two programs are both very talented actors, who portray Holmes the way I envision him to be. Both speak too fast for my taste sometimes, but I think that is part of Holmes – his mind races so fast that his mouth can barely keep up! I certainly pay close attention to the dialogue in these shows so as to not miss anything. Both Miller and Cumberbatch are also very good with snark, which makes them both stellar in my book!

If I have to make a choice of one over the other, and I’m reluctant to because they are both easy on the eye, I think that Benedict Cumberbatch has a slight edge over Jonny Lee Miller in the adorable department – yes, I admit to being a “Cumberb$%^h.”


Freeman and Liu as Watson

In my opinion, Holmes needs Watson like a sailboat needs wind, so a strong sidekick is a necessary ingredient for a good program. The fact that one of the Watsons is female does not really affect this in my opinion. I feel both Lucy Liu and Martin Freeman are outstanding in their portrayal of a companion suffering through the quirks of our hero Holmes.

In fact, once again if forced to choose, well, this one is tough, but I think I would go with Lucy Liu’s Watson. While not meaning to diminish Freeman’s Watson, there is something about Liu’s calm yet no nonsense portrayal that I find very entertaining! However, I would also like to point out that Freeman does a great job of expressing his frustration with Holmes!


Sherlock and Mycroft in Elementary and Sherlock

It is one of the more overused phrases today, but “it’s complicated” does actually describe the relationship between Sherlock and his older brother Mycroft. These two versions do take a slightly different approach to this relationship.

What they have in common is that Sherlock and Mycroft are not on the friendliest terms on either show, although on Elementary the hostility is rather open and harsh, understandably so based on the back story we have been given, whereas on Sherlock it is more subdued, and falls along the lines of a brotherly feud, and Mycroft does keep track of and appear to care about his brother.

Sherlock takes the traditional route, having Mycroft work for the government, although his exact job has not been elaborated. He clearly does move in powerful circles, as evidenced by summoning his brother to the Palace. Holmes description of Mycroft’s job in the series is very entertaining – “He is the British government, when he’s not too busy being the British secret service or the CIA on a freelance basis.”

Elementary, on the other hand, has Mycroft as a restaurateur in London, and recently opening a restaurant in New York City. There also seems to be some sort of shady business going on, which so far is just a tantalizing mystery, with Mycroft scheming to force Sherlock to return to London – for reasons unknown.

Which Mycroft do I prefer? While I enjoy them both, I have to go with Sherlock’s version, if only because I prefer the lower level of brotherly animosity.

Season Length

Sherlock and Elementary DVD

Elementary is on CBS and a full season is 24 episodes – wonderfully long and packed full of entertainment. Sherlock, on the other hand, is produced by the BBC, and in my opinion suffers from a very short 3 episode season. Granted, Sherlock’s episodes are longer, lasting approximately 90 minutes each to Elementary’s approximately 45 minutes each, but darn it, I want more!

So, in the season length category, Elementary wins handily.


Holmes and Watson in Elementary and Sherlock

While both shows are modern adaptations of Holmes, Sherlock is set in London where we get the full advantage of hanging out at 221B Baker Street, and Elementary is set in New York City, which is more in keeping with the reimagined theme of the show.

While I think both locations work great – actually, any large city works fine for a crime procedural – I prefer London just because for me it is across the pond!

Other Supporting Characters

Holmes and Moriarity in Elementary and Sherloc k

While both shows are modern adaptations of Holmes, the fact that Sherlock is set in London gives us the pleasure of seeing Mrs. Hudson and Inspector Lestrade. Elementary, on the other hand, is set in New York City so a new batch of supporting characters became necessary. We did have the pleasure of Elementary’s visit to London, where we got to visit 221B Baker Street, and meet Lestrade, but Elementary’s Holmes works on a regular basis with Captain Gregson and Detective Bell.

Then there are Irene Adler and Moriarity, who in the case of Elementary are shown to be the same person. Now that’s a twist! Sherlock’s Moriarity is a twisted, demented arch criminal. Elementary’s Moriarity, on the other hand, is brilliant and scheming, and certainly a criminal, but I do find it hard to believe she is on the same level of crazy as Sherlock’s Moriarity.

Despite that, I really am enjoying the emotional tug of war between Holmes and Moriarity in Elementary a bit more.


So, let’s tally my votes – Holmes, Location and Mycroft go to Sherlock, but Watson, Other Supporting Characters and Season Length go to Elementary – oh, look, it’s a tie! Woo hoo – I did not want to choose between them anyway. Having both to watch is a big bonus in my opinion – both are fun and intriguing, and definitely worth watching!

What do you think? Do you like both programs, or prefer one over the other, or maybe even dislike one of them? Let me know in the comments section below!