First Impressions

Elementary / Chicago Fire

Aired on: CBS / NBC

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


                If you've been following my First Impressions television reviews this year, you will note that I have been in a drama series mood.  Continuing on that theme for this Fall 2012 season of television, I decided to take a gander at two new dramas: Elementary, a new take on Sherlock Holmes airing on CBS September 27, 2012 at 10:00pm EST, and Chicago Fire, a new drama surrounding the members of a fire department house in Chicago airing October 10, 2012 at 10:00pm EST.

                Elementary stars Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as Dr. Joan Watson.  Yes, in this new series, Dr. Watson is a woman.  This new take on the characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the late 1800s has brought Sherlock Holmes to the present times.  An incident in London has sent Holmes to drug rehabilitation in New York.  Holmes' father has hired Dr. Joan Watson as a companion for Holmes to ensure his son's sobriety once he finishes rehab.  At first resistant to what Holmes describes as a babysitter, Sherlock becomes intrigued by Dr. Watson and her hidden investigative talent.  It isn't long before he starts introducing her as his assistant.

                In an effort to thwart his addictions by staying busy, Holmes has offered his services as a consultant to the NYPD, specifically Captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn), who worked with Holmes in the past when he was a consultant to Scotland Yard.  Holmes' first case involves a home invasion which at first NYPD categorizes as a kidnapping until Holmes uncovers a hidden safe room in the home, revealing that their victim was not kidnapped, but instead murdered.  Holmes' uncanny observation and deductive skills lead him to believe that the victim's husband may be involved, but only Watson can help him prove his case.

                I've been a fan of Jonny Lee Miller's acting for years.  I am also a Sherlock Holmes fan, having read many Holmes tales in my youth.  Holmes has been remade dozens of times in the past and I have taken to passing many of these redone versions of one of my favorite detectives over as actually annoying.  However, I find Jonny Lee Miller's portrayal of Holmes to be spot on - an eccentric, hyperactive detective with an overactive, yet brilliant mind.  His fast paced dialogue delivery is just what I expect from the storybook character brought to life.

                  Although I was skeptical of Lucy Liu as Watson, I have to say that she seems to fit the role perfectly.  In awe of Holmes' skills, but not so much that she can't be a grounding force for him when necessary, Liu is excellent in her role.  There is a chemistry there between the characters that works.  The powers that be have promised us that this chemistry between the characters will not be exploited romantically and I fervently hope that they keep this promise, but I don't quite believe them.

                As far as the storyline - I think it quite innovative to bring Holmes into the present, and present tense New York at that, but I worry that this premise may not be exactly believable.  Sure, police departments will sometimes use consultants to solve cases, but I'm not so sure that they would use them in the manner suggested by this series.  Holmes' liberties regarding investigation and interrogation would probably find the closed cases thrown out in court in real life.  That being said, I can't say that I didn't enjoy the show.  I've actually watched a second episode since its premiere date and find that I really enjoy trying to solve the mysteries along with Holmes and Watson. 

                Chicago Fire follows the lives of the crew of Engine 51, Truck 81, Squad 3, Medic 61 and Battalion 25.  The pilot episode opens with what appears to be a routine house fire that turns deadly for one of their own.  Beloved Fireman Andy Darden is killed in a backdraft event.  A month later, there is still animosity between Lt. Matthew Casey (Jesse Spencer), head of Truck 81, and Lt. Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney), head of Rescue Squad 3 as both leaders blame each other for Darden's death.  Casey blames Severide for not venting the back of the home before entering to recue an individual believed to be in the attic.  Severide blames Casey for allowing Darden to break a window and enter the home in the first place.

                As the episode moves forward, we are also introduced to Peter Mills (Charlie Barnett), a candidate for the department who has aspirations to join the rescue squad, and Paramedics Gabriela Dawson (Monica Raymund) and Leslie Shay (Lauren German), who face a disciplinary hearing after Dawson accidentally inserts a needle into an automobile accident victim's heart in an attempt to save her life.  There are also side stories regarding Casey's love life, Severide's shoulder injury and more.

                Okay, I was really looking forward to Chicago Fire.  I knew it wasn't going to be as much fun as one of my now defunct favorites, Third Watch, but I expected a lot considering that the Chicago Fire Department is one of the most respected in the US.  So, after watching the pilot, I wondered where the consultants were.  The show reminds me a lot of Trauma, coincidentally another failed rescue drama that Taylor Kinney starred in.  The scenes featuring the fire are lacking of authenticity.  The first thing I noticed was how the firemen were entering engulfed structures.  No firefighter enters the area practically standing straight  like the folks on this show - they enter in a low crouch.  Visibility is entirely too good on this show - we all know how hard it is to see through smoke and flames.  Backdrafts just don't happen the way they did in this show - trust me, I have it on good authority, being friends with quite a few firefighters.  And how many minutes was the fire department in the structure before a line was brought in to get water on the fire?  Unacceptable!

                Then, there's the story - like I really buy that a paramedic is going to get a shooter to drop his gun by yelling at him.  Casey walks around like a sad sack all the time - the brooding look only gets you so far.  What happened to Jesse Spencer's acting skills since leaving House?  The actors don't appear to have much chemistry with one another and the characters are so blah that I don't even want to know more about them.   Then there's the fact that every moment of this show was predictable, from the backdraft to the tension pneumo to the firefighters falling through the floor.  As you can see, I was completely turned off by this show...and it actually happened within the first half hour.

                In closing, I found Elementary to be a surprisingly good take on an old favorite and Chicago Fire to be a surprisingly bad take on just about anything.  Elementary is definitely a show worth watching, while Chicago Fire is an utterly predictable fact, I predict that the powers that be at NBC will be turning Chicago Fire off some time within the next few episodes.


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