This vs. That: Elementary or Sherlock?

By Jen Trolio

Jan 24, 2014

Somehow it's been nearly four months since we last convened for a game of's "This vs. That," where we pit two things against one another and you vote on which one should win... in whatever context you choose. Oops! I blame all the new TV that's been keeping everyone so busy lately. Regardless, it's time for the first match-up of 2014, one that's far from elementary, my dear readers—err, at least in one sense of the word. This pairing's been a long time coming, but now that Elementary's had plenty of time to come into its own and Sherlock is finally back on our TV screens after more than a year away, it's time to finally answer the question of who does a better Doyle. And thus, the poll is afoot:

Show your work in the comments!

PREVIOUSLY: This vs. That: Lost's Series Finale or Breaking Bad's Series Finale?

Ed. note: If there's a specific battle you'd like to see, send it via PM to TVcom_editorial, via Twitter to @tvdotcom, or via email to (And thanks to those of you who've already submitted ideas!)

Psst! If you've already seen the end of Sherlock Season 3, please be a pal and avoid spoilers in the comments. 

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  • heathermoody5076 May 15, 2014

    Elementary is barely a Sherlock spin off, its like House. The actors arent that great, their almost like the Grim actors. Its flat. Especially from "watson" -___-
    BBC Sherlock on the other hand, AMAZING acting and GREAT attention to the original works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Im actually kind of appalled that Elementary is winning over BBC though im sure its because this is a mainly American website.

  • paganmist Mar 04, 2014

    I do like Elementary, but my on problem is that Sherlock is portrayed as a sometimes mean-spirited person. The traditional portrayal of Sherlock is that he hurts people's feelings because he's oblivious or blunt or simply doesn't suffer fools lightly. But the Sherlock portrayed in Elementary however has deliberately said mean things about fat people and homeless people on separate occasions. It doesn't sit right with me that he would take aim at groups of people who are already looked down on for superficial reasons.

    Most people are just fine with being mean to others, so maybe this won't stand out to a lot of people. What I like about BBC's Sherlock though is that he's not maliciously mean. A couple of times, Elementary's Sherlock was. The fact that he didn't want Joan to help a homeless person and then used language like "hobo olympics" - that was just such a cheap, mean-spirited comment. It made me like the character less.

  • nullnull2654 Feb 11, 2014

    You can't compare the two shows. They are totally different. The Bbc Version is based on the stories of Doyle whereas Elementary is based on the character features. I love them both. What I especially like about Elementary is, that they are so accurate and thorough in showing the traits of highly gifted people and the problems of a person suffering from depression and an Avoident Personality Disorder.

  • Kids_Table Jan 29, 2014

    I can't believe this is even a contest. I am a HUGE fan of Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, I've consumed any sort of Sherlock reiteration I can get my hands on. BBC's Sherlock is the absolute BEST. It is consistently brings a modern retelling to the table that always delivers the heart and cleverness of the original stories. Not to mention it nails the Sherlock-Watson relationship, the original bromance.
    I have forced myself to watch Elementary upwards of ten times. I want it to be good, and trying to like it. But all I can think, is it's trying to be early seasons of House meets BBC's Sherlock and failing to live up to either. I am massively disappointed everytime I tune in. Although mad props to Lucy Lui's Watson, and idea I thought I would hate, but she manages to pull off brilliantly.

  • IndianaMom Jan 28, 2014

    Sherlock is the great guy that you're crazy about but he lives far away so you can only spend time with him for a few weeks a year. Elementary is the really nice guy who's there for you all the time. I don't want to have to choose.

  • frankhwu3 Jan 27, 2014

    This is a great discussion. I blogged about the differences between the two shows, inspired by what everyone has said.

  • Misao_83 Jan 27, 2014

    I like Elementary very much, since the beggining, but I have discovered Sherlock the last two weeks and I love it beyond anything at tv nowadays, it´s just so perfect!
    But I think it´s not fair putting this two shows in a battle, Sherlock seasons are like 3 x90 min films each one, with a year (two in the last hiatus)to be written, it´s a different level...
    I thought no one would be a more perfect Sherlock to me, but Benedict had proved I was wrong!
    But I will watch the two shows as long as they are on air...
    (to be true I have just seen a Sherlock episode (for the second time in a week) and I´m going to watch the last one of Elementary right now, so you can see I like to see them both)

  • ErrantParadigm Jan 26, 2014

    Putting these two shows in the same sentence is alarming. Sherlock is far from perfect, yet beautifully cerebral. Elementary is dumbed down and for the mass american audience...much like Big Bang Theory or other drivel. Also, Elementary has some of the worst acting and dialogue, not to mention accents. I have no issues with two Sherlock Holmes series running, however when one is so much more competently handled, it only shows up the greater flaws of the lesser simple minded attempt. CBS should never have gone through with this terrible iteration when Steven Moffat declined.

  • nullnull2654 Feb 11, 2014

    Are we watching different shows? I've never heard better monologues and dialogues than on Elementary. Some of them are more literature than TV. Just watch the beginning of episode 12 Season 2. I gave the transcripted monologue to language teachers and they said it was great writing and asked me what book it came from. Jonny Lee Miller is one of the best actors I have ever seen. He is absolutaly great in expressing emotions without needing words. So you always know when Sherlock is saying something he doesn't really mean. And the last episodes were so moving that I couldn't get them out of my head for days. There are so many details that you often have to watch the episodes twice and you still don't get everything.

  • ionee24 Jan 27, 2014

    Beatuful? Yeah, cerebral? Not so much. Shelock its basically the books turned made-for-TV movies without much plot to add or create

    If you ask me which is the hotter Holmes, Shelock definitely wins.
    If you ask me which show actually puts an effort, I've got to hand it to Elementary.

  • Vidarsha Jun 15, 2014

    Sure Elementary has to put in a lot of effort to even remotely resemble the world of Sherlock Holmes. BBC Sherlock on the other hand is at the heart of it and manages to bring to life every aspect of the Sherlokian world perfectly and effortlessly. That's the difference between brilliant and mediocre tv. You are not meant to feel as if the show puts in effort. You are meant to feel totally engrossed in the world the writers create for you and BBC Sherlock does that spectacular.

  • ceredwyn1818 Jan 28, 2014

    Throwing in a few gender switches and a location change does not constitute effort. Sherlock updated all the cases to match the modern times, which was very well done and creative. There are also some pretty big plot changes (I've read the stories and seen all three seasons) And what's the point of making a show based on a famous series if you aren't going to use source material from that series?

  • ionee24 Jan 29, 2014

    Effort means to modernize the character, not throw it out in the middle of modern sorroundings:

    • Elementary's Sherlock assumes his drug problem like his book counterpart wasn't able to do a few centuries ago,
    • Elementary's Sherlock is aware how women are smart and capable professionals in a way the old Sherlock was barely able to perceive that one time with that one woman,
    • Elementary's Sherlock knows his own flaws and is able to compensate them where the old Sherlock could only graso he was fallible,
    • Elementary's Sherlock is not disgusted by his own sexuality, he embraces domestic partnership because he has always had a contempt for marriage, he keeps bees because they help him with his pensive mind, etc.

  • cecylia248 Jan 26, 2014

    I noticed a trend, people who watched the whole season 3 of Sherlock (and didnt like it) still voted for it..then there are those who pointed all of the things wrong with it--majority still voted for it. This is noteworthy.

  • sylaine Jan 27, 2014

    Agreed. I think that's because Sherlock makes an impression - Even if it goes into a direction some people don't like, it's still better than 95% of shows out there.

  • mori1bund Jan 26, 2014

    While Elementary is a good show (mostly because of its main actors) Sherlock is exceptional.
    My beef with Elementary is, that it's too generic: give the main characters different names and no one would realize that this should be Sherlock Holmes.

  • ionee24 Jan 26, 2014

    I've got a dusty violin, a few bees, an Irene, a Ms. Hudson and Mycroft Holmes that would bear to differ.

    The only real difference I see is that Miller's Holmes moved to New York...and he actually paid attention to his drug problem like a XXIst century man would.

  • mori1bund Jan 27, 2014

    Irene is the same person as Moriarty, Ms. Hudson was in One episode, Mycroft has nothing to do with the Mycroft in the book, in the book Holmes used cocain, etc. So let's look at another show a similar clever but similar social disfunctional consultant of the police with an assistent/partner who looks out for him, who usually works with a certain inspector, who has lost the love of his life and who has an evil antagonist in some episodes -> let's call him... Mr. Monk.
    I don't say that Elementary is a bad show. I watch it regularly. I like its characters. But it doesn't differ that much from other generic procedural shows.

  • ionee24 Jan 28, 2014

    Just because Ms Hudson was born a man doesn't change the warm, maternal presence she used to have, Mycroft is just as devious (albeit slightly more sinister), the bees and the violin as used as the same expression of the same personality.

    Even Irene = Moriarty is a brilliant fusion of the one person that could defeat Holmes IMO.

  • mori1bund Jan 28, 2014

    I have nowhere said anything about Ms Hudson being born as a man. I've said that she appeared just in one Episode. Since you're talking about his personality: his personality is quite different from the original Sherlock Holmes. He's much more compassionate and sensitive than the original Holmes: a very different character.

  • sylaine Jan 27, 2014

    I'll give you the violin and the bees - but the rest would be absolutely unrecognisable if not for the names. Basically every single feature they have is different from the books. Irene Adler is not a painter, and certainly not Jamie Moriarty (how would anyone ever make the leap to Sherlock Holmes if not for the name?). And Sherlock Holems was never in any actual relationship with her. Not even taking into account that Ms. Hudson is a transgender woman (which I found really awesome by the way) - that's quite a leap to the original Sherlock Holmes' housekeeper. And then there's Mycroft - nothing about him makes me believe that he could, in any way, be smarter than Sherlock and also his job, his physical appearance - not even close to the books.

    I wouldn't necessarily call Elementary completely generic - it constantly does surprising things and also things that make my inner feminist scream with joy, but the truth is - take the names away, and no ones first thought would be "Oh, what a clever Sherlock Holmes adaptation"

  • ionee24 Jan 28, 2014

    Sebastian Moran is the same [former[ Royal Marine, Professor Moriarty never used "Jamie" but M, like Elementary's Irene did, Mycroft was kinda sketchy since the books, just like Elementary's, etc.

  • sylaine Jan 28, 2014

    Just because they use the whole gamut of names from the books, still doesn't make the characters in anyway close to the ones in the original. A character is not just a name and some very basic facts - I'm not denying that they are basing some (very few) things on Doyle's characters - but then again Doyle's characters and their character traits have been used and abused in fiction for so long that they have become quite commonplace. If you then also uproot the characters, change their whole backstory, their occupation, their family relationships, their likes, dislikes and most importantly - the relationships with each other - can you really claim that that's still them? Just a modern interpretation? They keot a few minor details from the books, like the violin playing, the interest in apiculture and oh look, they got Moran's former occupation right, at least, a rarity for supporting characters in Elementary. And of course the names, as you pointed out - this still doesn't make a Holmes.

    They should have either found a way to make it truer to the books - and they could have, even with the whole thing being transplanted to NY and the genderflips and character mergers. Or just made another House or Monk, Mentalist, Psych and what they're all called).

    And I'm sorry, but I'll really have to disagree with you on Mycroft - there is not one single thing about him in the books that's "just like Elementary's" unless you're referring to the fact that he is male and older than Sherlock.

  • ionee24 Jan 26, 2014

    The Holmes from the books always thought he didn't have a problem (How is that smart I beg of you?!)

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