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Elementary: The First Season DVD Review

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#1 of 9 OFFLINE   Matt Hough

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Posted August 17 2013 - 02:13 PM

Elementary: The First Season DVD Review

Since he made his first appearance in 1887 in the pages of the Strand magazine in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's "A Study in Scarlet," Sherlock Holmes has rarely been without an audience. Whether in the pages of books and magazines, the movies, radio, or television, the activities of the world's premier consulting detective have been popular fodder for an eager public. Though not new to television, Holmes came to the American airwaves during the 2012-2013 season via CBS' Elementary, a modernized update of the Baker Street regular now residing in New York City and offering his services to the NYPD as a consultant on their most baffling crimes. Though the BBC modernized the character first for television in their magnificent series Sherlock (currently in production of its third season of three ninety-minute adventures), Elementary has emerged as the most popular new broadcast network series of the year, and its weekly mysteries rank in their own way with the best ones Holmes has ever been connected with.


Cover Art


Studio: Paramount

Distributed By: N/A

Video Resolution and Encode: 480P/MPEG-2

Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1

Audio: English 2.0 DD, English 5.1 DD

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, Portuguese

Rating: Not Rated

Run Time: 17 Hrs. 18 Min.

Package Includes: DVD

Amray case with leaves in a cardboard case

Disc Type: DVD-9 (dual layer)

Region: 1

Release Date: 08/27/2013

MSRP: $69.99




The Production Rating: 4.5/5

The premise for this modernized version of the Holmes tales places recovering heroin addict Sherlock Holmes (Jonny Lee Miller) in one of his father’s brownstones in New York City watched over by his sober companion Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) whose job involves making sure Holmes stays focused on his work and away from drugs. Holmes as ever is the master of deductive reasoning, and his sobriety combined with the medical knowledge of Watson who had been a successful surgeon until she left the profession after a terrible tragedy make him an even more formidable foe to the litany of criminal types the two come into contact with during the first season. Holmes and Watson consult with the NYPD with Captain Toby Gregson (Aidan Quinn) their direct superior. Also involved in the investigations is Gregson’s right hand man (except in the pilot) Detective Curtis Bell (Jon Michael Hill). All of Holmes’ eccentricities are present and accounted for (even more than in the stories thanks to the genius of actor Jonny Lee Miller), and his knowledge of tobacco ash, bees, and other tropes from the stories all remain in this adaptation. So are occasional references to some of the classic tales from one episode about the blackmailer Charles Augustus Milverton to the occasional references to a blue carbuncle, persons named Musgrave and Stapleton, and, of course, the three most famous names from the canon: Irene Adler, Sebastian Moran, and Moriarty. All three play various roles in episodes during the first season. (To say more would spoil quite a few delicious surprises the episodes offer.)

Though the focus is on solving murders during the season, there are also episodes involving other crimes: kidnapping, blackmail, theft, and missing persons. The staff writers began the season with a number of episodes where the guilty party was easy to spot but seemingly impossible to actually be the perpetrator, but later puzzles are much more intricately plotted, and the mysteries in this show are among the most baffling ever offered for television: what appears to be a simple (if gruesome) murder of a man shot through his eyes turns into a complex plot with multiple suspects and one whale of a denouement, a routine prop plane crash turns into a highly convoluted crime drama with multiple victims, Holmes’ former drug dealer comes looking for help when his daughter is kidnapped tempting Sherlock with drugs to “sharpen” his senses. Even the most experienced mystery aficionados will find solving these puzzles before the master to be something of a challenge.

And those who were concerned over the switch in gender for Watson (including your reviewer) can rest easily: the writers have not cooked up a half-baked romance for the two but rather have constructed a pairing that develops during the season into a real partnership with, of course, the occasional bumps and bruises that associating with Sherlock Holmes is bound to lead to. Jonny Lee Miller is a total delight in the role of Holmes: eccentric and funny and fun, and with the mounds of dialogue he must spout each week, an absolutely herculean achievement which he handles with superb fluidity. Lucy Liu is a no-nonsense Watson, a capable professional whose fascination with Holmes’ techniques grows with each episode until she is enlisted into becoming his associate once her time as his sober companion has expired. Aidan Quinn and Jon Michael Hill get to play the straight-laced cops who know Holmes’ skills but still question on occasion his conclusions or his methods.

Here are the twenty-three episodes contained on six DVDs in this first season set:

1 – Pilot
2 – While You Were Sleeping
3 – Child Predator
4 – Rat Race
5 – Lesser Evils
6 – Flight Risk
7 – One Way to Get Off
8 – The Long Fuse
9 – You Do It to Yourself
10 – The Leviathan
11 – Dirty Laundry
12 – The Red Team
13 – The Deductionist
14 – A Giant Gun, Filled with Drugs
15 – Details
16 – Possibly Two
17 – Déjà vu All Over Again
18 – Snow Angels
19 – Dead Man’s Switch
20 – A Landmark Story
21 – Risk Management
22 – The Woman
23 - Heroine



Video Rating: 4.5/5  3D Rating: NA

The transfers are presented in their widescreen television aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and are anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. At 480p quality, these are mostly outstanding transfers. Sharpness is crisp and inviting with as much detail as can be squeezed from standard definition video. Color is nicely under control throughout with appealing and realistic skin tones. Black levels are rich and shadow detail is nicely delivered. There is some minor moiré to be glimpsed on occasion, but there are no serious distractions to the video quality. Each episode has been divided into 6 chapters.



Audio Rating: 4/5

The disc offers both Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 stereo surround sound mixes. Both are effective. For the purposes of this review, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mix was utilized for all but one episode. The score by Sean Callery is the primary inhabitant of the surround channels, and it’s effectively and wittily placed to maximize the series’ mixture of quirky and dramatic moments. Being a dialogue-heavy show, the recording of same is very professionally done with the dialogue residing in the center channel and never overpowered by the music or effects. Sound effects occasionally do pan through the soundstage, but with the series being shot in New York City, more of the city’s ambiance might have been reflected in the audio mix.



Special Features Rating: 3/5

A Holmes of Their Own (11:52, SD): series creator Rob Doherty (who is prominent in all of these bonus featurettes) and the two stars of the program discuss bringing Holmes into the 21st century.

In Liu of Watson (9:45, SD): Rob Doherty and star Lucy Liu discuss the modification of the Watson character from the page to the production stage.

Holmes Sweet Holmes (17:56, SD): Rob Doherty, producers Craig Sweeny and Carl Beverly, and stars Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, and Aidan Quinn give an overview of the series’ first season.

Set Tour (3:19, SD): Lucy Liu gives a brief backstage look at the sets used for the police precinct and the Holmes’ brownstone.

Network Promos (8:06, SD): six promo ads of various lengths in montage form which were run over the summer of 2012 leading up to the series premiere

The Power of Observation (SD): a six part web series giving background for the show:
  • Introduction (0:35)
  • The Legend Comes Alive (3:27): the casting of Jonny Lee Miller
  • Seeing Is Believing (3:02): brief rundown on photography and special effects for the series
  • Devil in the Details (3:43): the set decorator and props master discuss their work on the show
  • Pieces of the Puzzle (4:34) film editor and series composer show how their work enhances the show’s pacing and mood
  • My Own Watson (3:53): creator Rob Doherty and Lucy Liu discuss the gender switch and how it has impacted the series.



Overall Rating: 4/5

CBS’ modernized spin on the Sherlock Holmes tales makes for an absorbing and entertaining first season of Elementary. Though naturally one wishes the series had been released in Blu-ray to better capture the nuances of the sets and characters, the DVD release on a good upconverting player is an acceptable compromise. Recommended!


Reviewed By: Matt Hough


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#2 of 9 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted August 17 2013 - 11:17 PM

I wish the series were on Blu-ray, but will likely pick up the release when it reaches the $25-$30 mark.


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#3 of 9 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted August 18 2013 - 02:17 PM

I'll wait for the blu. I don't get why I should watch it I. SD when I watched the broadcasts I HD.
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#4 of 9 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted August 18 2013 - 03:14 PM

What are the chances of there being a Blu-ray release later? I can only think of a few series to do that, and they were phenomenally popular and didn't necessarily have Blu-ray as an option at the time the first season came out (e.g. The Sopranos).


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#5 of 9 OFFLINE   Johnny Angell

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Posted August 18 2013 - 06:26 PM

Don't know the chances. I just know I won't be watching it in SD.
Johnny
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#6 of 9 OFFLINE   Cameron Yee

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Posted August 19 2013 - 08:48 AM

Your statement has me thinking a little outside the box on this one.

 

I can buy the series in 1080p download off iTunes for $25. That's not a bad price, though I'd like to see the extras at least once.


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#7 of 9 OFFLINE   Scott Burke

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Posted August 20 2013 - 02:45 PM

I like the show, but absolutely hate the fact that sherlock is a recovering heroin addict.  I hate every time they return to that thematic crutch.  I prefer the BBC version, but enjoy this.



#8 of 9 OFFLINE   theonemacduff

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Posted August 20 2013 - 08:56 PM

In the original stories Holmes used cocaine whenever he didn't have an absorbing mystery to solve, so the switch to heroin is perfectly in keeping with the Conan Doyle character. As well, note that all the modern versions of Holmes, including the BBC's, derive from a brilliant re-imagining of the character done in the mid-90s by Jake Kasdan (Larry's boy) in a little-seen but highly regarded cult classic, The Zero Effect.



#9 of 9 OFFLINE   Devon Pierce

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Posted August 22 2013 - 07:13 AM

I love this show. Thanks for the review. I've had it pre-ordered since May.

I don't think his drug use is a thematic crutch at all. It's been a nuanced exploration of Holmes' addiction (which is canon) and recovery. The show won a Prism award for it recently. 







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