In CBS’ modern retelling of Sherlock Holmes titled Elementary, they have cast Jonny Lee Miller from Dexter as Holmes and as Watson…Lucy Liu.THR story This marks the first time that a woman will play Watson in the history of the character. Liu, a talented actress currently on TNT’s critically acclaimed Southland, certainly appears to be an unconventional cast, but is it?
CBS tries to appeal to a relatively mainstream audience, none of their shows break the mold, whether its their comedies or their dramas. For example, a show like Lost has no place on the CBS Network, while Hawaii 5-0 does (a formula and remake that already works). This trend has made them America’s number one network and they also boast the oldest clientele compared to the other networks.
Their philosophy revolves around that we will get younger viewers to watch us when we have to and hopefully we can copy the model that another network has figured out while we were kicking ass with ratings instead of focusing on a younger demographic that is completely unpredictable and likens commercials to Saw scenarios.
So the casting of Liu seems to fly in the face of this straight-laced philosophy, but it isn’t that controversial except to Holmes purists. The casting actually un-complicates the politically sticky companionship of the two heroes. Holmes and Watson have always had a “loving” relationship with Holmes always fearing losing Watson to a woman.
Many have noted the homosexual undercurrent that underlies their relationship. Now the witty banter is heterosexual flirting and I’ll guarantee that Watson and Holmes will finally sleep together. But because they are man and woman now it won’t “weird” and instead deeply entrenched in mainstream values.
CBS has maintained their status under the guise of an unconventional casting because an Asian woman as Watson is less controversial than a gay couple as detectives. CBS could have gone with a white woman, but they chose an Asian woman because a white woman would have seemed too obvious, but with the addition of race, the casting looks groundbreaking.
And in fact it is, CBS has done something strange and it could backfire in their ratings, but at least they are finally trying to do something new and fresh. A strong Asian female lead is something to cheer for and putting her up against the most difficult man in English literature can only be a good thing.
And there is no doubt in my mind that Lucy Liu’s presence and great performance will make the show transcendent hopefully in the way that Jeremy Lin has been in the NBA. She will break stereotypes and prove that an Asian female can carry a network show and hopefully result in more roles and programs with Asian leads and themes. See despite what you think, CBS Cares.