Monday, July 14, 2014

CBS’s “Elementary” Review

One would think that producers and studios would shy away from the impulse to over saturate the airwaves with more renditions of Arthur Conan Doyle’s beloved character, Sherlock Holmes, but looking at the excessive use of vampires and reality television shows, it’s clear that they’ll simply attack the market with what sells. What CBS has so masterfully achieved here, despite cautious viewers’ preconceived criticism, is deliver something completely fresh and original.

Coming from someone who is a devoted follower of the Baker Street sleuth, I, too, was initially reluctant to give Elementary a chance upon its original airing in 2012, having come to love the most recent portrayals by Robert Downey, Jr. and Benedict Cumberbatch. And after hearing rumors that it would take place in modern-day New York and Watson would be played by a female, I didn’t find myself anymore at ease.

My disinclination was lessened though after seeing the behind-the-scenes footage for the show. Having been a fan of Jonny Lee Miller since his days in Trainspotting, I thought I would give it a go. I cannot say I jumped into the water without hesitation, but after watching it, I was immediately surprised at just how much I truly enjoyed the pilot.

Anyone (which should be everyone, unless you live under a rock) who is familiar with Sherlock Holmes knows of his eccentricities and acute eye for detail, and Elementary provides us with a more back-to-basics approach of the renowned detective but with a much stronger sense of human vulnerability.

With BBC’s hit series “Sherlock” and Guy Ritchie’s wonderfully stylized “Sherlock Holmes” films, the 21st century has been presented with a more readily cocky and lively Holmes, which serves quite properly for each portrayal. And in that regard, this is where Elementary breaks away from the pack…on a particularly high note.

Following a beautiful, cinematographically sharp opening sequence in its pilot episode, we begin with Dr. Joan Watson’s (Lucy Liu) early morning activities on the day she is set to meet Miller’s version of Holmes, who has just abruptly escaped from rehab for an unspecified drug addiction. Watson has been assigned to be Sherlock’s sober living companion for a scheduled six weeks by Holmes’s father, and upon their greeting, the pair share an appropriately awkward introduction.

Covered in tattoos and displaying far more recognizable signs of Asperger's Syndrome, along with his recovery from addiction, the show’s creators clearly paint Sherlock Holmes as a deeply flawed individual who just so happens to have a remarkable talent, instead of the more frequented vision of a genius with a few quirks. These personal defects make Holmes a much more relatable character, since everyone has their own crosses to bear, and it’s in that regard that his intelligence doesn’t make him full-blown arrogant. Perhaps his bluntness makes him a potential loose cannon, but the delicacy he shows in regard to Watson’s haunting past proves he’s every bit as compassionate as the next guy.

The dynamic between Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu is wonderful, their platonic relationship having a great loving-bickering, brother-sister feel to it. This reinvention, despite obvious changes regarding gender and location, is every bit as impressive and sensible as the other current adaptations. Yes, there are those diehard fans of Downey, Jr. and Cumberbatch that will always curse out the show’s new concepts, but for anyone with a genuinely open mind, I give Elementary a high recommendation. Solid “A” rating, and trust me, I don’t throw out such commendations lightly. Catch up on the past two seasons before the third premieres in October on CBS. You won’t be sorry! J

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Stigma of a Young Adult Reader

Young Adult books are my favorite. They have pretty covers, are awesome reads, and they bring out my inner fangirl. They keep me up till three in the morning, they have me counting down the days to the newest release, and they provide me with wonderful escapism. But there is also a stigma when it comes to this category that tries its hardest to make readers of this category ashamed for loving said books. But why?

Ever been scoffed at by the guy carrying Hemmingway while you’re browsing the bookshelves at Barnes & Noble? You know what I’m talking about. He’s toting a literary classic, meanwhile you’re holding the latest young-adult paranormal romance in your hands. There’s evident condensation. He finds your reading taste to be silly, because as the standard says, “Young adult books are for kids.” You may have even been given that judgmental once-over by the cashier as you’ve taken your book up to the register. They’re thinking the same thing.

When most adult readers hear the words “Young Adult,” they immediately assume the worst. To these pretentious folk, YA is the Cartoon Network of the book world and “Adult” lit is the equivalent of HBO. Our books are the things that merely keep kids entertained, and their books are where all the substance will be found. We’re Scooby Doo, they’re Game of Thrones. It sucks, but that’s just the way things go. Again, if you’re a YA reader, you know what I’m talking about. When someone says that they just finished reading Homer’s The Iliad, and you reply, “I finished Twilight last night,” you’re bound to get looks like you just said, “I watched an episode of The Teletubbies.” Adult readers see a young adult cover, and they look down their noses at us as if we’re still reading those big cardboard children’s picture books. You know, the ones where there’s only one line of writing on each page like, “The dog barked.” (Turn page) “The dog barked louder.” Yep, that’s what they see us as. Overgrown children.

To make matters worse, it’s not particularly easy to sway someone afflicted with this mindset to see the light. I love the fact that Twilight started the tread with younger audiences to start reading again. We were admittedly trapped in a world where browsing through CliffsNotes was actually considered reading a book. Unfortunately, Twilight isn’t the greatest example of how outstanding the YA category can be, but it is still to this day the epitome of “Young Adult,” which means that’s what everybody considers every other book in this field to be, just another Twilight.

Plus, trying to verbalize what you love about a YA book without being laughed at by these people can be daunting. Let’s face it, explaining the plot to Pride & Prejudice or My Sister’s Keeper is a bit easier than trying to tell someone what a Shadowhunter is, who Downworlders are, and what runes do. Typically by discussion’s end, the other party will be gawking at you like you’re on crack.

There’s also age discrimination. When you’re a teenager reading YA, it’s perfectly acceptable. Adults are general pleased with this, because they’d rather see you with a book in yours hands than a cell phone. Apparently though, after a certain age, usually around 18-19, you’re supposed to move past your love for young-adult lit. Everyone expects you to grow up, to start reading “grownup books.” But why? Despite being plagued by condemnation by older readers, young adult books do in fact appeal to all ages. Whether you’re a teenager going through the highs and lows of adolescence right now or an adult whose already gone through the whole rigmarole, you can relate to the problems presented in YA literature. And there are so many great reads spanning from dystopian, sci-fi, paranormal, romance, fantasy, contemporary, horror, fairytale retellings, and so on. With The Hunger Games, The Mortal Instruments, The Fault in Our Stars, Divergent, and The Perks of Being A Wallflower, it’s hard not to find at least one book in the bunch that will appeal to any reader out there.

So, long story short, don’t judge a book by its cover, and don’t judge it by its category either. You just might be happily surprised by what you find inside. :-)