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Shades of last fall's Prime Suspect: CBS' Elementary stars a Holmes away from home

Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu as Holmes and Watson. CBS photo

Premiering: Thursday, Sept. 27th at 9 p.m. (central) on CBS
Starring: Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu, Aidan Quinn, Jon Michael Hill
Produced by: Rob Doherty, Sarah Timberman, Carl Beverly

Perhaps in the not so distant future, Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson will be "re-imagined" as an extraterrestrial pair putting up with one other in disguised human forms while solving mysteries in tandem with the Canadian Mounted Police.

Until then it's Elementary, in which Watson for the first time is a woman while Holmes consults with the NYPD and tries to stay clean and sober on the side.

The new CBS drama takes The Mentalist's place on Thursday nights, although they're both roughly the same kind of mind-bending "crime procedural" series. Patrick Jane and Sherlock Holmes are both ego-centric, off-center geniuses partnered with calmer, steadier female work mates. The Mentalist, which is moving to Sunday nights, could easily work out a "crossover" arrangement with Elementary during a ratings "sweeps" period. Even if putting their two heads together might make both of them explode.

CBS' version of Holmes is played by Jonny Lee Miller, who was pretty good as the brain-impaired star of ABC's Eli Stone series. Lucy Liu (the Charlie's Angels movies, Ally McBeal, etc.) is Dr. Joan Watson, who's been hired to be Holmes' "sober companion" by his rich father.

Holmes is several years removed from a "fall from grace" at Scotland Yard while Watson lost a patient and her medical license three years ago. So you see, they kind of need each other, even though he's prototypically resistant at first and she quickly gets exasperated enough to quit.

As with virtually all CBS crime hours, this one begins with the violent death of a woman. Holmes is soon on the case, but not before Watson pays him a call. She first encounters a bare-chested, heavily tattooed Holmes who's checked out of rehab earlier than scheduled and has just had a little rendezvous involving handcuffs.

"I actually find sex repellent, all those fluids and odd sounds," he informs her. Still, Holmes partakes on occasion to maintain his equilibrium.

The third wheel in this arrangement is police captain Tobias "Toby" Gregson, with Aidan Quinn back in the saddle as roughly the same kind of authority figure he played last season on NBC's American-ized version of Prime Suspect. He and Holmes worked together a decade ago overseas. So he's happy to have him back, damaged goods or not.

Whatever his environment, Holmes still conducts his deductions with what seems to be the greatest of ease. And you'd better know the difference.

"I don't guess, I observe," he snippily tells Watson. "And once I observe, I deduce."

He rapidly decides that the dead woman's husband didn't kill her. "I don't see him as having the berries to take another life." He also gets to exclaim "Bollocks!"

By now you're possibly deducing that I'm not all that enamored of this latest Holmes incarnation. It's far inferior to PBS' Sherlock series, particularly in the dialogue department. And there are so many crime dramas on CBS that it's increasingly difficult to buy into yet another one -- even with the Sherlock Holmes brand in play.

Thursday's series premiere ends up being watchable but not really something to phone your friends about. Or "like" on Facebook. Or Tweet an urgent alert with accompanying link to your Followers.

Maybe Elementary will bloom and grow in future episodes. But for now, we have yet another brutally murdered woman for starters, with the eventual arrest of its perpetrator coming at the end of a not exactly spine-tingling whodunit.

It all then ends with Mets fan Watson avidly watching a nearly completed televised game while Holmes is rather bored by it all. So he definitely deduces exactly how the final Mets at bat will go.

Elementary? No, completely preposterous.

GRADE: C-plus