Lucy Liu will play Sherlock Holmes's sidekick in a new American series called Elementary. Set in New York, it stars Jonny Lee Miller as the great detective – a former consultant to Scotland Yard whose addiction problems have resulted in a spell in rehab in the States – while Liu will play “Joan” Watson, a former doctor who has lost her license.
Everything about this is wrong.
Sherlock Holmes has a well known "aversion to women". It suits his priest-like devotion to his job, as well as his autistic levels of detachment, which find "the motives of women … so inscrutable". Holmes embodies that very Victorian combination of exquisite manners and deep distrust around all women, with the exception of Mrs Hudson, his housekeeper.
But more importantly, detective stories were the original buddy movies. Whether it is the fraternal Poirot and Hastings, or the master-and-valet relationship Lord Peter Wimsey and Sergeant Bunter, or even the father-and-son banter between Morse and Lewis, sleuths are at their best when not trying to seduce their partner.
When two men live or work closely together, their average age is halved. All their juvenile hobbies and eccentric habits come out to play. But throw a woman into the mix, and they start tidying up, buying new socks and leaving the loo seat down. You lose the comic interludes that are essential in a murder mystery to offset all the blood and misery.
What is so odd about this choice is that there’s already a TV series that updates Sherlock Holmes for American audiences. Granted the limping misanthrope Gregory House is a long way away from the detective who inspired him. But the most enjoyable thing about the series remains the relationship between House and Dr James Wilson: whether elaborate pranks, passive-aggressive psychological games or the rare times when their friendship is tested to breaking point.
None of that is possible if Sherlock Holmes spends his entire time telling survivor stories from his addiction in an attempt to get Watson into bed.