Benedict Cumberbatch Not Exactly Thrilled that Jonny Lee Miller is Ripping Off His Sherlock
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Benedict Cumberbatch Not Exactly Thrilled that Jonny Lee Miller is Ripping Off His Sherlock

By Dustin Rowles | Trade News | August 30, 2012 | Comments ()


As most of you well know, CBS -- the network that your grandparents love to watch -- is coming out with an adaptation of "Sherlock Holmes." It will be a contemporary re-telling of Sherlock, and it will likely be very procedural in nature, given CBS's history. The show, "Elementary," has one wrinkle in that Watson will be played by a female, Lucy Liu, but otherwise, it feels very much like a rip-off of PBS's magnificent "Sherlock," starring Martin Freeman and Benedict Cumberbatch.

As it turns out, Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller are actually friends in real life, having worked together on Danny Boyle's stage production of Frankenstein. A few months ago, Jonny Lee Miller noted that Cumberbatch had given him his blessing to do "Sherlock," according to Miller.

"I love the work that Benedict has done with "Sherlock." I would call him up like a groupie after every episode had come out. I've been able to reassure him about how different this script was ... [Cumberbatch] was excited for me and he was very encouraging and we discussed it."

Well, turns out, that's not exactly the case, at least according to Cumberbatch, in an interview with

"I got hold of the pilot script just to check it out. I don't know, we'll see," Cumberbatch says in the interview. "I think there's room for us both to coexist. I don't feel threatened by it and I wish him the best, which is as diplomatic as I can be."

He continues: "It's very odd. I did say [to Miller], 'Well, I'd prefer you didn't do it but you've got a kid to feed, a nice house in LA and a wife to keep in good clothes.' I think Jonny was like, 'Mate, I've got the f--king mountain to climb here, you've got nothing to fear.' I wish him the best of luck, but I'm a bit cynical about why they've chosen to do it and why they cast him."

I suppose the good news is, Miller will never, ever match Cumberbatch's performance in "Sherlock" and he'll spend the entire series fending off comparisons. The bad news, of course, is that Miller's version will likely be more accessible to network television audiences, run for seven years, and make Miller more money than BBC ever thought to pay Cumberbatch.

Here's a preview of CBS's "Elementary," if you're morbidly curious.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Callum

    It'll run for one season if lucky be slated by critics and compared to a far better show which it's ripping off. Then it will be put on hiatus. Lets look at the talent (or lack of) it's a guy CBS hired because he's British and a woman who's career has been dead for ten hears since she played the Charlies Angel who flicked her hair a lot.

  • Jemiah Jefferson

    Recanted, there's a love. (It's hard out here for a pimp, ain't it, Ben?...)

  • Aislinn

    Why is it a 'wrinkle' that the role of Watson is being played by an Asian woman? Oh, sorry: a 'female'?

  • WheresMrCookiepants?

    I'll only agree to watch it if Johnny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu agree to swap characters every other season

  • jc

    The more Cumberbatch talks, the less I like him. Dude, please stfu.

  • Holy Jeebus, that looks terrible. It's like the bad joke version of a tv show that is created in a movie in order to make fun of Hollywood bullshit. EXCEPT IT IS REAL.

  • BWeaves

    Jeremy Brett for the win. I'm currently rewatching all the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes, and damn if they not only nailed every plot, but they even recreated the illustrations to get the look right.

  • Uriah_Creep

    You are wise, BWeaves. A million upvotes.

  • David Sorenson

    Dear god. Fricking House is a better adaptation of Sherlock Holmes than Elementary. That trailer makes the show look like The Mentalist with an english accent. I don't think they'll make it three seasons before they introduce a child Sherlock didn't know he had to serve as a spunky sidekick. He'll be named Scrappy Holmes.

  • laylaness

    Anyone who's seen them in Frankenstein knows that Benedict's acting is way more nuanced. I loved Johnny Lee Miller from Hackers and Trainspotting, but he's more shouty than acting.

  • Look the CBS show was created to sell a dumb downed version of the BBC show and replace the HOYAY of Watson and Sherlock with good old American Heterocentricism. I will not be watching this show and instead continue watching Benedict and his scarf. Yum.

  • Cry moar fangurls


  • yup, it must be a conspiracy. it couldn't be giving audiences ,more of a popular character there seems to be a demand for. it couldn't be getting creative and creating roles for women in classic stories that tended to be dominated almost exclusively by male characters.

    if america is heterocentric, i don't find that strange. somewhere between 94 and 98% of the population is hetero.

    we haven't even seen it yet to know where they go with the characters and stories.

    i'm glad my tv shows are not possessive of me and i don't have to make either/or choices.

  • Sara S.

    Great point. I also will keep watching Benedict and his scarf :D

  • True_Blue

    And based on the trailers I've seen, the CBS Sherlock also wears a scarf. Except that it's fugly.

  • annie

    Oh, Benedict, I love you, I want to have your babies, but you do sound a little snarky and bitter. The clips I've seen seem charming enough, and Miller's awesome and Lucy Liu is a fave (I still think she'd be a better Holmes). The only thing that didn't ring true is when Miller's Holmes said "Sometimes, I hate it when I'm right." No, no, Holmes, no matter what time period, is never not happy to be right.

  • Sara S.

    i won't even bother watching the new sherlock because the only good sherlock TV series is the BBC version

  • You seem to have a very closed mind. How do you know the CBS series is no good until you've watched it? It's like saying "I'm not going to read '50 Shades of Gray' because I love the Twilight books". You would have deprived yourself of some literary geniosity.

  • Sara S.

    dude i pretty much know sherlock is da bomb and cannot be replaced. and, i don't think i have any curiosity in 50 shades of gray. not closed-mindedness. I'm probably not even allowed to read it

  • AM

    It really bugs me when men say "female" when what they mean is "woman." But I can't put my finger on quite why. Anybody else feel me? It's sort of clinical sounding; I guess I associate "male" and "female" with biological terminology. I don't know. Somebody more eloquent chime in, please.

  • Guest

    Ooooh ooooh me! me! This is how I explain it to undergrads,* who are the WORST at using "male" and "female" as nouns in essays. I point out that, outside of science, use "man/boy" and "woman/girl" (or neutral terms like "teens," "people", etc.) when talking about human beings, because doing otherwise dehumanizes the individuals in question. People aren't lab rats. We pick this terminology up from law enforcement, where creating distance between themselves and criminals is a neat psychological trick that helps officers do their very hard jobs (e.g. having to treat another human being like a slave or livestock--chains, cages, bullets, massive physical coercion). It's also become de rigueur among anti-feminists to use "females" as a noun when they mean "women"...kinda for that reason.

    Like most progressives, I avoid it, but I also try not to let it act as a "red flag" when I hear it out of others' mouths, simply because it's in the ether and most folks use it innocuously, without realizing how it sounds (although some people unconsciously "get" the distinction, hence usage among certain groups, and hence your own gut instinct, AM). Seems awareness is growing, though.

    *None of the following is original to me--I've had this explained to me by eloquent people, elsewhere.

  • i come from a security background and routinely say 'male' and 'female'. we do use a whole range of jargon and terminology for the purposes of necessary psychological conditioning--not that it is usually stated explicitly. In a control and defense class, our instructor would only refer to hands and feet as weapons, as in "he is facing you with all his weapons out" we don't even say "person", but "subject".

    i had no idea this is condsidered anti-feminist. it's tiring trying to keep up with ever changing sanctioned language.

  • Guest

    It's not anti-feminist in the security/law enforcement context. It's just as you say--a distancing technique equally used on both sexes.

    In undergrad essays, it's usually just a sign of amateurish writing.

    Context and speaker count, as ever. Sounds like I wasn't terribly clear in my first post.

  • AM

    Thanks, Ranylt. You can always be counted on for eloquence! And I agree about the distancing effect, like when police say "individual" instead of person or woman or boy. I wonder how Dustin feels about our analysis of his word choice? I don't think we would ever consider him anti-feminist!

  • Guest

    I'm pretty sure Dustin falls under the "innocuous/in the ether" category. Personally, the term only gets my dander way up on MRA sites or in comments clearly made by misogynist trolls.

  • Sasha J

    Quoting my professor (man): "I don't like the word 'female', makes it sound like women are cows somehow..." Perhaps not "more eloquent", but nothing makes for more attentive listeners than comparing women to livestock at a feminism seminar.

  • AM

    Exactly. I hear these David Attenborough overtones:
    "The female of the species is known to eat her young when conditions are not favorable for survival..." etc. etc.

  • zeke_the_pig

    On a Cumberbatch side note: I was at a pub two days ago and he showed up for a few drinks. He's shorter in real life.

  • laylaness

    But he looks like an ethereal in-real-life-Photoshop. I met him and Simon Pegg when they were filming Star Trek here in Northern California. They were both drunk and lovely and I love them more now than I ever thought I could. Cumberpumpkin's hands are so warm and soft.

  • zeke_the_pig

    You're definitely right about that. I tried to look straight at him but my eyes kept sliding off the sudden edges and bouncing off the awkward angles.

  • laylaness

    Gaussian blur.

  • David Sorenson

    Had to like that simply for the name "Cumberpumpkin."

  • Groundloop

    Guest appearance by Zombie Jeremy Brett or GTFO.

  • csb

    a rip-off of PBS’s magnificent “Sherlock”

    So BBC America doesn't show it in the States? That's interesting.

  • AudioSuede

    Has anyone here read the Mary Russell series by Laurie R. King? It's about a young female who's just as smart as Sherlock Holmes who brings him out of retirement to solve mysteries. My wife gobbles them up whenever a new one comes out. I've read the first one, and I've gotta say, it's pretty addictive.

    I mean, a lot of people are going on about the whole "Sherlock with a lady sidekick!" angle, and those books handle it quite well. Actually Russell is a more interesting character than Watson, in many respects.

  • Nessun

    Those books are fantastic - Russell is a wonderful character, and King's Sherlock is a great take on Doyle's original material. I would much rather see something in that vein turned into a TV show than the CBS programme that's planned. The previews aren't encouraging in the least.

  • POINGjam

    Dr. Frankenstein was really shitty at stitching.

  • Long_Pig_Tailor

    His med school was in the Caribbean, and run by a dude who had replaced his fingers with lightning-animated sausages. By that standard, he was stellar.

  • I love The Cumberbatch, but dude has got to stop bitching all the time. It is most unbecoming.

  • Carrie/Teabelly

    I tried to watch that with an open mind and not compare Miller's performance with Cumberbatch's...but I failed. Nothing about that 'behind the scenes' bit was intriguing, and I really disliked Miller's Sherlock. He doesn't seem to be bringing anything to it other than a slight manic quality and an accent I don't find attractive. I'm not even that mad a fan of the BBC's Sherlock. I liked it a lot, I'll watch it when it comes back, but it doesn't make me giddy. I think I'll pass on this version though.

  • CRod

    I saw the pilot at Comic-Con and he does speak with a British accent.

  • Wicked

    Um, you know that Miller is really British right? Its not a made-up accent.

  • Milly

    He's not doing a British accent (there is no 'British' accent); he's speaking in a very RP style of English. Which I imagine he is doing to give the character a privileged/well educated background. If he did his own accent it would just be generic southern England (i.e. anywhere from Milton Keynes down to the M25). Would be a lot more interesting if he played it as Sick Boy, though!

  • Carrie/Teabelly

    I do indeed know that. I still find it unattractive.

  • Wicked

    I really don't understand what the big deal is, If another actor has a shot to play this character then why not? NO actor owns this character, it was already immortalized in the book version, plus Robert Downey Jr also played Sherlock, you don't see him being all pissy about it. Its not like
    Cumberbatch is the first actor to ever play him. Sad because I really loved the first season of the british tv version of this show, but I'm not going to go and make opinions about this version until i watch a couple episodes. That's just childish behavior.

  • annoyingmouse

    I don't think it's fair to compare this to the BBC version, obviously BBC is better if nothing else but for being first to bring the story to the 21st century. Even if it were shit we'd probably say "been there, done that." Also CBS is lame and for old people so obviously it's watered down Diet Pepsi because Grandma gets gassy when she drinks a real Pepsi.

  • i'm pretty sure I read somewhere, in the context of this new show even, that the BBC Sherlock is not the first modernized version. Factor in also, that Sherlock and watson have become character archetypes, forming the basis of shows like House or the Mentalist.

  • the notion of an adaptation of sherlock holmes being a rip off of an adaptation of sherlock holmes is just too funny

  • annie

    It's the modernization that people are paying attention, too.

  • miked

    If there is a will they or won't they between Holmes and Watson, I'm going to be furious. I love Freeman and Cumberbatch's odd love for each other and if they try to do that in the American version it's just going to turn in to Castle style I love her but she could never love me garbage.
    Honestly, if they were going to change Watson to a girl, they should have just done the same for holmes. Come to think about it, why aren't women ever the super dedecurs in these shows? Maybe they are, and I just don't watch / know about them.

  • Bert_McGurt

    Here in the Great White North in the 90's, there WAS a kids show called The Adventures of Shirley Holmes about Sherlock's great grant-niece. I never did see it (the only reason I know about it was that it was filmed in my hometown), but it appears to have been well-regarded.

  • TheEverGuest

    Cold case, Bones, and Profiler back in the 90's. None of those are very good, though.

  • Three_nineteen

    Well none of the (American) male deducer shows are very good, either, so I think it's a wash.

  • lilianna28

    Don't care, I'll watch it. Sometimes sloppy seconds ain't so bad...

  • Hell no, we won't

  • Pants-are-a-must

    Everything surrounding "Elementary" has been a MESS. It's brought out everything bad about everyone in it and around it. The only sane person in this seems to be Liu.

  • Vi

    Kind of wish Liu was Sherlock instead, might have actually saved the series. Miller comes off as kind of pathetic and maybe more watson-like? Liu we've seen do sociopathic really well, it's just too bad no one decided to go the full 9 miles.

  • True_Blue

    You're right on. That Elementary, I would have watched. CBS would have broken new(er) ground with a female Holmes and a beta-male Watson. Instead, it looks like we have "Monk" with a British accent and a female sidekick (and love interest, when CBS decides its ratings need some goosing).

  • Alice

    @0822fdf4b9efa68d8bb6e0bbaf8bc4b6:disqus Agreed!

    I thought Liu WAS Sherlock. She was the nerdy Angel in Charlie's Angels and would have done a great, new take on Sherlock's uptight persona.

  • Luke Anthony Matthews

    I find myself coming off the Cumberbatch train lately. Although I gotta say, that preview for the CBS version was terrible! I love Lucy Lui though, so meh.

  • TheEverGuest

    The god news is that British actors keep pumping out the brilliant even if they aren't always deplora-bundantely compensated for it.

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