TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Elementary TV Poster Image
Popular with kidsParents recommend
Smart Sherlock drama is a great choice for mature teens.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 16 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

The show partners two people trying to deal with unknown traumas in their past who find a surprising connection that's based on personal similarities instead of sexual attraction. Both are smart, stubborn, and, in their own ways, dysfunctional, but the pairing has a surprisingly positive effect on each one at the same time that it brings about the solutions to some tough crimes. Perseverance and self-control are major themes.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Both Holmes and Watson have experienced success and failure personally and professionally, and they're attempting to put their lives back together. Each one's ability to read into the other forces them to face their pasts and deal with them. Although Holmes is the celebrated sleuth, he finds that Watson's presence complements his skills and acknowledges the need for collaboration. Watson, a traditionally male character, is cast as an Asian-American female in this telling, with great success and is a positive reflection of modern society.


Dead bodies are shown lying in pools of blood, sometimes in grotesque positions, but there's not a lot of violence onscreen. Attacks and murders are more implied than detailed.


Activity is limited to references to sexual encounters that already occurred and the implication that something just happened between a man and woman. In one scene, sex toys (handcuffs and the like) are shown and it's implied that Holmes uses them when he sleeps with a woman. As for the male/female partnering, sexual tension isn't an issue there.


"Ass" and "damn," but rarely.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking in bars, but little among the main cast. Holmes is a recovering drug addict and has sworn off the stuff.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Elementary is a modern adaptation of the classic Arthur Conan Doyle story about a super sleuth and his loyal partner. In this version, Sherlock Holmes is a recovering drug addict whose brilliance makes him a valuable, if unorthodox, consultant to the NYPD, and Watson is a female ex-doctor with some secrets in her past. Because the stories center on murders, abductions, and other unsavory facets of human behavior, it's not for kids, but it is one to consider for teens who are ready for the serious topics it raises. Dead bodies and details of crimes are fair game, but because most of the violence happens offscreen, the content's impact is greatly lessened. Mild language ("ass" and "damn") is an occasional concern, as are a few references to sex.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byJennifer H. March 2, 2019

Surprisingly thoughtful take on the classic, but watch with your young teen!

This is a remarkably well-written and thoughtful take on the classic Sherlock story. I love that Watson is not only female and Asian, but also that she and Sher... Continue reading
Parent of a 13-year-old Written byKirstin R. June 10, 2018

Disappointing after Sherlock

I watched a few of this with my nearly 14 year old. I began to be bothered by the way that the female lead presents, as overly scantily and tightly clad, etc. I... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byNinjaseeker October 4, 2020

Smart but a bit of gore

Its a smart show, must watch for teens and adults
Teen, 13 years old Written byStardust3178 December 18, 2018

This is such a great show!

This show has a lot of talking. Sherlock always mumbles so you have to watch it with the subtitles on. A lot of sex and that gets really annoying.

What's the story?

Holmes and Watson get a modern American makeover in ELEMENTARY, a smart crime drama based loosely on Arthur Conan Doyle's famous sleuthing pair. Jonny Lee Miller stars as Sherlock Holmes, a former Scotland Yard consultant who's starting over in New York City after sobering up in rehab. Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is his "sober companion," tasked with helping him ease back into normal life and keeping his recovery on track. When NYPD captain Tobias Gregson (Aidan Quinn) calls on Holmes for advice on a case, Watson is swept up in the brilliance and madness of Sherlock's crime-solving process and finds that she has more to contribute than just a steady hand.

Is it any good?

This cerebral mystery series puts a fresh spin on a well-worn tale without overstepping its license to rewrite the classic. One major difference is evident from the start, and while purists might not immediately love the gender (and ethnic) swap in Watson's character, Liu will win over skeptics with her thoughtful performance of a former doctor who's still licking her own wounds from the past while trying to help Holmes escape his inner demons. The two make a pair worthy of the classic characters they play, and the notable absence of sexual attraction or tension between them is a refreshing departure from many other primetime series.

Mystery buffs will revel in this new addition to the TV repertoire that relies on sharp writing and fascinating character development to appease the potential of its superb casting. Happily, because Elementary doesn't need to delve into sensational content like violence or sex to fill gaps in its fantastic stories, this is a great options for sturdy teens with an appetite for mystery.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Elementary's sanitary presentation of crime. What are the benefits of a crime drama that omits much of the gory details? Does that lessen the impact of the idea of violence?

  • In what ways do Holmes and Watson reflect the classic versions of their characters? Do you think the writers have a responsibility to stay consistent with at least some of the original story's details?

  • Why do you think the two characters were cast without sexual attraction? What impact does this have on the story's credibility?

  • How do the characters in Elementary demonstrate perseverance and self-control? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mystery

Character Strengths

Find more TV shows that help kids build character.

Themes & Topics

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