Elementary TV Poster Image




Smart Sherlock drama is a great choice for mature teens.
  • Network: CBS
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2012

What parents need to know

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

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.

Not applicable
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.

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

Premiere date:September 27, 2012
Cast:Aidan Quinn, Jonny Lee Miller, Lucy Liu
Topics:Book characters
Character strengths:Perseverance, Self-control
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Elementary was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • It's CSI, with banter; expect grisly murders.
  • Witty crime drama too highbrow for most kids.
  • Brilliant sci-fi drama for brave teens and up.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 15 years old Written byWayward Girl December 4, 2012

Elementary Is No "Sherlock", But It's Pretty Good

When I first saw the promo for this, I along many other dead loyal "Sherlock" fans shrieked, "NOOO!!! Sherlock does not live in New York, Sherlock does not have tattoos, Sherlock does not sleep with prostitutes, Sherlock is not a druggie, and Sherlock. Is Not. Johnny Lee Miller!!!" After stubbornly ignoring Elementary's existence for months I eventually came around and agreed to at least watch the pilot episode, just to further more bash on it. I was actually... pleasantly surprised. It wasn't that bad. It was actually... pretty good. I actually loved the idea of Watson being a girl, but I was worried about Lucy Liu's portrayal. I had nothing to fear. She was AMAZING. And Johnny Lee Miller? He's no Cumberbatch, but he's still respectable. This show is funny, clever, violent, and intriguing. My concerns are already mentioned above: Sherlock is a recovering druggie, and he is casual about sex/language. It's a crime show so of course there's violence. Other than that... I actually like this show. If I ever had to choose between Sherlock and Elementary, however - no doubt, I would still take Sherlock. But if, or rather, when, I need to feed my "Holmes Hunger" while waiting for Sherlock season 3, I now know where to turn to.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byTitusaki November 29, 2012

My Review

Elementary is an awesome show. I really enjoy watching shows based on Sherlock Holmes. With watching this show, you can learn alittle bit about detective work, even though most crime shows are alittle unrealistic for real life detective work and solving cases. Depending on certain episodes, there is always violence because with crime, there is death and criminal actions involved. There may even be cursing involved, and drugs, drinking, and smoking. But in the end, the criminal is caught and the crime is solved.
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much violence
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 16 years old Written bytazeraz January 31, 2014


This is a copy of the BBC show Sherlock! Elementary isn't even that good! If you want a good show with mystery and the real Doyle stories, WATCH SHERLOCK!!!!!!
What other families should know
Too much consumerism