Elementary Boss: Playing Up Sherlock/Watson Sexual Tension 'Is Completely Off the Table'

Sherlock Holmes purists who might already be knitting their brows over CBS’ Elementary casting Lucy Liu as a female Watson can find great solace in the fact that, even with that male/female dynamic, the New York City-set freshman mystery series will not devolve into some “Will They/Won’t They?” thing.

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“For me, it’s completely off the table,” Elementary showrunner Rob Doherty told TVLine at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour in Beverly Hills. “It’s just not in my head for Season 1 and, looking ahead … I just don’t feel like that’s a part of the show.”

Doherty instead says his sole goal is to “honor the original relationship” between the partners in crimesolving. “And the original Holmes, to the best of my knowledge, never slept with Watson.”

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When apprised that CBS has been running promos purposely edited to, for example, make a jailhouse visit come off as a flirtatious exchange between Sherlock (Jonny Lee Miller) and Watson (who in this iteration is the deductive genius’ sober companion), Doherty could only shrug.

“I get that. I understand that. [CBS] has to use every arrow in its quiver, and we have a mind-bogglingly attractive pair in Jonny and Lucy,” he noted. “But that’s one of the reasons I feel we the writers don’t have to write to it. There’s a natural sexual tension when you put them in a room, so you’re just go to feel it. So, are we going to write to it? No. Are they going to act to it? No. But it will be there.”

As such — and admittedly despite his very best efforts — Doherty is nonetheless prepared to field an unending volley of questions throughout the show’s run, about the “Will They/Won’t They?” topic.

“People will ask us every week, and there will be people who want to see it happen, and I don’t want to break any hearts but it’s just not in our plans,” he reiterated. “And I have felt no pressure [from higher-ups] to pursue that kind of storyline.”

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49 Comments
  1. Rebecca says:

    Hmm well for me personally, I usually only gravitate towards shows that have a couple you can root for with the hopes of a hookup. So this is probably not going to be on my watch list.

    • Ella says:

      Agreed… I always like to have a romantic pairing to attach to,and was kind of looking forward to a romantic spin on Holmes/Watson.

      • April says:

        Me three. For me, half of the fun is rooting for the characters to be happy together. Besides, Jonny Lee Miller is way to pretty not to be having any fun with Watson. And what are they going to do besides solve crimes the whole show? I mean, are they just going to work and solve a case and go their seperate ways? Sounds a little boring to me. But, we’ll see.

    • megalion says:

      Supposedly the estate of Conan Doyle is fanatic about not allowing any interpretation of Sherlock & Watson to have any kind of sexual interaction.

      I remember when the first RDJr Holmes movie came out, this came up in interviews about why the “subtext” between them was so downplayed when both actors would surely be game to play it up. Instead they settled for much subtler “was that or wasn’t that a flirt?” type stuff.

      I’d be curious is the estate would bend on that point too if theyve already given permission to change watson’s gender.

  2. Peeta says:

    That’s crazy! I tought the main reason why Watson became a girl, is to bring them together, as a couple. That’s the fun thing about relationship/procedurals. The sexual tension and the Will They/Won’t They. That’s why Bones, Castle, The X Facor, etc work. They should’ve kept Watson as a boy, because Sherlock and Watson’s bromantic dynamic is funny, and their homoerotic tension is one of the elements that modern Sherlock Holmes has adapted.

    • Lance says:

      No, the main reason they turn Holmes into a girl was to avoid lawsuits from the other Holmes show

      • Ana says:

        Except they can’t really sue because Steven Moffat does not own Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes is a public property, and while, yes, CBS had definitely wanted to do their own adaptation of BBC’s Sherlock, once BBC rejected their offer they were free to just go to the original material.

        • Miss_Marbles says:

          And not only that, but CBS tried this exact format twice before, in two TV movies (one in the 80′s and one in the 90′s) that brought Holmes into modern times and made Watson a woman. Google it! CBS asked BBC as a courtesy only.

        • megalion says:

          Erm, I don’t think the characters are public domain yet. Authors estate still controls them and as to approve any interpretation.

        • 10liltoes says:

          Nobody owns the rights to Sherlock Holmes. I think it is liberating that Watson and Moriarity can both be women. And why not?

      • Miss_Marbles says:

        But there IS NO sexual tension between Sherlock and John in the BBC show!! They’re mistaken for gay, which Watson vehemently denies. THEY ARE NOT GAY!! Not in canon, and not in the BBC show, How would Elementary have caused a lawsuit? They chose to make Watson a woman to play up on Holmes’s distrust of women and how he deals with it.

      • rowan77 says:

        Lance, Sherlock Holmes is in public domain. That’s why anyone can make a movie or TV show about it.

    • DL says:

      The X Factor? Bwahhahaha
      I know you meant the X-Files (though you might be right about The X Factor too), but that did make me laugh for a bit.

  3. Michelle says:

    Thank god. Devolving into mega annoying “will they/won’t they” would make me stop watching. Holmes and Watson are the ultimate FRIENDSHIP. There’s no reason to bring romance into it. That’s what fan fiction is for.

    • Daenarys says:

      I completely agree. When I heard that Watson was going to be a female I was not happy. I figured all anyone would care about would be when they hooked up. I love the dynamic between Holmes and Watson, especially on the BBC show. Its a close, loyal friendship, nothing more. Besides, Watson was always the ladies man and Holmes was more asexual. Now that I know they won’t make this show into a will they/won’t they I’m more likely to watch.

    • Renee says:

      Me too. I’m really relieved to hear him say this.

  4. R says:

    “And the original Holmes, to the best of my knowledge, never slept with Watson.” – a minor detail.. ORIGINAL WATSON WAS NOT A HOT CHICK LIKE LUCY LIU! :P

  5. Lory says:

    Mh..that put Elementary out of my watch list….at least for now.

  6. me says:

    Strange.
    Moffat and company are more than happy with fans shipping Sherlock/Watson Cumberbatch/Freeman

  7. Christian says:

    Good.. everyone skip Elementary and tune into Scandal!

    • Ana says:

      I don’t understand this post because it makes it sound like if you watch one you can’t watch the other which is silly.

  8. K says:

    I saw part of the show during Comic Con. I actually didn’t see any chemistry between Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu. I rather see a Holmes-Watson friendship

  9. Brooke says:

    Good. We need more shows that show a strong male/female friendship that stays that way. I really, really like how In Plain Sight just never went there despite some suggestions Marshall would have wanted to. Writing Mary and Marshall as a strong friendship was a breath of fresh air and much appreciated.

    • J.K. says:

      I like the early warning on Elementary. I’m fine just looking at Jonny Lee Miller in all his glory. I don’t need him with Watson. Sorry, but I thought In Plain Sight ended up being a ‘how not to write male/female partners.’ You don’t always have to get people together, but the main reason I watched IPS was Mary/Marshall, and the fact that he loved her made Abby seem like she was just being settled for. Seems unfair to that character, and no way would she have been so understanding about the “work wife” situation when it went to that level since he obviously had romantic feelings for Mary. Who wants to be settled for? I didn’t see passion between he and Abby, she’s not the love of his life. His own dad called him on it. I thought they were going to give Marshall someone that ought to be right for him on paper, but his feelings for Mary would eventually cause them to break up. I felt really ripped off at the end of the series. Never would’ve wasted my time. The way they handled Mary’s sister and Peter was another mess. I thought that last season was pretty awful in terms of character arcs and story. I have a suspicion that if they hadn’t ended the show for another year, Marshall and Mary end up together. I think the cancellation sealed it in the minds of the writers. Really bad decision. Unrequited love would’ve been viable. Being closer than lovers is something that can work as well. Being a giant tease of a relationship is just cruel to the fans.

  10. Ewa says:

    Yeah, we’ll see in two seasons (if it stays on, obviously)…

  11. Percysowner says:

    I’d prefer a no sexual tension relationship, but I doubt they will manage it. Still haven’t decided it I will watch it or not.

  12. This says:

    Nice gray sweater Lucy Liu is wearing. Doesn’t remind me at all of the one John frequently wears on Sherlock…

  13. Ashley says:

    Yeah, right. I doubt they would have bothered to cast Watson as a woman if they weren’t going for a Will They/Won’t They dynamic. It’s a total cop-out to say that there will be sexual tension but they won’t deliberately put it in the show – it’s just a way to placate the people who think the show’s going to be nothing like the source material while winking at the potential ‘shippers out there. If they wanted to avoid a Holmes/Watson Will They/Won’t They thing, they should have cast Watson as a man and brought a woman on in some other role (say, an NYPD liaison or something like that).

  14. gerard says:

    but when they make a teen Sherlock Holmes that hunts vampires and is going to sing all the time, that s when i stop watching,ha ha. Lets just wait and see

    • Viv says:

      If Lucy Liu were playing Sherlock Holmes, vampire hunter / rock star / misunderstood genius in a grey sweater, I would watch that show religiously. I would run seven tumblrs devoted to it. I would graffiti public transportation with subtle ads for it. I would go back to school and write my dissertation about it.

  15. You know what? I’ve thrown the towel in. They’ve set the show in current days NYC. They’ve made Watson a woman. What’s left for them to change? Might as well marry them and give’m a couple of babies. I meant, they say now nothing will happen, but fans will press for it, the network eventually will press :/

  16. portiaslegacy says:

    I’m glad to hear that. In the BBC Sherlock Sherlock is pretty asexual, and I think that works for the character. Also I am sick of all male/female pairings in mystery shows having to be “will they or won’t they”

  17. Gilda says:

    Personally, I don’t really have a problem with a will they/won’t they thing between the characters of Holmes and Watson. I would love to see Sherlock go in that direction, although I don’t expect it to. My issue would be them feeling the need to change Watson to a girl to have that will they/won’t they happen.
    I think I’ll give this show a chance.

  18. BTM says:

    1. I am pleased the producers chose to cast against type, if only to give a woman an interesting role.

    2. The infotainment people will yap on about sexual tension any time a man & woman are put in the same room, so this will be no different.

    3. Sadly, they chose Lucy Liu, who–while certainly beautiful–makes my teeth itch.

  19. mia says:

    This news has actually made me decide to watch this show. When it was announced Watson was a woman I was all “ug, its a romance”….but I’m glad that is not the case. There are too few examples on tv of men and women being just friends, so I’m glad this show is going to do that.
    .
    There’s enough sexual chemistry on the BBC version, the US one can distinguish itself by not having that

  20. Lynn says:

    I can’t wait for this show to be canceled.

  21. molly says:

    ROTFLMAO How many times have we heard similar statements? They’ll have “Holmes” and “Watson” panting for each other just as soon as the ratings are below what they were hoping for. Network television only has one playbook and it’s nothing if not predictable. Remember how Mulder and Scully were never goibg to get together?

    • Adrienne says:

      They were lying about Mulder and Scully though, I think. They couldn’t have casted two people with so much romantic chemistry on accident… the two of them had really obvious sexual tension from the start. Holmes and Watson do not (or at least not as much). I think that (right now) they’re serious about having no romance… for how long the producers will stay that way is the question.

    • Tania says:

      ”ROTFLMAO How many times have we heard similar statements? They’ll have “Holmes” and “Watson” panting for each other just as soon as the ratings are below what they were hoping for. Network television only has one playbook and it’s nothing if not predictable. Remember how Mulder and Scully were never goibg to get together?”

      Best comment ever! Perfect :)))

  22. Kim says:

    I am actually quite happy they aren’t going there, I am sincerly sick of the will they/won’t they thing. I think the Holmes genre is great because there is a lack of that. I hope they focus on the solving of cases and the evolution of character not the sexual tension. There are plenty of shows out there that do that.

  23. I hope Rob Doherty can keep his foot down on this, because if the network and the fans do push for this relationship (and they’ll push HARD, especially if it guarantees a second season), then he might just give in and I’d rather he didn’t. I think we need a show/procedural that has a male and female lead that, for the first time in a long time, if ever, do not pursue a romantic relationship. I’ve seen shows that have that Will They/Won’t They dynamic but once the characters start dating/sleeping with each other, then often the relationship becomes stale because the tension and mystery isn’t there.

    So I think Rob would be making a smart decision by telling everyone upfront that there’s going to be no romantic relationship so people aren’t waiting for that moment and then are disappointed, whether they pursue the relationship or not. But that’s just my two cents.

  24. Jason says:

    Thank you! I’m so sick of these will they/won’t they setups. As soon as you throw that out there the answer is always: Yes, they will obviously. I don’t understand the obsession people have with seeing that every time in every show. Sometimes it’s done well and earned but lately it’s been done to death. Can’t two good looking people of opposite genders just enjoy a beautiful friendship anymore? Or will shippers threaten to leave if there is no possibility they’ll start mounting each other. Guess we can see from the comments who has already decided…

  25. shazza91321 says:

    Watching this new show I guess I was expecting way to much. I don’t know why America felt the need to try and mimic this truly British classic literature. I wanted to like it, I really did but it wasn’t very good, unfortunately. Perhaps they were just trying to do an American take on the very British theme but can I just say, it failed terribly, and they should stop right now. I mean my goodness does anyone see the big pink elephant in the room??? Watson is a woman and the actor they use is LUCY LIU!!!! Are you kidding me???