THE DVD SHELF: Lubitsch's "To Be Or Not To Be," Ophuls' "Earrings of Madame de...," "The Good Wife" and "Elementary"

By Steven Suskin
25 Aug 2013

Drifting through the 22-episode season are Ed Herrmann, Maura Tierney, Rita Wilson, Brooks Ashmanskas, Brian Dennehy, Denis O'Hare, Christina Ricci, F. Murray Abraham, John Shea, Renee Elise Goldsberry, Karen Olivo, Seth Numrich, Judd Hirsch, Lorenzo Pisoni, Bebe Neuwirth, Yul Vazquez, Malcolm Gets, Reed Birney, Becky Ann Baker, Jane Alexander, Anika Noni Rose, Tamara Tunie, John Benjamin Hickey, Larry Pine, David Garrison, Hamish Linklater, Jerry Adler, Carol Woods, Jeff Blumenkrantz, Lily Rabe, S. Epatha Merkerson, Wallace Shawn, Walter Bobbie, Audra McDonald, Rene Auberjonois, John Cullum, John Glover, Mamie Gummer, Estelle Parsons and Martha Plimpton (who won an Emmy for her "Good Wife" appearance in 2012). Is it any surprise that "The Good Wife" makes compelling viewing?

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Also from CBS comes the first season of "Elementary". This is, in a nutshell, Sherlock Holmes in New York circa today. (Fittingly for the subject, the scripts are intelligent, literate and packed with knowledge. None of the characters, though, seem ever to have heard of the original Sherlock.) It is not difficult to imagine the format: a case a week, like good old Perry Mason, only with all sorts of post-modern twists.

Creator/writer Robert Doherty, though, takes his Sherlock seriously. What we get is a brilliant criminalist and ex-addict starting out clean, as it were, consulting with the N.Y.P.D. from his quirky Brooklyn brownstone. The best twist of many, perhaps, is this Holmes' Dr. Watson. Joan Watson she is, Sherlock's "sober companion" but formerly a surgeon who quit her career after losing a patient in a botched surgery. This Holmes and Watson, in the hands of Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, make a couple that we would gladly watch through any adventures.



The casting is canny. Miller came to Sherlock from Frankenstein — the highly-acclaimed 2011 Royal National Theatre production, that is, with Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch alternating in the roles of Frankenstein and his Creature. He has only appeared on Broadway once, but in a memorable — and graphic — performance opposite Sienna Miller in After Miss Julie at the Roundabout in 2009. Liu, who started her career in TV's "Ally McBeal," visited town that same season, in the replacement cast of God of Carnage.

The producers take care to fill the guest roles with strong performers. The first season included the likes of Bill Heck, Craig Bierko, Anika Noni Rose, Roger Rees, Stephen McKinley Henderson, John Pankow, Reg Rogers, Linda Emond, Terry Kinney, Jessica Hecht, Christopher Sieber, Becky Ann Baker, Howard McGillin, Byron Jennings and F. Murray Abraham. "The Good Wife" and "Elementary," it turns out, share the same casting director, Mark Saks.

(Steven Suskin is author of "Show Tunes", “The Sound of Broadway Music: A Book of Orchestrators and Orchestrations,” “Second Act Trouble,” the "Broadway Yearbook" series and the “Opening Night on Broadway” books. He also writes the Aisle View blog at The Huffington Post. He can be reached at ssuskin@aol.com.)