This news has caused some people to freak out.
Liu will play an ex-surgeon and former NYPD consultant who works as a “sober companion” to Holmes, a recovering addict and former Scotland Yard consultant played by Jonny Lee Miller, Deadline reports.
The Guardian’s Stuart Heritage is clearly conflicted about the casting news: “Now, the easiest thing to do when presented with this news would be to slap your head in despair. Watson? A woman? What madness is this? Won't this cancel out the asexual ambiguity of Sherlock's character? Why stop there? Why not make Watson a child, or a alien, or a rapping cartoon animal? But, look, let's all calm down.”
NPR’s Monkey See blogger Linda Holmes had a response to this:
A WOMAN?? What’s next, a “rapping cartoon animal”? Yes. Yes, that’s exactly the same thing. bit.ly/xSrRbI— nprmonkeysee (@nprmonkeysee) February 28, 2012
Heritage goes on to say that the BBC’s current critically acclaimed Holmes show, “Sherlock,” looked bad on paper, too. He admits Liu’s Watson — an “unlikely sidekick” — may work: “Stranger things have happened.”
Buzzfeed’s JP Moore seems to take greater umbrage with the idea. He made a side-by-side photo of Liu and Martin Freeman, who plays Dr. John Watson on the BBC’s “Sherlock,” with the following text:
On Liu: “This is not what Watson looks like.” On Freeman: “This is what Watson looks like. Please stop.”
A commenter on the site sarcastically noted, “Yeah, Lucy Liu totally can't play a smart person with a medical degree and combat experience, who is loyal to but doesn’t have sex with her work partner. What an outrageous and impossible concept!”
Based on how simple Moore’s post is, it’s impossible to know what his specific objection to Liu is.
But as a question to the general Sherlock-loving community: Is it truly that hard to accept the idea of a woman playing Watson?
Heritage brings up a fair point: The ambiguity of Holmes’s sexuality is a major part of his character. It’s something being explored on the BBC’s current series. But this is CBS. “Elementary” is most likely not going to be subversive or edgy. If that’s your issue — and it’s a fine one — then this show is likely not for you.
But if you can move on from that, consider that this isn’t the first time that Watson has been played by a woman.
In the 1971 film “They Might Be Giants,” Joanne Woodward played Dr. Mildred Watson, a psychiatric treating a man (George C. Scott) who thinks he’s Sherlock Holmes. Margaret Colin played Jane Watson in CBS’s 1987 TV movie, “The Return of Sherlock Holmes.” Did the world end when either of these films were made? It doesn’t appear so.
(The Hollywood Reporter helpfully listed some of the male actors who have played the role, including Jude Law, Nigel Bruce, Roland Young, Reginald Owen, Ben Kingsley, Arthur Lowe, Dudley Moore, James Mason, Robert Duvall and Ian Hart.)
And it’s not like there haven’t been Watson-esque female characters on TV before. Alex Cranz of Fem Pop magazine points out a few great examples, including agent Dana Scully from “The X-Files.”
I’m not saying the show is going to be worth watching. There’s no way to know that until it airs. But the thing is, if people think Liu makes a good Watson, the show will stay on the air. If they don’t, it will go away.
How will we know if Liu can pull off playing Watson? Elementary, my dear reader. We give her a chance.