#4. Jonny Lee Miller
From one of the "modern" Sherlock Holmes TV shows, Elementary, I have chosen as my #4 spot Jonny Lee Miller's portrayal of Sherlock Holmes, New York City setting and all. There are obvious parallels between Miller's portrayal of Holmes and Benedict Cumberbatch's portrayal of same (of which more later). Both have a frenzied sort of air about them much of the time, as they whip out their cell phones and search the internet. Both of them have a jaunty, contemporary fashion sense, as well as a knack for irritating pretty much everyone, including their respective Watsons. And yet, as much as I enjoy Miller's version of the great detective, it has never quite struck the same chord with me that Cumberbatch's version immediately did.
In fact, when I first watched Elementary, my initial response was "ho hum!" I thought we had already seen the definitive modern Holmes in Benedict Cumberbatch. Then I gave the American show another chance, and gradually became quite interested in Jonny Lee Miller's unique take on the character of Sherlock Holmes. As the show developed, I realized that Miller actually plays it quite differently from his counterpart across the pond. And certainly the dynamic between him and Joan Watson (Lucy Liu) is radically different from the dynamic between John and Sherlock in the BBC series.
Jonny Lee Miller's Holmes strikes me as far less confident than Cumberbatch's portrayal; this is a man whose drug use has changed him. He seems more conflicted, less at home in his skin, than most versions of Holmes I've seen. He realized he's different from everyone else, and this knowledge causes him a great deal of pain and confusion. Also, as far as the overall story arc goes, the shorter weekly format of Elementary has enabled Miller to develop his character in a more complete fashion than most other actors who have played the character. So why doesn't Miller's Holmes rate higher in my esteem?
I think part of the problem is that, as the second season went on, I gradually became less interested in the series. Elementary became, as I saw it, a kind of typical procedural crime drama, with Conan Doyle's characters grafted onto it. I actually haven't watched an episode of the show since the middle of Season 2. So, my apologies if I've missed some major character developments that might have come later. Overall, I think Jonny Lee Miller has given us a very fine reading of the role; I just think there are a few actors who have done it even better.
I'm a stay-at-home dad, and Director of Music Ministries at a United Methodist Church in Mt. Juliet, TN. And a longtime fan of Sherlock Holmes.