EXCLUSIVE: CBS’ modern-day Sherlock Holmes & Watson drama series Elementary will end its run with its upcoming 13-episode seventh season. The decision comes as the crime procedural, created by Rob Doherty and starring Jonny Lee Miller and Lucy Liu, wrapped production Friday on Season 7 with the final scene in the finale the last one to film.
I hear that when the network renewed Elementary for a seventh season in May less than two weeks into its Season 6 run, a decision was made that it would be the series’ final chapter.
“A lot of parties came together and talked about their positions on the show — both in terms of business and in terms of creative — and we all decided that this was an opportune time to say goodbye to a show that has been very, very good to us,” CBS Entertainment President Kelly Kahl said.
Added executive producer Carl Beverly: “Rob set out to tell a story, and it feels like he has accomplished what he had set out to do. The actors, the crew and the staff feel that way, and we feel that. So are grateful and celebrating what we had and looking forward to the future.”
One of the reasons for the decision to end the show is believed to be related to the fact that the contracts of stars Miller and Liu were coming up. With the story also winding down, everyone involved felt that this was a natural end where the series leaves on a high note creatively and everyone walks away happy and successful.
Not sure whether there would be a seventh season, Elementary creator/exec producer Doherty and exec producer Beverly decided heading into Season 6 to craft a final episode that could be a series finale. That is why Season 6 ended with Holmes (Miller) and Watson (Liu) moving from New York to Holmes’ iconic Baker Street address in London, where they began to investigate cases and work with Scotland Yard.
While returning Holmes to his roots would’ve been a fitting finale, the series was renewed for a 13-episode seventh season.
“It was great news for us, we felt we had more stories to tell,” said Doherty who, along with his writers, started mapping out the last chapter and a true finale to the series.
Holmes and Watson won’t stay in London for a long time. “We really wanted to go back to New York and Gregson (Aidan Quinn) and Bell (Jon Michael Hill), and we found what we felt was a satisfying way to bring them back,” Doherty said.
He also teased an upcoming time jump. “Something that I knew I wanted to do was move forward in time a bit with the characters by the very end.” He took some inspiration from canon. “There was a period when Sherlock and Watson were not together; they went down very different paths, and their lives were very different from having been apart. We felt that would be appropriate for our show. A lot was Season 7 working towards that: How can we tell a larger story that would allow us to devise a finale that sets in not-so-distant future?”
The final season of Elementary also will feature the great Holmes foe Odin Reichenbach. Played by James Frain, the character first will appear in Episode 5.
Elementary has produced 154 episodes over its seven seasons and is only one of three new broadcast series to debut in fall 2012 that are still on the air, along with NBC’s Chicago Fire and the CW’s Arrow. Elementary started as a breakout ratings hit; it was the most watched new series of it freshman season and finished in the top 20 among all shows in its first two seasons. Elementary also aired a special episode after Super Bowl XLVII (Ravens-49ers, with a long power outage midgame) and delivered 22.15m viewers with a late 11:11 PM ET start time.
While its linear ratings have slipped in the past couple of seasons, the series has remained a solid utility player for CBS, airing on Thursdays, Sundays and, most recently Mondays. While the bulk of Season 6 aired over the summer, it still ranked No. 21 in viewers. Elementary also has been a solid gainer in delayed viewing, with the most recent sixth season growing 65% in viewers and 80% in adults 18-49 from Live+same day to Live+7 ratings.
Elementary also remains a major profit generator for CBS with lucrative off-network and international deals. The procedural drama has off-network and SVOD deals with WGN America, Hulu and broadcast stations (on weekends) that fetch in as much as $3 million total per episode. It is a big international seller for CBS TV Studios too, in part because of the central character’s global recognition, and has been licensed in 200 territories. In May 2016, then-CBS Corp. CEO Les Moonves used Elementary as an example of a program ownership success story, telling investors that the show had “made approximately an $80 million profit for the corporation” the previous year.
“This ticks a lot boxes for a successful show for us,” Kahl said. “It’s almost a template for what makes a successful CBS show: initial strength, strength in various time periods over time, very successful in terms of international and domestic distribution and, last but definitely not least, a very high-quality show with terrific producers and terrific actors.”
Elementary follows Holmes (Miller), reimagined as a recovering drug addict and former consultant to Scotland Yard who assists the NYPD, with Dr. Joan Watson (Liu, in a gender switch on the popular sidekick character) initially serving as his sober companion. The series has received praise for its depiction of substance abuse and addiction recovery.
While CBS has not set a premiere date for Season 7 yet, “we are going to try to create some excitement around the finale for sure,” Kahl said. “Any show that does 150 episodes has served the network very well.”
There are no current plans for any followup or spinoff series, though Kahl is not ruling that out for the future.
Doherty admits that filming Season 7 knowing that it is the final one has brought “a lot of colliding emotions.”
“Everyone is sad, we are scattering to the wind and will miss each other, and because of that, there is a lot of sadness” he said. “But at the same time, there is a ton of pride in the seven years of hard work and devotion to this show and devotion to each other.”
Elementary is produced by CBS Television Studios, with Doherty executive producing alongside Beverly and Sarah Timberman, who moved from CBS Studios to ABC Studios earlier this year, Jason Tracey, Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Bob Goodman serving as executive producers.