'Watson' to Debut a "Sherlock without Sherlock" Series

Morris Chestnut as a doctor in Nurse Jackie, will now play Dr. Watson in Watson

Morris Chestnut will play a modern-day Dr. Watson in 'Watson'


It was big news at the beginning of 2024 when the first iteration of Mickey Mouse passed out of copyright into the public domain, not just because the iconic Disney icon had been under protection for so long, but because the company actively worked to change laws to keep it that way for decades. In 1998, Congress literally passed a 15-year extension freezing anything from moving into the public domain at their lobbying behest, keeping thousands of characters out of circulation, save one: Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes, the early versions of which sadly missed the cutoff. Holmes' copyright loss has been TV's gain, including Enola Holmes on Netflix, Sherlock on PBS, Elementary on CBS, and now the forthcoming Watson.

As linear loses ground year after year to streaming, the remaining broadcast networks are desperately pitching around to find something, anything that works. ABC dug deep and came up with The Golden Bachelor; NBC dug deeper and came up with.... nothing really. CBS hopes returning to 2012 might work when the Sherlock series Elementary was its biggest new hit. Set in 21st-century New York City, it starred British actor Jonny Lee Miller (The Crown) as Sherlock Holmes and American actor Lucy Liu (Strange Worlds) as Dr. Joan Watson. 

Though the series was overshadowed by the other contemporary Sherlock series on PBS, the "Female Watson" angle got a lot of attention at the time, and the series managed to run far longer than the British version to boot, giving it credibility by the time it concluded in 2018. Now CBS is going back to that well, but this time, there won't be a white British dude playing Sherlock. In fact, there won't be a Sherlock at all.

The new series follows Elementary in that it reimagines Holmes and Watson for the 21st century and Americanizes the setting (and Watson). However, this time, the concept is that Watson is set in the in-between period after Sherlock's "death" at the hands of his archnemesis Moriarty at Reichenbach Falls and his return a few years later. We know from the novels that Sherlock is gone for quite some time; Watson continues his medical practice and becomes quite successful in the interim. But what was Watson doing all that time?

Here's the show's logline:

Set one year after the death of Holmes at the hands of his archnemesis Moriarty, Dr. John Watson resumes his medical career as the head of a clinic dedicated to treating rare disorders. Watson’s old life isn’t done with him, though — Moriarty and Watson are set to write their own chapter of a story that has fascinated audiences for more than a century.

Thus far, only the role of Watson has been cast, with American actor Morris Chestnut attached to star. Chestnut has previously played medical doctors in multiple series, including Nurse Jackie, which ran on CBS' sister station Showtime, and as part of the main cast in two different medical dramas on Fox, Goliath and The Resident. Former Elementary writer Craig Sweeny created the series and will serve as showrunner. He and Chestnut are listed as executive producers, as is Larry Teng, who will direct the pilot.

Watson is planned to air as part of the 2024-2025 broadcast season on CBS and stream to follow on Paramount+. No official release date has been set.


Ani Bundel has been blogging professionally since 2010. A DC native, Hufflepuff, and Keyboard Khaleesi, she spends all her non-writing time taking pictures of her cats. Regular bylines also found on MSNBC, Paste, Primetimer, and others. 

A Woman's Place Is In Your Face. Cat Approved. Find her on BlueSky and other social media of your choice: @anibundel.bsky.social

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