'Sherlock' Boss on 'Moving' Holmes/Watson Reunion and 'Funnier' Season 3 (Q&A)
Sherlock Holmes lives.
British series Sherlock returns to the small screen two years after the titular genius detective (Benedict Cumberbatch) faked his own death to save the lives of those closest to him -- namely partner-in-crime Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman). But how did Sherlock pull it off? As the numerous promos, trailers and a mini-episode have foretold, the world is about to get turned upside down after news of Sherlock's unexpected resurrection spreads.
Earlier this year, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with Sherlock co-creator Steven Moffat, also an executive producer on Doctor Who, to chat about the popularity of BBC/PBS' Sherlock, reflecting on the first two seasons, the show's female fans and offering a glimpse of the upcoming batch of episodes.
Sherlock has received an incredible response in the U.S. What was it like to see the series cross over so well?
It's extraordinary. It was very, very exciting. Because we had done a couple of events before, we sort of realized it had crossed that line. It was extraordinary for us because we're used to dealing with British people frankly, so to have an audience here is extremely humbling. The screenings we've done of Sherlock in Britain have always been very animated, but it was very exciting to see thousands of people [in Ballroom 20 at Comic-Con] screaming and hooting during [Sherlock's] best-man speech.
When did you first realize Sherlock had passionate U.S. fans?
In general, these things move so quickly these days. It became a very big hit in Britain very, very fast, and probably a screening we went to in New York for some of [season two episode] "A Scandal in Belgravia." It was the first 35 minutes before it went out, and I remember the response we were getting was a big surprise. [Co-creator] Mark [Gatiss] and I were thinking, "Well that's the response we're getting, people will chase Benedict down the street." If I mentioned Sherlock in passing for Doctor Who, I would get these huge shouts -- that was when I realized it was approaching Doctor Who scale.
This past season posed many questions following the events of "The Reichenbach Fall." As a writer and producer, do you strive for cliffhangers at every possible opportunity?
Yeah, I think it's a great way to get people to come back next week frankly or next year or two years. I think cliffhangers are good. You can do too many of them and I don't think you can do them all the time, but because we ended the first series with a cliffhanger -- that people made a fuss about, but that I thought wasn't that huge -- we just decided to go mental with the cliffhanger on the second series. You can't do that every time, nor will we, because it will become repetitive and become predictable. Of course, it's exciting for the audience that's still buzzing about the show and thinking about the show, as opposed to the show fading away.
Is there a challenge within that, to create a perfect moment that will keep people talking for months on end?
I don't think there's a particular formula, no. If there was a formula, it would be predictable and really obvious. At different moments in the story, you're looking to engage and shock the audience. I do want an ending that stays with people, that people think about. I don't think I have a particular approach to that.
Sherlock seasons are pretty short compared to other TV dramas. How much willingness is there on your end to expand a season to more than three 90-minute episodes should that opportunity arise?
What has worked for us so well is the 90 minutes that we will make every so often. That's worked tremendously well as a formula for us. It's extended the life of the show. If we were doing longer runs of Sherlock it would be over now and the stars wouldn't be available. But because we're doing shorter runs, Sherlock can go on for a very long time. It's a concentration of quality rather than a vast number of episodes is our aim. It's like a show with no filler is what we're trying to be.
Is that what you think what TV should strive to be in the future?
In the future, why not? Things are going to change hugely. We can reimagine what TV is going to be like. It's going to be all downloads, it's going to be all iPlayer and that kind of thing. My kids don't even bother watching on their television sets, they watch downloads on their iPlayer so that generation -- who are only nine, 10 years of being grown up -- are not even watching television the way we do it. The traditional model of a television show is you do it for about five years and you make a huge number of episodes, you completely drain it dry and you walk away never making it again. That's not the only model. Why not make a series that you can make it over 20, 30 years -- much more spread out? Why not do it that way? Novel series work that way, the James Bond film series has done very well working that way. Why does everything have to be about quantity? That's partly because of the model that used to exist in America, that probably still does. I don't think it's going to stay the same. It can stay the same.