Steven Moffat on Sherlock’s three-episode structure

News Rob Leane 20 Jun 2014 - 16:31

Sherlock show-runner Steven Moffat supports short series of sleuthing...

In a new interview, Sherlock co-boss Steven Moffat recently told The Guardian why he’s thankful for Sherlock’s three-episode format.

Talking in the Speakers’ Lounge of the Cannes Lions festival, he explained how integral the short snippet-like structure of Sherlock has been to helping the show survive.

Undoubtedly, the endearing on-and-off bromance between Martin Freeman’s Watson and Benedict Cumberbatch’s Holmes has been integral to the show. But with longer series, Moffat is certain he would have lost his stars by now. “Had we done the conventional form of a TV series, which is to do runs of six or twelve, it would be over by now without doubt, it would be finished, because they would never again commit that amount of time that regularly to a TV show, they just wouldn’t, why would they do that?”

The man’s got a point. With Cumberbatch and Freeman becoming some of hottest talent in cinema, regularly scooping up big projects and always being linked to countless more, would we still have Sherlock if they needed to commit double the amount of time to filming it? Perhaps not.

Despite all our clueing for looks, there’s still no date confirmed for Sherlock’s return, but we’ll let you know as soon as we hear more.


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What about Freeman's show Fargo? Isn't he committing all the time to that show so why wouldn't he do it for Sherlock?

I guess the implication is that both stars would need to commit that time at the same time (and at a time which suited the production) over multiple series.

Fargo, as an example, is likely to be a single series for Freeman.

... because with short snippets of shows, he doesn't have to do too much thinking about fiddly things like plots and character development. I suspect the flaws in this show would be much more evident in a longer series.

And is also only ten episodes and on a premium channel: effectively, it's more a very long movie than a t.v. show.

To be fair, a three episode series of Sherlock has the same runtime as a six episode, 45 minute series. And anyway, less episodes means more attention to detail and (in theory) better quality episodes.

The only problem with the 3 episode per season format is that every episode has to be brilliant, & when they're not it is disappointing

If nothing else, I'm guessing the people behind Fargo can probably afford to pay him a lot more than the BBC can. Not saying that's the reason, but it might be a factor.

Unless the sequel is based on "The Water Babies" I'd say you are right

Because it's a one-off that sees him in a new role where he's been getting rave reviews across america, rather than returning to a show he's already done where people are already beginning to slate it mercilessly by the third "series".

Fargo is anthology format if it gets renewed, so no Freeman won't be returning.

you might want to add a spoiler tag to that post

"6 or 12". Is this the first proper indication they have reduced the amount of Who episodes by 1?!

When did television move from "a finale is just another episode" to "it is the most special-wecial super-dee-duper extravaganza* in the world"? And why? RTD couldn't after his first year as showrunner of Dr Who... Moffat's petered out after his first year as Who's showrunner too... can't an episode be an episode and nothing to wind up the audience with? Society managed to live for decades without the added thrills...

* my apologies for using the same dumbed down dialogue that's commonplace in today's society

I would obviously want to see more episodes if I could, but if less episodes mean, the shows stars are more likely to commit, I'm all for it. Besides, with episodes that long, it is effectively a six episode series...

So it's 3 episodes every 4 years because the 2 main actors are movie super stars?

Maybe they should've picked TV personalities instead.

(Don't get me wrong though, I ADORE the show!)

Thankfully so far they're ALL brilliant! 8)

They weren't superstars when it began. BC was beginning to get a name for himself but he wasn't that well-known. Martin Freeman was only known for The Office. It was the popularity of Sherlock that made their careers.

You make a very good point. Perhaps that's why I'm always disappointed by this show and Dr Who - they never live up to the hype.

Hang on - Martin Freeman wouldn't commit to a long season of a TV show? What, like he didn't commit to Fargo?

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