Saturday, February 1, 2014

SHERLOCK Creator Steven Moffat and Producer Sue Vertue Talk Plans for Seasons 4 and 5, Juggling Schedules with DOCTOR WHO, and More

by Christina Radish
January 31, 2014


Even though Sherlock hasn’t quite finished its Season 3 run on Masterpiece on PBS, fans of the popular series are already anxious to know when it will return with new episodes.  Thanks to the increasing work schedules for show stars Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, who have very busy acting careers, and Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss, who write the episodes, the gap between seasons doesn’t seem as though it will shorten, anytime soon.

But the good news is that there are plans for a Season 4 and 5, which show creator Steven Moffat and producer Sue Vertue spoke to Collider about.  During this exclusive interview, they discussed how the waiting period isn’t ideal but hasn’t hurt their viewership, that the scheduling needs to be juggled with Moffat’s other series, Doctor Who, how fans will get more episodes, in the long run, because they make shorter seasons and work around the actors’ availability, that it’s not likely they’ll have another season ready by Christmas (which had been previously rumored), and that they have ideas for Season 4 that will lead to a terrifying Season 5.

Were you worried about making fans wait for two years, between Season 2 and Season 3, and did you breathe a sigh of relief to learn that the audience was still there?

SUE VERTUE:  Funny enough, two years seems to go very quickly when you’re making it.  I wasn’t that worried about it.  You do think, “Are they still going to be there?”  But the figures were up half a million in the UK, from the year before, so they haven’t gone anywhere, by the looks of it.  It’s not ideal, but it’s the best we could have done.  But, the will is there.  They want to do more.  It’s just trying to get everyone free, at the same time.  That’s just what I’m doing now.  Benedict said, “I’m free in February,” and I said, “But, we haven’t got a script!”  I’m working on it.

STEVEN MOFFAT:  There was still so much interest in Sherlock that we didn’t have any doubt.  We didn’t expect the audience to be larger.  It’s gotten larger each year.  Contrary to what people think, that doesn’t happen.  With very, very rare exceptions, audiences, even with huge hits, go gently down.  Even for massively successful shows, they decline gently over time.  That’s normal and fair enough.  Sherlock has grown each year, which is spectacular.  So, we didn’t doubt that the audience was still there.

The excuses the press would make, to try to print the words Sherlock or Benedict Cumberbatch or Martin Freeman were very lame excuses.  Some of the articles about Sherlock are so insane.  I remember a particularly hilarious one, just after we’d figured out the final audience for the first episode was 16 million, there was an article in the paper saying, “Is Sherlock scaring away the casual viewer?,” and we were thinking, “Well, no.  Unless these are 16 million hardcore fans, I don’t think so.”  But, they will just find any reason to mention it.

So, we knew, in that gap, that we hadn’t gone off the radar.  And Martin and Benedict have been filling their time, to say the least.  They don’t worry when they make James Bond films that you wait two or three years, do they?  They know you’ll be there.  It’s an interesting model for television, and maybe one that comes up again.  I think it might.


Are you working extra hard to shorten the gap between seasons, or do you just have to deal with scheduling?

MOFFAT:  We deal with scheduling.  I’ve also got to do Doctor Who.  I’ve got no choice about that.  That’s the day job.  Everyone is a little bit busy.  But also, it’s worked to make them wait.  If we made Sherlock the ordinary way, and did a run of 6 or 12, it would have been over by now.  It would have been done because Martin and Benedict would never have been able to find the time, after the first [season].  It would be done.  This model of the TV series will happen again.  Because we all love it so much, this could go on for a very, very long time.  You’ll get to see an awful lot more of it.

Who says that the only way to make television is to make loads and loads of episodes for five years, until everybody is absolutely sick of it, particularly the people who are making it?  Who says that’s the only way you can do it?  There are other ways to make television.  I’ve heard so many American showrunners talk about the shorter run – which for them is 12 or 13, but that’s quite a long run for us – and that all you’re losing are the filler episodes, and I think that’s true.  I do think that sharpening the appetite and having shorter runs of more shows is a better way.  If you make a star of somebody, you have a chance of keeping them, if you’re not insisting that they work nine months of the year on your production.  It’s going to change.

There was some talk that another season could be on TV by Christmas.  Is that even possible?


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