Sherlock has succeeded in bringing back 'appointment television', but the BBC shouldn't spoil it by patronising audiences

Why couldn't the Beeb leave it to us to spot the show's final twist?


The latest series of Sherlock on BBC1 ended with a typically intricate, quick-fire and classy episode. But I could barely believe my ears at the end, when an idiotic BBC announcer interrupted to say: “Now, the thing is with Sherlock, you need to watch right to the very end of the credits or you’ll miss something.”

Gosh, suddenly BBC1 has turned into CBeebies. Please, patronise us some more. Why didn’t you interrupt earlier to say “Now the thing is with Sherlock, he may not necessarily have died. Watch carefully in five minutes time.”

Sure enough there was indeed a surprise right at the very end of the credits; but did it need such a sledgehammer reminder to keep watching, neatly killing any suspension of disbelief at the same time?

Those of us who managed to sit through the 30 seconds of credits would have enjoyed the excellent surprise. Those who switched off or over would have learned from friends the next day that they had missed a surprise, and marvelled even more at the originality of the series. The end of credits surprise would have made the perfect water-cooler moment the next morning.

And that’s the more important aspect of Sherlock. It has succeeded in bringing back the water-cooler moment. Because of its complexity, humour and intricate plotting, there is always much to discuss the next day. That’s noteworthy as we have been told so many times in the last couple of decades that the water-cooler moments had vanished. We would all be watching different things, on different channels, at different times, on different platforms.

Thankfully, a series like Sherlock has disproved that gloomy prediction. Put on something that is classy and challenging, and it becomes in that almost forgotten phrase “appointment television.” We feel we can’t afford to miss it on its first broadcast, and we want to talk about it the next day. The BBC has revived a great cultural tradition, that of making television a national shared event, a communal experience which brings viewers together.

What a pity that it almost spoiled the achievement by treating the audience like children and doubting its ability to concentrate for an extra half a minute. Let’s hope it isn’t so crass in the next series. And let’s hope that will be soon. The health of the nation is enhanced by the shared television experience giving us something to talk about the next day. Breaking Bad, Broadchurch and Sherlock all achieved that, even if the last had to come with a gauche announcer who Sherlock himself would have given short shrift.

Leo's comic turn on Wall Street

The Golden Globes, awarded in Los Angeles last Sunday, bizarrely split up the film awards into best film drama and best film comedy or musical, and even more bizarrely gave Leonardo DiCaprio best actor in a comedy award for Scorsese’s not terribly comic The Wolf of Wall Street. These artificial distinctions make second class citizens of comedy and musicals. It’s all cinema, and the acting skills demanded are as great in one genre as another. What is particularly strange is that the Golden Globes, unlike the Oscars, are decided by film critics. If film critics don’t realise this, then perhaps they’re in the wrong job.

Dirty business at the BAFTAs

Meanwhile, the big British film awards, the BAFTAs will have a different problem at their ceremony at the Royal Opera House next month. Cleaners at the ROH, paid £7 an hour, are to strike on the night over low pay. They want their pay increased to the London Living Wage of £8.80 an hour. They have accused the ROH management of “washing their hands of the matter”, an unintentionally suitable, hygienic metaphor. Will this be the awards ceremony where Emma Thompson, Helen Mirren, DiCaprio and the rest show their left-wing credentials and proclaim support from the stage? Perhaps they will drop litter on the red carpet in solidarity.

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