When Sherlock returned to BBC 1 on New Years Day, with an all-new 90 minute episode, the show achieved the highest ratings for the channel over the entire holiday period – 9.2 million, to be precise – and smashed its own series record at the same time.
The show ended its second season run on BBC 1 on 15th January 2012 with The Reichenbach Fall – an episode that presented viewers with the ultimate cliff-hanging mystery, as Sherlock appeared to fake his own death. The episode capped a strong season that had seen the regular viewership of the show grow from 7.5 million for the first episode of season 1 (A Study In Pink), to averaging over 8 million per episode in season 2.
Creators Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat promised that questions would be answered as Sherlock wound his way back to the small screen in The Empty Hearse. Heralding his arrival was a tantalizing mini-episode released online on Christmas Eve (Many Happy Returns), which garnered millions of views ahead of the episode’s premiere on BBC 1.
While the award-winning show is unarguably a high-quality endeavour, it is safe to say its ratings will not have been hurt by the growing international popularity of its two main stars – Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock) and Martin Freeman (John Watson). Since wrapping on the final episode of season 2 of Sherlock, both have dominated the world of cinema with a string of impressive performances.
Martin Freeman, once best known as Tim from the original version of The Office, is now Bilbo Baggins – the lead role in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. What’s more, Freeman also starred in The World’s End, helping Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost cap their ‘Cornetto Trilogy’.
Cumberbatch, on the other hand, also starred in those self-same Hobbit movies since faking Sherlock’s death. However, he supplemented those appearances with roles in Star Trek Into Darkness, 12 Years A Slave, The Fifth Estate, August: Osage County and – if the Internet is any indication – approximately 80% of desktop wallpapers around the globe.
As 9.2 million viewers digest the resurrection of ‘The Hat Detective of Baker Street’ – a significant 33.8% share – all eyes will be on episode 2 come Sunday. The Sign of Three will air on BBC 1 in the UK on January 5th, while season 3 of Sherlock begins for PBS on January 19th, 2014. In the meantime, be sure to check out our thoughts on Mr. Holmes’ return, and leave your predictions for the third season in the comments below.