PBS has unveiled plans for the new season of "Sherlock," which will be paired with another PBS hit, the Minneapolis StarTribune reports.
"’Sherlock,’ starring Benedict Cumberbatch, will return to public TV in January, keeping company on Sunday nights with the ‘Downton Abbey’ crowd," the story reports. "Season three of the modern Sherlock Holmes mystery series will begin Jan. 19, PBS said Wednesday. It was previously announced that the fourth season of ‘Downton’ will begin Jan 5."
The report adds: "The scheduling reflects PBS’s new strategy of pairing dramas on Sunday, part of a broader effort to build ‘flow within a given night in our schedule,’ said Beth Hoppe, PBS’s chief programming executive."
"Sherlock" and "Downton Abbey" have been effective partners, Hoppe said. PBS saw its Sunday prime time, with programming consisting mostly of British drama series, grow viewership by 26% last season, the story notes.
Overall, PBS saw prime-time ratings climb 7% last season.
"’Downton Abbey,’ the hit drama about the lives and loves of landed gentry and their servants, will be preceded by a Dec. 1 special, ‘Return to Downton Abbey.’ Hosted by Susan Sarandon, it will offer a look at past seasons and a peek at the one ahead," the story notes. "As in the past, the drama’s new season already is in progress on Britain’s ITV. PBS has resisted timing the U.S. to the U.K. airings, saying the January debut works better for its schedule — a move that’s allowed spoilers to cross the Atlantic."
But PBS is taking a different tack with BBC’s "Sherlock," timing its premiere closer to its British schedule, which has not been announced yet, Hoppe noted.
"Other returning U.K. dramas include ‘Call the Midwife’ and ‘Mr. Selfridge’ starring Jeremy Piven, both debuting Sunday, March 30, and ‘The Bletchley Circle’ on April 13," the report adds.