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Originally published Thursday, January 16, 2014 at 5:15 AM

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Pent-up demand: ‘Sherlock’ returns to PBS on Jan. 19

A preview of the first of the new three-episode series of the BBC’s “Sherlock,” returning to PBS stations, including Seattle’s KCTS, Sunday, Jan. 19.

McClatchy Washington Bureau



9:58 p.m. Sundays on KCTS.

Tonight in Prime Time

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For some PBS viewers, the return of the BBC’s “Sherlock” this weekend is more important than the new season of “Downton Abbey.”

They will be waiting with bated breath to find out how Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) lived after his suicidal fall from St. Bartholomew’s Hospital in London at the end of last season’s “The Reichenbach Fall.” He left his close friend, Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman), an Afghanistan war veteran, numb with disbelief and despair.

The new episodes will be broadcast in the United States on “Masterpiece Mystery!” starting Sunday, Jan. 19.

One of the pleasures of this series is the snappy dialogue and rich character development. Sibling rivalry is taken to a whole new level between Mycroft Holmes (series co-creator Mark Gatiss) and Sherlock — and then there are their parents (played by Cumberbatch’s real-life actor parents, Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham).

Another pleasure is the in-jokes. For example, in the original Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Scotland Yard inspector Lestrade is only given a first initial: G. In “Sherlock,” his name is Greg (Rupert Graves), which Sherlock can’t remember, calling him Gavan or Graham.

The “Sherlock” leads have become movie stars. Cumberbatch was villain Khan in “Star Trek: Into Darkness,” Julian Assange in “The Fifth Estate” and the voice of Smaug the dragon in “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” Freeman is Bilbo Baggins in “The Hobbit.”

As “The Empty Hearse,” the first of the new three-episode series of “Sherlock,” deals with the aftermath of Sherlock’s “suicide,” it’s hardly a spoiler to say Sherlock survived.

His “death” now two years in the past, life has moved on for his friends, though in some cases only incrementally. The apartment at 221B Baker street is still intact since the landlady, Mrs. Hudson (Una Stubbs), couldn’t bear breaking it up. Sherlock’s enigmatic and brilliant brother, Mycroft, is still deviously working for the British government.

Watson has a job, a new apartment, a girlfriend and a mustache, but is still emotionally numb. What he really wants, as he says in “Many Happy Returns” (a mini-episode that aired at Christmas and is available on to Sherlock, is “you can stop being dead.”

That his wish comes true is only the beginning of the story.

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