Sherlock v Twitter: Are we losing the art of watching slow-burning plots on TV?

Quality drama can reward concentration, says Mark Jefferies


I am in the privileged position of having seen the final Sherlock episode of the series before it is aired this weekend and it is a cracker.


But it has also made me question my own TV viewing habits and the way everyone else watches across the UK.

I wasn’t a huge fan of the second episode, The Sign of Three, with the long Best Man’s speech from Sherlock and lack of criminal drama, and so less then an hour into it I was on Twitter reading comments about it.

There were thousands of people talking about Sherlock, moaning and groaning, and in some cases spending more time writing than watching.

But in the final 30 minutes the episode got much better, a lot of the previous plot made more sense, and I felt a bit guilty for having slightly dismissed it an hour in. I wasn’t alone, and by the end others were also saying they now felt it was pretty good after all, if not a perfect episode.

The problem is millions of us now watch TV and use Twitter at the same time. That is fine for X Factor and Strictly when we are just praising Susanna Reid’s samba or the style of Nicole Scherzinger’s dress, but drama and documentaries sometimes require concentration. A few minutes looking away and you can miss key points or plot.

If the script and story is a ‘slow burner’ and perhaps takes more than 30 minutes to get going I think viewers now struggle to stay with it. We are so used to everything being instant in our lives.

Want to spend an opening episode of a drama series just setting the scene? You can forget it.

Broadchurch was probably a rare example of people concentrating fully on a show and then taking to Twitter afterwards or in ad breaks to praise it. But that was possibly the greatest TV series of 2013. I think lots of other 90 minute and two hour dramas and TV films will benefit from us switching off social media for a while and getting into and enjoying the story.

So resist the urge to tweet on Sunday night and be engrossed in a fantastic Sherlock episode. You can chat about it afterwards. And I think you’ll still be talking about it for most of Monday too.

Mark Jefferies is Showbiz Editor at the Daily Mirror

Sherlock concludes tonight at 8:30pm on BBC1