Given the steady acclaim, consistent quality and the way its audience has grown over the course of three seasons, it's no great mystery why Emmy voters finally came around to "Sherlock" on Monday night, giving the BBC series awards for lead actor Benedict Cumberbatch, supporting actor Martin Freeman and writer Steven Moffat in the miniseries or movie category.
But the awards still surprised Moffat, who backstage admitted that after winning a number of prizes overseas, he was "starting to think that phase of our lives was winding down."
"I didn't think we'd win anything, genuinely," he said. "I'm a bit worried about rewinding and seeing my speech."
The "Sherlock" win seemed to come at the expense of HBO's "The Normal Heart," Larry Kramer's adaptation of his 1985 HIV/AIDS crisis play, which had been favored in just about every category. "The Normal Heart" did win the TV movie Emmy, earning a standing ovation in the process.
The miniseries and movie categories split off again this year after being combined for several years.
"After 30 years, it took the powers of Erin Brockovich and the Incredible Hulk to get this made," "Normal Heart" director Ryan Murphy said, referring to stars Julia Roberts and Mark Ruffalo. Murphy then dedicated the Emmy to "the hundreds of thousands of artists who've passed from AIDS since 1981. Their passion burns through us, and this is for them." Kramer joined him onstage.
But that was "Heart's" only Emmy of the evening. Its high-profile acting nominees (Ruffalo, Roberts, Matt Bomer, among them) went home empty-handed, a fact not lost on Moffat.
"'The Normal Heart' is brilliant, just brilliant," Moffat said. "I feel guilty for every award we took from them. I hope they don't hate us."
Hate "Sherlock"? Impossible. The show's third season, consisting of three 90-minute episodes that offer a contemporary telling of Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes detective stories, became Britain's most-watched TV series this century. And its popularity in America, where it is broadcast as part of PBS' "Masterpiece Mystery" series, has grown too, drawing nearly 4 million viewers an episode, a number that Moffat hopes will now grow with the television academy's stamp of approval.
Backstage, Moffat said he would gather the busy Cumberbatch and Freeman in January to begin shooting a special episode, with three additional 90-minute episodes to follow later in the year. It's a long time for fans to wait for new adventures, but Moffat promises it will be worth it.
"We have a plan to top it," he said, talking about the past Emmy-winning season. "I do think our plan is devastating. We reduced the cast to tears by telling the plan. We're so excited about what we've got coming up."
Times staff writer Yvonne Villarreal contributed to this report.