‘Sherlock’ to premiere in Britain just 18 days before U.S. debut

Stateside “Sherlock” fans wary of Season 3 spoilers would be well-advised to steer clear of Twitter on New Year’s Day: That’s when Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’s modern-day take on Arthur Conan Doyle’s creation will make its long-awaited return to television in Britain with an episode called “The Empty Hearse,” the BBC announced Friday.

The broadcaster touted the news Friday in London with a black hearse decorated with flowers arranged to spell the name “Sherlock” and hashtag in the driver’s window reading "#SherlockLives.”

The show will have its U.S. premiere on PBS on Jan. 19, more than 19 months after the second season finale, “The Reichenbach Fall,” in which Benedict Cumberbatch’s surly detective seemingly plummeted to his death from the roof of a hospital as his pal, Dr. John Watson (Martin Freeman) looked on in horror.

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The 18-day lag between the British and U.S. broadcasts of “The Empty Hearse” may be too much for some fans to bear, but it’s at least an improvement on Season 2, when American “Sherlock” fans had to avert their eyes from the Internet for four agonizing months. Series star Cumberbatch has been vocal about his desire for the shows to run concurrently -- “it seems churlish, really, to deny savvy ‘Sherlock’ fans” he told the Times earlier this year -- and if he hasn’t quite gotten his wish, it seems the actor’s pleas have not fallen on deaf ears.

As for how his character might have cheated death, a trailer released earlier this week doesn’t give away many clues about what’s ahead except that -- spoiler alert -- Sherlock is still alive and Watson is sporting a mustache so bushy it puts Dennis Franz to shame.

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