BBC executives “thought very carefully” before including the pre-watershed nude scenes in Sherlock that drew around 100 complaints, but decided to go ahead because the drama is “cheeky entertainment”, according to controller of drama commissioning Ben Stephenson.
Stephenson said that Sherlock fans will have to wait at least until next year for more episodes of the hit show, starring Benedict Cumberbatch.
Speaking about the Sherlock footage of actress Lara Pulver, who plays dominatrix Irene Adler, Stephenson said he “sort of expected” complaints would be made.
In the New Year’s Day episode, A Scandal in Belgravia, Cumberbatch’s Sherlock Holmes meets his match in the form of Adler, who is naked when they first meet. However, thanks to the camera angles and Pulver’s carefully placed arms and hands, viewers do not see her completely naked.
He said: “We thought about it very carefully, we had lots of conversations about it.
“Just because it’s pre-watershed doesn’t mean it has to be dull. You actually saw more of Benedict Cumberbatch than Lara. Sherlock is cheeky entertainment that takes risks like having text on screen.”
Stephenson said that the complaints would be taken seriously but pointed out that about 10 million people watched the show and that it had high audience appreciation scores.
Pulver told the Radio Times this week that she found the role “really empowering”.
When asked when the Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss-penned drama would be returning, Stephenson said, “not this year”.
He declined to say when it would be back and went on to say that viewers would have to wait for Sunday night’s final cliffhanger episode of the current run to see why.
Sherlock fans had to wait 18 months between series one and two, and have already been asking for more episodes.
But the schedules of the cast and writers, the demands of the complex scripts and quality look of the show mean a fast turnaround is not possible.
Moffat, who is also showrunner on Doctor Who, has been working on what Stephenson called the “remarkable plans” for the sc-fi show’s 50th anniversary in 2013.
Speaking at a Broadcasting Press Guild lunch in London on Wednesday, Stephenson also revealed that Victoria Wood is making a return to the BBC with a film she has written for 2013.
“She’s coming back to BBC1, where she belongs,” he said, but declined to give details.
Stephenson also said that Idris Elba series Luther will be returning to BBC1 “at the end of this year or beginning of next” and that four episodes will be made.
However, no decision has yet been made about whether Garrow’s Law and new drama Young Herriot will return or whether Christmas family drama The Borrowers will be back as a series.
Following the news that more than half the shows on BBC channels are repeats, Stephenson said it offered viewers more chance of seeing the corporation’s dramas.
He also revealed he was held meetings with actors’ union Equity about bringing more lead female characters on screen. “It’s what we should do. Our average audience is a woman in their 50s, that’s who we appeal to broadly.”
Commenting on the effect of the cuts being made as a result of “Delivering Quality First”, Stephenson said that while “we’re moving away totally from drama on BBC4 and downplaying it on BBC3″ the number of BBC1 dramas “will go up”, except in 2013/14, when there will be one fewer due to accounting reasons.
Stephenson also revealed that the BBC is talking to one of the Danish directors of BBC4 hit The Killing about a project and said that BBC2 is to air a film related to the Olympics, more details of which will be revealed soon.
Talking about his future, Stephenson said he was “not interested” in the current vacant head of drama role at Channel 4, pointing out he is only in his fourth year of his job at the BBC.
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