During the NYC PBS Sherlock Q&A a few days ago, Rebecca Eaton – the executive producer of the Masterpiece series – made a point to say that the editing for “A Scandal in Belgravia” was done by Hartswood Films, i.e. Sue Vertue and Steven Moffat, in an obviously preemptive attempt to deflect criticism. That didn’t sit well with me at the time because it was so utterly disingenuous: everyone knows that the earth revolves around the sun and that it was PBS that forced the time constraint which, in turn, forced Hartswood to make the cuts, and not by their choice.
I loved how Benedict Cumberbatch chimed in after that statement and made his displeasure with the edits clearly known. He passionately made the case of “Why should American audiences not enjoy the full show like the rest of the world?” Well, it’s painfully obvious that we in America have a more difficult time separating our culture from our commerce.
From my estimate, they had to cut down about 6-7 minutes to make room for all the commercials, promos, the introduction and the important, wealthy donor roll (twice!). It was absolutely a time constraint because there was no set pattern to what was exactly cut. I think Hartswood took out a little here and there in the attempt to disrupt the story as little as possible. I even noticed mere seconds cut from some of the long shots and I believe that there were cuts all the way through that even those of us who know the episode intimately didn’t catch. So, I applaud Sue Vertue and Hartswood Films – they did the best that they could within the limitations.
Which brings me to this very interesting tidbit from Benedict Cumberbatch’s recent interview where he mentions that HBO actually passed on airing “Sherlock.” It would have been a smaller broadcast audience for sure, but I am convinced there would have been no cuts at all. Let’s face it, all of the three major commercial networks have lost their creative ground. Look at all the shows that have received Emmys or critical acclaim recently – most are on cable. For many decades, PBS has claimed the mantle of “quality shows” but there will be a reckoning soon if it continues to interfere in the creative process. Why? Because now there is competition. I hope that this new partnership with Masterpiece to produce the next series of “Sherlock” will not comprise the content or force edits for length right from the beginning because then we wouldn’t even be able to enjoy the complete version – as intended by Moffat and Mark Gatiss – on the DVD when it’s eventually released.