Benedict Cumberbatch (left) with Sherlock co-star Amanda Abbington

PASADENA, CA–Julia Roberts, Matthew McConaughey, Jimmy Fallon…stand aside. The biggest draw at this Winter’s Television Critics Association press tour was from PBS.
No, not Grover or Cookie Monster, or even Ken Burns. The star who caused the biggest stir this January was Benedict Cumberbatch.
Fans with autograph books, some wearing hounds-tooth hats, lined up as early as 7 a.m. outside the staid Langham Huntington Hotel in hopes of spotting Cumberbatch. Running late, he dashed past many of them on his way into Monday’s packed, PBS press tour session. True to his word, however, he made a point of stopping and signing autographs on the way out.
He even sang Happy Birthday to one young woman from East LA who is turning 19. She said that was well worth the 10 hour wait.
Cumberbatch was here at press tour to promote Sherlock, the acclaimed BBC series which returned to an audience of nearly four million Sunday night with its third season PBS debut. That was a 25% jump over Season Two’s starter.
The 8M+ lead-in, Downton Abbey, didn’t hurt.
That’s not counting viewers in the greater Toronto/Buffalo area. Buffalo PBS affiliate WNED decided to save Sherlock for their February sweeps–much to the outrage of fans in that region. I got dozens of tweets and emails from angry fans pissed to learn they will be among the last to see the new Sherlock episodes.

Cumberbatch did not let reporters down, either, taking a wide array of questions. He revealed he’s recently traded notes with movie Sherlock Robert Downey, Jr., when the two met at an airport. He also talked about his sudden fame and meeting his heroes–Harrison Ford was one example–and finding they were in awe of him.
Not to spoil it for viewers in Toronto/Buffalo, but if you saw last season’s cliffhanger, Sherlock does indeed come back from the dead. It wasn’t the TARDIS who save him, he kidded, a reference to producer Moffat’s other series, Dr. Who.
Cumberbatch dropped a few F-bombs during this session, but Denis Leary has nothing to worry about. He’ll keep the TCA cuss crown. Cumberbatch was self-aware enough to joke about his potty mouth.
It was actually hard to keep up with Cumberbatch on Twitter. He was on fire in the session, dealing deep thoughts among the usual tour patter. Asked to define chemistry, he joked around a bit before suggesting chemistry “is where you feel you’re learning from the people around you,” which is as good a definition as I’ve ever heard.

He can also spar, asking one reporter, “What was the first part of your five part question?”
By the way, Dr Watson (Martin Freeman), was not at the TCA press tour session. He’s busy up in Calgary shooting scenes on the FX limited run drama Fargo.

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