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'Sherlock' a mega hit in China, sanitized 'Big Bang Theory' to air on state TV

For a show that has been banned from TV stations controlled by China’s government, the BBC hit Sherlock has gained quite the following there.

Yahoo noted on Monday that though the drama starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman was deemed “unsuitable” after British TV execs visited China this month to discuss broadcasting certain shows, a whopping 69 million people have streamed it online.

“Chinese dramas are dull compared to UK ones,” a source reportedly told the UK’s Daily Mirror about the success of Sherlock there. “That’s why they’re so popular and people watch them over the internet.”

The source also said political elements of the show, such as Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft, who is a “dodgy government official,” could have hit “too close to home for the Communist Party of China.”

The popularity of Sherlock comes not long after the Chinese government pulled the plug on four popular American TV shows from online streaming services, including The Big Bang Theory, NCIS, The Good Wife, and The Practice. Though there was no specific reason given for the shows getting the ax, China’s State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film and Television had recently reissued content regulation notices aimed at subjecting shows, including internet programming, to more pre-approval.

Ying Zhu notes in the Washington Post Monday that though the regulation was at first directed mostly at domestic programming, content providers asked censors to create an “equal footing” between domestic and foreign content. A “sanitized” version of ‘Big Bang’ is scheduled to air on China Central Television instead.

As many have pointed out, although shows like ‘Big Bang’ did not pass muster with the government, shows with a decidedly political bent are still being viewed in high numbers over streaming services. House of Cards is a prime example, specifically its second season, which has a storyline involving relations with China.

Meanwhile, last week’s season finale of ‘Big Bang’ fared extremely well stateside. Not only did “The Status Quo Combustion” rule Thursday night, as the show often does, but it also became the series’ most-watched season finale, topping the other six season-enders with 16.3 million viewers.

As for next season, the show will be affected by the schedule shake-up announced by CBS. The show will temporarily relocate to Monday nights for season eight beginning this fall, but will move back to Thursday on Oct. 30, after the network finishes broadcasting Thursday Night Football.