SHANGHAI (AP) — Zhou Yeling dragged herself out of bed at 5 a.m. for a long-awaited date with her favorite Englishman — Sherlock Holmes.
Zhou, 19, watched the third season premiere of the BBC's "Sherlock" on Jan. 2 on the British broadcaster's website. Two hours later, the episode started showing with Chinese subtitles on Youku.com, a video website. Youku says it was viewed more than 5 million times in the first 24 hours, becoming the site's most popular program to date.
"I was excited beyond words," said Zhou, a student in the central Chinese city of Changsha.
"Sherlock" has become a global phenomenon, but nowhere more than in China, where fans' devotion is so intense that the BBC says it was the first country outside Britain where the new season was shown.
Online fan clubs have attracted thousands of members. Chinese fans write their own stories about the modern version of author Arthur Conan Doyle's prickly, Victorian detective and his sidekick, Dr. Watson, to fill the time between the brief, three-episode seasons. In Shanghai, an entrepreneur has opened a "Sherlock"-themed cafe.
Holmes is known in China as "Curly Fu," after his Chinese name, Fuermosi, and star Benedict Cumberbatch's floppy hair. Watson, played by Martin Freeman, is Huasheng, a name that sounds like "Peanut" in Mandarin. They have become two of the most popular terms in China's vast social media world.
"The 'Sherlock' production team shoot something more like a movie, not just a TV drama," said Yu Fei, a veteran writer of TV crime dramas for Chinese television.
Scenes in which Holmes spots clues in a suspect's clothes or picks apart an alibi are so richly detailed that "it seems like a wasteful luxury," Yu said.