Two Sherlock Holmes spin-offs in the works as HBO Max plots a new universe

Sherlock Holmes
(Image credit: Warner Bros)

HBO Max is putting together plans for two TV spin-offs as it plots a new universe for Sherlock Holmes.

Having enjoyed surprising success with John Cena's Peacemaker (a character spun from James Gunn's The Suicide Squad universe), the streamer is now looking to give the same treatment to the iconic British detective – specifically, the iteration starring Jude Law and Robert Downey Jnr.

Deadline reports that the two spin-offs are in early development at HBO Max, with Robert Downey Jr. and his wife, producer Susan Downey, on board as executive producers. 

Where in the case of Peacemaker and The Penguin (another planned HBO Max movie spin-off) the lead characters were identified as potential series subjects after their respective movies were in the can, HBO Max's parent company Warner Bros. is developing its next pair of spin-off series ahead of time.

The plan is for each show to revolve around characters that have not yet been introduced to audiences, but will be in the third Sherlock Holmes movie.

And therein lies the problem...

What's the problem?

Before these Sherlock Holmes spin-offs hit the screen, these new characters, whomever they may be, will need to be introduced in the franchise's next movie – and Warner Bros. just cannot seem to get that film made. 

Downey Jnr's Sherlock Holmes and Law's John Watson have made two films together, 2009's Sherlock Holmes and its 2011 sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows. Both were hits at the box office, with work commencing on a sequel in October of 2011. 

Since then, though, it's been a case of delay after delay. Endless writers have come and gone, Guy Ritchie – who directed the first two movies – moved on, and things stalled.

It looked like things were finally moving in March 2019 when Warner Bros. announced that Rocketman director Dexter Fletcher would take charge of the film (which led to the announcement of a preliminary release date of December 2021). However, the pandemic put paid to that. 

As it stands, the film has no release date, and Fletcher is now working on Apple TV Plus' big-budget action adventure, Ghosted, with Chris Evans and Scarlett Johansson. 

What's taking so long?

You can largely pin the delay on three words: Marvel Cinematic Universe. In the years since A Game Of Shadows, Downey Jnr has only made two movies that didn't see him playing Tony Stark. 

But with Iron Man now in the rear-view mirror, his schedule is a little clearer. He's currently making Christopher Nolan's Oppenheimer, and is booked to star in Jamie Foxx's comedy All-Star Weekend. Perhaps, then, when Fletcher finishes work on Ghosted and Downey Jnr's schedule clears, we'll finally see a third installment of Sherlock Holmes. 

Tom Goodwyn
Freelance Entertainment Writer

Tom Goodwyn was formerly TechRadar's Senior Entertainment Editor. He's now a freelancer writing about TV shows, documentaries and movies across streaming services, theaters and beyond. Based in East London, he loves nothing more than spending all day in a movie theater, well, he did before he had two small children…