Victoria, the Mammoth Screen and Masterpiece co-production for ITV and PBS made its debut on Sunday night in the UK. The Jenna Coleman-starrer ascended the throne with 5.7M viewers and a 30 share in the 9 PM slot. That was strong enough to see Victoria win the hour against BBC One comedies Are You Being Served? and Porridge. It peaked with 6.1M viewers.
The series, which is eyed as a returnable, is created by Daisy Goodwin and follows Victoria for the first three years from the time she is crowned queen in 1837 at age 18 through to her courtship and marriage to Prince Albert (Tom Hughes). She went on to rule for 63 years. Rufus Sewell also stars.
With today a holiday in the UK, ITV is putting on the second installment of the eight-part drama tonight at 9 PM, following popular soap Coronation Street. Next week, it settles into the coveted 9 PM Sunday slot which was the home of Downton Abbey for six years.
But, also next week, it will face fiercer competition from the launch of Season 2 of another period piece, Poldark, on BBC One. That Aidan Turner-starrer’s first season peaked with 9.4M viewers and gained a big fan following at home and abroad. In a twist, it too is made by Victoria producer Mammoth Screen.
The move to get two episodes of Victoria in this week is a bid to hook viewers’ attention away from Poldark‘s scythe next Sunday. Speaking at the Edinburgh TV Festival, ITV Director of Television Kevin Lygo commented on the clash. “If we could have avoided it we would. But we couldn’t. We had to put it out this autumn, for all sorts of boring contractual reasons, and [the BBC] put Poldark out,” The Telegraph quoted him as saying. “Why would you expect them to think, ‘Oh we’ll help ITV out and put something on that we don’t believe in, or something dissimilar against it’? Similarly for us, you can’t run away from an area like Sunday night drama, even if the BBC is very strong, we should put something up against it.”
Reviews out of the UK have been widely positive on Victoria with Doctor Who alum Coleman garnering praise. The Telegraph says the series has “terrific pace and fizzing exuberance.” The Evening Standard chimes in, “Punchy and direct, but naive and childish too, Coleman effectively balanced layers of character.” Radio Times said Sewell’s Lord Melbourne is “a joy to watch, bringing warmth, depth and complexity to a prime minister you wish could vote for yourself.”
Much as was the case with Downton, Stateside viewers will have to wait until January for an audience with the series.