British crime drama Manhunt, starring Doc Martin’s Martin Clunes, has become ITV’s highest rated new drama since the launch of Broadchurch in 2013. Is it this year’s Bodyguard?

The drama, which is produced by Buffalo Pictures and written by Ed Whitmore (Silent Witness), averaged 8.7M viewers across its three episodes, according to ITV, rising to 9M when online viewing was included. Growing from an overnight average of 6M, the catch up figures mean the show has become the most watched program of 2019 so far.

To put that into context, Bodyguard, the smash hit of 2018, opened with 6.7M live viewers with the first episode adding over 3M viewers to 10.4M after on-demand and catch-up viewers were added, making it the biggest new drama launch in the UK in ten years.

The show, which was picked up by streaming service Acorn in the U.S., stars Clunes as Detective Colin Sutton, the police officer who tenaciously pursued British serial killer Levi Bellfield, played by Celyn Jones.

The drama is the real-life story of how the 2004 murder of French National Amelie Delagrange was eventually linked to the murders of Marsha McDonnell in 2003 and the abduction and murder of Milly Dowler as she traveled home from school in 2002. Sutton dedicated himself to finding Delagrange’s killer. With very little evidence, his painstaking approach and the diligence of his fellow officers gradually led to breakthroughs in the case.Commissioned by ITV’s head of drama Polly Hill, it was directed by Marc Evans (Trauma) and produced by Philippa Braithwaite. DRG handles international sales.

Clunes and Braithwaite are scheduled to participate at the Television Critics Association in February 2019 to discuss the show

”Ed Whitmore has written a very sensitive and accurate portrayal of this significant case based extensively on DCI Colin Sutton’s very personal memoirs during his years as a senior police officer. We are very pleased to be producing Manhunt for ITV,” said Braithwaite.