'Wolf Hall' Draws 3.9 Million Viewers in BBC Two Debut

Miniseries Wolf Hall on BBC Two on Wednesday drew 3.9 million viewers in its U.K. debut, according to overnight ratings.

The performance, which amounts to a 16.5 percent share of people watching TV in Britain at the time, is a strong one for the channel, which typically gets smaller audiences than the public broadcaster's flagship network BBC One. But on Wednesday night in the 9 p.m. time slot, it outperformed Crimewatch on BBC One.

According to the BBC, the ratings make the show BBC Two's best-performing original drama series launch since Rome in 2005, which debuted with 6.6 million viewers.

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Eric & Ernie, a TV film in 2011 about the early career of the British comic double-act Morecambe and Wise, drew 6.0 million, but it was a one-off, not a series.

Wolf Hall features former Homeland star Damian Lewis opposite Mark Rylance in the adaptation of Hilary Mantel's historic novel. In the U.S., it will air on Masterpiece on PBS, starting on April 5.

Lewis plays Henry VIII, while Rylance portrays Thomas Cromwell in the six-part series written by Oscar nominee Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy).

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The miniseries charts the meteoric rise of Cromwell in the Tudor court, from his lowly start as a blacksmith's son to Henry VIII's closest advisor.

Jan. 22, 2:20 a.m. Updated with historical ratings comparisons.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com

Twitter: @georgszalai