The first episode of The Tudors, the glossy drama featuring the rampant early life of a “sexy” King Henry VIII, pulled in 3.2 million viewers, the BBC said.
The broadcaster said it was “delighted” with the numbers catching last night’s BBC2 show, which takes a fresh look at the dynasty, replacing a bitter and bloated king with a fit and handsome one.
On BBC1, A Bucket O’ French and Saunders was watched by 2.8 million viewers, while the series return for the award-winning Ugly Betty on Channel 4 won 2.4 million.
ITV1’s gritty drama Rebus beat the other three shows though, with 4.3 million tuning in.
The Tudors focuses on the king’s close coterie of advisers, minions and lovers.
It was shot on location in Ireland with a largely British cast, including Cork native Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Henry and Jeremy Northam as Thomas More.
The BBC’s website explains: “The Tudors focuses on Henry’s rampant life during his late 20s/early 30s whilst he was still married to his first queen Katherine of Aragon whilst pursuing Anne Boleyn and every other pretty face that caught his wandering eye.”
The show successfully premiered on US premium pay network Showtime in early April, delivering the network’s best series debut in three years.
Sue Deeks, Head of Series, BBC Programme Acquisition, previously said of the series: “The Tudors is a lavish, highly entertaining and addictive historical drama which takes a fresh look at Henry VIII.
“Jonathan Rhys Meyers’ sexy and vital monarch completely dispels the image of the older, overweight and infirm ruler – I know that BBC viewers will really enjoy this contemporary take on the Tudor dynasty.”
A BBC spokeswoman said today: “It is a healthy start for The Tudors and we are delighted that the drama has captured the viewers’ imagination.
“There’s lots more to look forward to in the coming weeks.”