Wolf Hall named biggest new BBC2 drama in a decade as Mark Rylance pulls in viewers

Nearly 4 million people tuned in to the acclaimed Hilary Mantel adaptation

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The Independent Culture

BBC2 is celebrating the success of new drama Wolf Hall after the debut episode set a viewing record for the channel last night.

The hotly-awaited adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novels, starring Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis, drew 3.9 million viewers to become BBC2’s biggest original drama series in a decade.


The first episode of six aired on Wednesday to rave reviews from critics, despite some viewers complaining about the atmospheric lighting.

BBC1’s Crimewatch drew 2.4 million viewers and 1.7 million watched 24 Hours in A&E on Channel 4 but the National Television Awards on ITV scored the biggest audience with 6.6 million.

Historical drama Rome attracted a massive 6.6 million viewers for its 2005 debut, but Wolf Hall’s launch BBC2’s most impressive since, narrowly beating Line of Duty’s 3.4 million in 2012.

“It is both a privilege and a pleasure to have Wolf Hall – with all its grown-up, rounded, rich, human texture – on BBC2 and I am so pleased that the audience has responded to it in such a remarkable way,” said Kim Shillinglaw, BBC2 controller.

“Enabling programmer makers to produce their very best, most authored work is exactly what I want BBC2 to do and I’m delighted that the Wolf Hall team have achieved it so magnificently here.”

Wolf Hall returns at 9pm next Wednesday on BBC2