'Doctor Who' returns to beat the Dalek - and thrash ITV

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The Independent Online

The decision by ITV to pack its Saturday night schedule with celebrities has backfired, with viewers switching over to the nostalgic delights of Doctor Who and dance contests on the BBC.

The decision by ITV to pack its Saturday night schedule with celebrities has backfired, with viewers switching over to the nostalgic delights of Doctor Who and dance contests on the BBC.

Only 3 million viewers tuned in to Celebrity Wrestling on Saturday - less than half the amount who watched the comeback of Doctor Who's arch enemy the Dalek. ITV1 bosses had hoped the show would replace perennial favourites Ant and Dec whose Saturday Night Takeaway regularly attracts an audience of between 7 million and 8 million.

While the BBC's decision to invest in Saturday night shows that hark back to a golden era of television has paid off, ITV's new schedule is already suffering a sharp decline in ratings.

Celebrity Wrestling, starring gossip magazine regulars such as former Big Brother winner Kate Lawler and I'm A Celebrity ... Get Me Out Of Here! contestant James Hewitt, is not the only ITV1 show turning off viewers.

A string of flops dragged ITV1's share of the audience down to 15.5 per cent at the weekend, the third lowest Saturday audience since records began.

Hit Me Baby One More Time, a show reviving dated pop acts including Gloria Gaynor, Sinita and Limahl from Kajagoogoo, was watched by just 2.4 million on Saturday, while Celebrity Stitch Up, a new series subjecting stars to Candid Camera-style stunts, attracted only 3.2 million.

Hell's Kitchen, the reality TV show that pitted celebrity chefs Gary Rhodes and Jean Christophe Novelli against one another, drew in just 3.3 million viewers, while Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?, watched by more than 19 million people at its peak, saw its audience fall to 3.8 million.

BBC1's new Saturday line-up performed much better, with Graham Norton's Strictly Dance Fever attracting 4.1 million, Doctor Who watched by 7.8 million and the new-look National Lottery hosted by Julian Clary pulling in 6.2 million.

ITV1 is also facing stiff competition from Channel 4 and Five which are increasingly choosing to screen blockbuster films on Saturday nights. Last weekend, Channel 4 showed the first film in the Lord of The Rings trilogy, preceded by a documentary charting the making of the movie.

Fears over a decline in Saturday night television viewing - exacerbated by multi-channel television, DVDs and the rising popularity of cinema - are nothing new. Recently, however, it looked as though ITV1 had cracked the problem, with a series of strong-rating shows including Saturday Night Takeaway, The X Factor and Parkinson.

The renewed slump comes at a bad time for the channel which saw overall audience ratings fall by more than 9 per cent in the first two months of the year.

An spokeswoman said there were no plans to change the schedule and insisted Celebrity Wrestling would stay. She said: "It was only the second episode and the show is still bedding in."

Conor Dignam, the editor of Broadcast magazine said: "It's very bad news for ITV1. How long can they keep it in that slot? They would do better with a movie." He added: "ITV is clearly under a lot of pressure on Saturday nights. Doctor Who is absolutely trouncing them."

ITV1 on Saturday 30 April

5.30pm, Hit Me Baby One More Time, 2.4 million viewers

Five pop stars from the past three decades attempt to make a comeback, but fail to make much of an impression

6.30pm, Celebrity Wrestling, 800,000 viewers

The prospect of glamour model Leilani Dowding taking on tennis ace Annabel Croft at wrestling didn't capture viewers' imagination

7.45pm, Celebrity Stitch Up, 3.2 million viewers

Paul Gascoigne was accused of being a spy in this series that pulls pranks on celebrities, but viewers were not amused

8.30pm, Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, 3.8 million viewers

Chris Tarrant's quiz show attracted more than 19 million viewers at its peak, but its audience has dwindled

9.35pm, Hell's Kitchen, 3.3 million viewers

The penultimate episode of the restaurant reality show, which pitted celebrity chefs Gary Rhodes and Jean Christophe Novelli against one another, disappointed

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