'The Forsyte Saga' finds a new audience

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The new version of The Forsyte Saga has proved a ratings winner for ITV. Nearly nine million viewers – 40 per cent of the terrestrial audience – tuned in to Sunday night's first episode, starring Gina McKee and Damian Lewis as Irene and Soames, trapped in a loveless marriage.

The new adaptation was bound to draw comparisons with the BBC original, which became a seminal show when it was transmitted in 1967. Critical reaction was measured rather than ecstatic, with some reviewers claiming it did not compare with the original. Some thought Lewis and McKee were not as convincing as Eric Porter and Nyree Dawn Porter in the original.

The ratings were well up to ITV expectations, however.

Indeed, The Forsyte Saga showed the power of well-cast costume drama, beating the usually popular political drama The West Wing on Channel 4, whose ratings slumped byalmost a third to 1.1 million viewers. On BBC1, Rescue Me drew 3 million viewers.