The star of the Prime Suspect detective series, who last year posed naked at 50, beat a clutch of younger contenders to win the approval of readers of Radio Times magazine. She attracted a 5 per cent lead over the X Files' Gillian Anderson followed by Jennifer Anniston of Friends and presenter Ulrika Jonsson.
However, the X Files, the cult American series, can boast the sexiest man. David Duchovny trounced home-grown talent including actors Colin Firth and Neil Pearson and sports presenter Des Lynam.
Nearly 40,000 people returned the Radio Times' survey of viewing and listening habits. The editor Sue Robinson said it showed what a major part television plays in our lives. More than one-quarter said they would not give it up even for large sums of cash.
The survey found that 45 per cent of those who replied were more shocked by the news than crime programmes. ITN's Trevor McDonald was the news reader the public most trusts, just ahead of the BBC's Michael Buerk. Michael Parkinson was the best-ever British chat-show host, with 47 per cent of the vote compared with 12 per cent for Clive James.
The readers overwhelmingly regarded Chris Evans, the former Radio 1 disc jockey, as a fool and would most like to receive the kiss of life from Dr Ross, of the American medical drama ER. Inspector Morse was the favourite detective.
Readers' main concern was excessive violence - 47 per cent said films with a violent content should be censored. Yet 45 per cent thought films should not be cut at all. Of those who replied, 58 per cent watched television for between one and three hours a day and another third watched for more than four hours a day. One per cent never watched any television at all. Forty-two per cent listened to the radio for between one and three hours a day.Reuse content