Monday April 24, 2006
Sharpe's Challenge: featured Sean Bean, Toby Stephens and Salman Rushdie's wife Padma Lakshmi
The return of Napoleonic war hero Richard Sharpe after a nine-year furlough put the opposition to the sword last night, as Sean Bean's action man pulled in more than 7 million viewers for ITV1.
Sharpe's Challenge, the first new Sharpe adaptation since Sharpe's Waterloo in 1997, featured Bean as Sharpe travelling to India to rescue a British commander's daughter from a renegade East India Company officer working for the local maharaja.
Toby Stephens played the caddish renegade officer, Colonel William Dodd, with Salman Rushdie's wife Padma Lakshmi as the maharaja's consort.
Sharpe's Challenge, which concludes tonight, attracted 7.1 million viewers and a 31% audience share between 9pm and 10.30pm, according to unofficial overnights.
The next best rating programme in the 9pm slot was BBC1's Waking the Dead repeat, In Sight of the Lord, which drew 4.7 million viewers and a 20% share. After the BBC1 10pm news, the Waking the Dead two-parter concluded with 4.4 million viewers.
Sharpe's Challenge capped a strong night for ITV1, following Emmerdale's 6.7 million viewers from 7pm, Coronation Street's 9.3 million, and the 8.8 million who tuned in for Heartbeat from 8pm.
Most of BBC2's night was devoted to sports, starting with London marathon highlights at 6.10pm, which were watched by 2.1 million viewers.
Snooker between 7.35pm and 10pm averaged a solid 1.8 million viewers, an audience level maintained for Match of the Day 2, which looked back at the weekend's FA Cup semi-finals. More world snooker action from Sheffield from 10.50pm kept up a 1.1 million audience.
Channel 4's US sci-fi drama Invasion averaged 1.4 million viewers between 8pm and 9pm, followed by the same audience for Derren Brown's Trick of the Mind.
The George Clooney film Solaris pulled in 1 million viewers, a 6% share, from 10pm.
Channel Five's best audience of the night was for the rom-com The Sweetest Thing, which was seen by 1.5 million, a 7% share.
But the channel's best share was for the Guy Ritchie-Madonna film, Swept Away, which was endured by 900,000 viewers, or 9% of the audience from 10.35pm.
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