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Tuesday, November 10, 1998 Published at 12:38 GMT


Costume drama perks up?

Viewing figures are slightly better than first anticipated for Vanity Fair

Viewing figures for the first episode of the BBC's flagship drama Vanity Fair have been confirmed at 7.8 million - one million more than the early estimates.

Last week the drama, which cost £6m to make, was criticised for being an expensive flop.

The latest figures include the number of people who video recorded the programme.

A spokeswoman for the BBC said: "This is really a very healthy figure. It shows that a lot of people may have decided to watch ITV but also recorded Vanity Fair."

She said the drama was never meant to be a big ratings competitor and that the BBC is thrilled with its success.

But in the past costume dramas from the BBC have managed much higher viewing figures. Pride and Prejudice pulled in an audience of more than 10 million.

Early figures for the second episode of Vanity Fair are also a little gloomy. They show that the audience on Sunday night fell even lower to 6.1 million, although this figure is expected to rise.

ITV's Inspector Wexford police drama, which was on at the same time, attracted just over 10 million viewers.

Next week the BBC is moving Vanity Fair back half an hour to 21.30 to ensure that it does not clash with ITV's popular drama Heartbeat - although instead it will be up against Cold Feet, a new award winning comedy drama.

Strong women to blame?

Academics have criticised the BBC's adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's 19th century novel for being inaccurate. In particular the central female character, Becky Sharpe, has been accused of being too strong and modern.

Andrew Davies who adapted Vanity Fair, as well as Pride and Prejudice for the screen, said that he did play up the female roles to appeal to both the men and women in the audience.

The show's producer Suzanne Harrison has also said that there had been a deliberate policy to emphasise the roles of women in the drama to connect with the modern woman.

A BBC spokeswoman said that female characters on TV sometimes have to be more developed than they are in the original novels in order to get the right balance for a modern audience.

Our Mutual Friend nominated

There is good news for another BBC costume drama: the BBC Two adaptation of Our Mutual Friend has come top of the nominations for the Royal Television Society Craft and Design Awards.

The series which was based on the Charles Dickens classic, has been shortlisted for costume, drama production, design, make-up and editing titles, as well as a team award.

Other BBC shows that picked up nominations include: the costume drama The Woman In White, the health series The Human Body, and coverage of the Eurovision Song Contest 1998.

The awards ceremony will be hosted by GMTV presenter Eamonn Holmes at the London Hilton Hotel on 26 November.

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03 Nov 98 | Entertainment
Vanity Fair not an attraction for viewers