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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 November 2005, 11:51 GMT
Rome drama draws in 6.6m audience
Ciaran Hinds in Rome
Ciaran Hinds plays Julius Caesar in the series
More than 6.6 million people tuned into the debut of BBC Two's historical epic series Rome, making it the most watched programme in its time slot.

There were 80 complaints about it, many concerning the graphic sex and violence scenes shown just after the watershed.

And some newspaper critics were less than impressed, with one writing it "makes little effort to draw an audience into its sprawling story".

The series is a collaboration between the BBC and US cable channel HBO.

Its debut gave BBC Two one of its highest ever ratings, and up 5.5 million on the same time slot last week.

It beat BBC One's Crimewatch with 4.5 million viewers and a screening of Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones on ITV1, which had a 3.5 million audience.

The BBC said it did not consider the amount of Rome complaints received to be excessive, given the size of the audience.

It added it had aired a warning about the nature of the programme ahead of transmission.

Following the debut of the series in the UK, Ian Johns of the Times wrote: "The performances in Rome are mostly dour - the women are as dull as they are beautiful - thanks to writing that has everyone simply speaking exactly what they're thinking.

"Only (Polly) Walker's Atia... and (Ray) Stevenson's brawling soldier are allowed any vim and vigour. "

'Meaty treat'

Christopher Howse in the Telegraph said: "This might be too much like half-forgotten schoolwork for comfort and, as in all first episodes, there was a lot of indigestible introduction."

Peter Paterson of the Daily Mail wrote: " Despite the strident publicity that this 11-part serial is the real McCoy, presenting Rome as it actually was in 52BC with all the dirt and grime, though thankfully not the smell, this the not the impression I got from watching last night's opening episode."

But Nancy Banks-Smith in The Guardian did make a positive comment about the show, calling it a "meaty treat" .

Before transmission of Rome, the BBC defended the use of graphic scenes of sex and violence.

"You can't understand that period of history unless it shocks you," writer and co-creator Bruno Heller.

Watch clips from the drama

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