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Last Updated: Friday, 28 October 2005, 10:52 GMT 11:52 UK
Bleak House debut draws millions
Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock

More than six million people saw the first episode of the BBC's adaptation of Charles Dickens' epic story Bleak House, according to overnight ratings.

The costume drama won an average audience of 6.6 million when it was shown on BBC One on Thursday night.

The episode took a 28.9% audience share. ITV1's police drama The Bill was just behind with a 26.8% share.

Bleak House, featuring an all-star cast, is split into half-hour episodes with soap-style cliffhangers.

Dickens' novels themselves were first published in instalments, with gripping cliffhangers to entice people to buy the next one.

The 15 twice-weekly episodes have been adapted by writer Andrew Davies, who wrote the BBC's popular adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride And Prejudice.

Costume dramas have traditionally been shown in weekly episodes, broadcast across several weeks.

The cast list includes Charles Dance as Tulkinghorn, Alistair McGowan as Kenge, Gillian Anderson as Lady Dedlock, Denis Lawson as Jarndyce, Anna Maxwell Martin as Esther and Matthew Kelly as Turveydrop.

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