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Friday, 2 March, 2001, 14:07 GMT
EastEnders brings record ratings
The dramatic moment
Phil Mitchell's shooting caused a power surge
More than 17 million people tuned in to watch the dramatic shooting of bad boy Phil Mitchell in EastEnders - in BBC One's best night for viewers in a year.

The show recorded an average rating of 15.4 million, which rose to 17 million as the climatic gunning down approached about 2000 GMT.

The figure compares to the 8.6 million viewers who watched ITV's hit quiz show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? from 2000 to 2100 GMT.

A special EastEnders edition of the BBC One quiz show The Weakest Link with Anne Robinson - and members of the soap's cast - drew 10 million viewers - the quiz show's best rating to date.

The Weakest Link
The Weakest Link: Scored record ratings

BBC One controller Lorraine Heggessey said: "Thursday was one big night for BBC One in every sense of the word.

"It shows that you can create a real television event for viewers through a classic mix of drama, entertainment and gripping real life stories.

"Over 17 million viewers tuned in to see Phil Mitchell's fate - the story lines over the coming weeks are just as compelling. So watch this space."

Whodunnit

The much talked-about episode of EastEnders featured the troubled wedding of Mel Healy and Steve Owen, who had been told that Mel had been unfaithful with Phil at Christmas.

The tension mounted throughout the episode as Phil haunted the couple during the ceremony and reception.

He also upset Ian Beale and found himself landed with a foe from the past when Dan Sullivan turned up out of the blue to settle old scores.

Dan Sullivan
Dan Sullivan: Enemy from the past

It seems any one of the three - Ian, Steve or Dan - could have shot Phil.

Mel could also be a suspect - but the audience have been left in the dark and with another cliffhanger.

The mystery shooting has been described as the biggest soap whodunnit since JR Ewing was gunned down in the hit 1980s US soap Dallas.

As well as the high viewing figures, the climax to the show triggered a nationwide power surge as viewers watched Phil, played by Steve McFadden, collapse in Albert Square after being shot in the shoulder.

A usual episode of EastEnders triggers a read-out of 300 to 500 megawatts - but Thursday's measured 1,200 megawatts, enough to boil almost 500,000 kettles, said a spokesman from the National Grid.

Elsewhere in the viewing figures, the return of the popular Irish drama Ballykissangel - featuring a new Australian priest - drew 7.7 million at 2020 GMT - despite competition from Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

BBC's 10 O'Clock News equalled the ratings for the ITV's News at Ten with 5.9 million viewers.

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See also:

01 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Soaps gunning for ratings
25 Jan 01 | UK Politics
EastEnder linked to Labour seat
30 Aug 00 | Entertainment
Seven move in to Albert Square
28 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Weakest EastEnder exposed
01 Mar 01 | Entertainment
EastEnders' Woodyatt wins Weakest Link
01 Mar 01 | Entertainment
Nation gripped by Square shooting
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