JK Rowling’s the Casual Vacancy tops TV ratings

JK Rowling holding her novel The Casual Vacancy. Picture: PA

JK Rowling holding her novel The Casual Vacancy. Picture: PA

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SHE began her literary career as a hard-up single mother writing in Edinburgh cafes but these days it seems everything JK Rowling touches turns to gold.

The Harry Potter creator has now worked her magic on the small screen as the BBC1 adaptation of her novel The Casual Vacancy won in the head-to-head battle of Sunday night dramas.

The Casual Vacancy, starring Michael Gambon, Rory Kinnear and Keeley Hawes, and Channel 4’s epic period drama Indian Summers, featuring Julie Walters in the lead, were pitted against each other at 9pm.

With a lead-in from the massively popular Call the Midwife, the version of Rowling’s first novel for adults won the most viewers, peaking with 7.3 million.

The drama, set in the seemingly idyllic fictional English village of Pagford, where residents are at actually at war with one another, enjoyed an average of 6.6 million viewers and a 27.5 per cent share of the audience.

Indian Summers, set in the foothills of the Himalayas during the decline of the British Raj and the birth of modern India, attracted a peak of 3.4 million and an average of 2.9 million (13.4 per cent), including viewers catching up on Channel 4’s plus one channel.

The latest instalment of ITV period drama Mr Selfridge, meanwhile, took 3.5 million (14.5 per cent), including its plus one audience.

Channel 4 said they were delighted with the launch of their ten-part series, which more than doubled its slot average and was the “highest drama launch since Elizabeth I” in 2005.

The broadcaster’s chief creative officer, Jay Hunt, said: “I’m thrilled that three million people were hooked by Indian Summers’ unique mix of political intrigue and raw passion. It’s an epic drama, uniquely Channel 4 in tone.”

It was revealed last week that The Casual Vacancy’s ending has been changed for the small-screen to feature a “redemptive moment”, after its scriptwriter decided the novel’s conclusion was a little too “grim”.

Despite the tweaks, Rowling has said she is “thrilled” with the adaptation.

Meanwhile, David Tennant has said the second series of Broadchurch was “inevitably” going to be criticised by some, saying: “I think we’re a victim of our success, to be honest.”

The Scottish actor refused to be drawn on the whodunit drama’s remaining episodes, saying it was a “vault of secrets”, adding: “I don’t tell anyone anything.”

The star’s comments came as he was picking up the award for best actor for his role in the RSC’s Richard II at the What’s On Stage Awards in central London, where Miss Saigon’s blockbuster return to the West End swept the board.

He said: “It’s lovely getting a prize for doing something you would do for free, frankly. And I feel very blessed in many ways.”

Asked about the less positive reaction to the second series of ITV’s Broadchurch, the former Doctor Who star said: “I think we’re a victim of our success, to be honest. The first series was such an extraordinary thing. This country, we never allow lightning to strike twice in this country… we just don’t let that happen.

“So, inevitably there was going to be a certain amount of ‘it’s not as good as the first time’. I think it is. I think it’s a wonderful series that I’m very proud to be part of.”

The actor, who last week took part in BBC Radio 4’s Just a Minute, declined to sum up in one word what he thought viewers would make of the series two finale.

“Not a single adjective, nothing,” he said.

Tennant, who stars alongside Olivia Coleman in the drama, hailed his co-star and remained tight-lipped as to how he felt about a third series.”

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