After a 2020 dedicated to getting stuck in our living rooms, things began to vaguely return to normal in 2021 (not to mention the “O” word), and there was plenty of time for breakout hits and established rating giants.
Here, Deadline takes you through the year’s five most-watched TV episodes in the UK (excluding news and sports), with consolidated seven-day Barb rating data provided by overnights.tv. While drama and mainstream entertainment dominate as always, there is also a performance too to royal interview. Read on.
Line of Duty – 15.2M (BBC1 – Sunday 2 May)
It may have been the most anticipated TV drama of the decade. The sixth season finale of Jed Mercury’s police thriller epic was admittedly met with a mixed reception from both critics and viewers, but the show had been seen by around a quarter of the British population the following weekend, guaranteeing it first place in most – watched list. Contrary to the trend of several shows that have lost viewers as the seasons progress, Line of Duty’s the popularity has grown series by series since it was launched on BBC2 with Thandiwe Newton leading the AC-12 a decade ago. The World Productions’ show is the rare thing: a drama on Sunday that families still gather around the TV to watch at. 21:00 before inspiring ‘water cooler moments’ in the office the next day (well, ‘Zoom water cooler moments’). The finale may have disappointed when quiet oaf Buckells was revealed to be the answer to the painful question of “Who’s H?”, But Mercurio has not yet completely rejected the idea of a seventh series. There is no reason to believe that another race would be less effective than this.
Oprah with Meghan and Harry 13.9M (ITV – Monday, March 8)
A furious bidding war broke out when CBS announced it would broadcast an Oprah Winfrey meeting with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle just months after the couple made the explosive decision to move to the US and drop many of their royal duties – a steps. seen by some as the greatest royal deception since the abdication of King Edward VIII. ITV won before people like Sky and Discovery, and the network’s bet of about $ 1 million. ($ 1.3 million) was richly rewarded, with nearly $ 14 million. lined up for the bomb interview – this year’s second most watched TV show. The interview was irresistible, with revelations like an unnamed royal questioning son Archie’s skin color, news that still dominates the British press agenda almost a year later. Meanwhile, viewers got a glimpse into Meghan’s relationship with sister-in-law Kate Middleton, and discovered that she had experienced suicidal thoughts during her time at Buckingham Palace (which triggered a chain of events that led to Piers Morgan storming out of the set of ITV’s GMB ) and topped into her and Harry’s hip new LA lifestyle. British TV companies will keep a close eye on the next big interview coming from across the pond.
Strictly Come Dancing 12.2M (BBC1 – Saturday 18 December)
This BBC blockbuster talent show has been an established part of the UK TV winter program for almost two decades, and this year’s show touched the hearts of the nation in the most unexpected ways. The final on 18 December showcased the best of British diversity competing between Strictly’s the first deaf participant ever, debuted entirely male couple and an upcoming Black host (although AJ Odudu unfortunately had to retire due to an injury). In the end, EastEnders actor Rose Ayling-Ellis took the crown home with partner Giovanni Pernice, ahead of John Whaite and Johannes Radebe. Ayling-Ellis lit up the competition week by week, dazzling viewers with people like her and Pernice’s 30-second ‘silent dance’, which became a viral hit. The whole series once again served as a welcome antidote to dark times, and there was of course the regular mix of fantastic performances, outrageous judge comments and guest appearances that have transformed what may seem like a niche hobby format into one of the BBC’s smartest shows (and one of BBC Studios’ best-selling formats) for millennia. For a long time, this camp talent show must wow audiences and smash societal taboos.
I’m a celebrity … Get me out of here! 10.8M (ITV – Sunday 21 November)
Due to a series of unfortunate incidents, I am A celeb dropped slightly this year in viewership, but it’s a testament to the faithful Ant and Dec host that some episodes still managed to top 10 million consolidated viewers, and the opener is number four on the most-watched list. As with Strictly, a soap actor took home the crown, with Emmerdale’s Danny Miller won the first prize after entering into an unlikely bromance with former football star David Ginola. While ITV Studios’ series, as always, was extremely entertaining, not least due to Ant and Dec’s regular political outbursts, this year’s 21.st the season was marked by trouble. The destructive Storm Arwen caused four consecutive live shows to be canceled as contestants were driven to a safe place and popular contestant Richard Madeley had to leave early due to ill health. After two years in a Welsh castle, a move forced into ITV Studios by the Covid-19 pandemic, producers must now decide whether to return to its more expensive but established Australian home next year.
Dare 10.4M (BBC1 – Sunday 26 September)
Sneaking in right in front of ITVs Masked singer is this submarine thriller from the creators of, you guessed it, Line of Duty. The claustrophobia-causing procedure from Crown author Tom Edge grew his audience significantly throughout the race – no small feat for a debut series – and was endowed with plenty of anxious moments that were lifted directly from the World Productions / Jed Mercurio playbook. Dare stars Doctor Foster’s Suranne Jones as DCI Amy Silva (pictured) from the Scottish Police, who is called in to investigate a death on board a fictitious submarine, which brings her into conflict with the Royal Navy and MI5 and leads to a series of devastating discoveries. After selling to Peacock in the US, more international deals are likely to come in 2022, while Edge has already teased another series.
Best of the rest
- The masked singer – 9.9 million (ON TV): The second series of the hit Korean format’s British remake was rated far higher than the first and appears to have established the crazy mystery show as an ITV Saturday night winter favorite.
- The Pembrokeshire murders – 9.5 M (ITV): This miniseries thriller starring The Hobbits Luke Evans started the year with a bang for ITV.
- The Great British Bake Off – 9.3 million (Channel 4): As always, Channel 4’s is the only show to reach the top 10 – no wonder the network has signed on for another three years with soft bottoms and Hollywood handshakes.
- Call the Midwife – 8.7 m (BBC1): This Sunday night favorite never disappoints for the BBC and has guaranteed its future home after a brief Netflix-inflicted scare.
- Death in paradise – 8.5 M (BBC1): Corresponding to Call the Midwife and is still going strong after a decade.