After a 2020 year of stuck in our living rooms, things vaguely returned to normal in 2021 (don’t mention the “O” word) and there was plenty of time for breakout hits and established rating giants.
Here, Deadline takes you through the top five most-watched TV episodes of the year in the UK (excluding news and sports). While drama and mainstream entertainment still dominate, there’s an appearance for too that royal interview. Continue reading.
Exercise of duty – 15.2M (BBC1 – Sunday May 2nd)
It was perhaps the most highly anticipated television drama of the decade. While the season six finale of Jed Mercurio’s police thriller epic received mixed reactions from critics and viewers alike, the show was seen by roughly a quarter of the UK population the following weekend, guaranteeing its first spot on the watch list . Contrary to the trend of numerous shows that have lost viewers over the course of the season, Lines of duty Popularity has risen from series to series since it launched on BBC2, with Thandiwe Newton leading AC-12 a decade ago. The World Productions show is so rare: a Sunday night drama that families still gather around the TV at 9:00 p.m. before inspiring “water cooler moments” in the office the next day (well, “zoom water cooler- Moments “). The finale may have disappointed as it turned out that the quiet fool Buckells was the answer to the agonizing question “Who is H?”, But Mercurio has yet to completely ditch the idea of a seventh series. There is no reason to believe that any other run would be less effective than this one.
Oprah with Meghan and Harry 13.9 million (ITV – Monday March 8)
A furious bidding war broke out when CBS announced it would air a meeting with Oprah Winfrey with Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle, just months after the couple made the explosive decision to move to the US and give up many of their royal duties – a Step regarded by some as the greatest royal deception since the abdication of King Edward VIII. ITV prevailed ahead of Sky and Discovery, and the station’s roughly $ 1m venture was irresistible when revelations like the skin color of the unnamed royal son Archie surfaced, news that is still going on almost a year later dominate the British press agenda. Meanwhile, viewers got a glimpse of Meghan’s relationship with sister-in-law Kate Middleton and discovered that she had suicidal thoughts during her time at Buckingham Palace (which sparked a chain of events that led to Piers Morgan storming off the set of ITVs GMB ) and came across her and Harry’s hip new LA lifestyle. UK broadcasters will be keeping a close eye on the next big interview that comes from across the pond.
Strictly come dance 12.2M (BBC1 – Saturday December 18)
This BBC blockbuster talent show has been a staple on UK winter television programming for nearly two decades, and this year’s show touched the hearts of the nation in unexpected ways. The December 18th final showcased the best of British diversity, contested between Strictly speaking first deaf candidate, debut all-men couple and an aspiring black moderator (although AJ Odudu unfortunately had to retire due to injury). In the end, EastEnders actress Rose Ayling-Ellis and partner Giovanni Pernice took the crown in front of John Whaite and Johannes Radebe. Ayling-Ellis lit up the competition week after week and amazed viewers with her and Pernice’s 30-second “Silent Dance” that went viral. The whole series acted once again as a welcome antidote to dark times and of course there was the regular mix of breathtaking appearances, outrageous comments from the jury and guest appearances that have turned a seemingly niche hobby format into one of the brightest shows on the BBC (and one of the best-selling formats of the BBC Studios) of the millennia. May this camp talent show keep the audience enthusiastic and break social taboos for a long time to come.
I’m a celebrity … get me out of here! 10.8 million (ITV – Sunday November 21)
Due to a series of unfortunate events, I am A celebrity has slipped a bit in the ratings this year, but it’s testament to the Ant and Dec hosted stalwart that some episodes still managed to surpass 10 million consolidated viewers, and the opener ranks on the top viewer list in fourth place. As in Severe, a soap performer took home the crown Emmerdales Danny Miller wins first prize after having an unusual relationship with former soccer star David Ginola. While the ITV Studios series was still very entertaining, not least due to the regular political outbursts from Ant and Dec, Sept.st Season was full of problems. Destructive Storm Arwen resulted in four consecutive live shows being canceled as candidates were moved to a safe location and popular candidate Richard Madeley was forced to leave early due to poor health. After two years in a Welsh castle, a move forced on ITV Studios by the Covid-19 pandemic, producers now have to decide whether to return to their more expensive but established Australian homeland next year.
Vigil 10.4M (BBC1 – Sunday 26th September)
Sneaks in just before ITVs Masked singer is this submarine thriller from the makers of, you guessed it, Exercise of duty. The claustrophobia-inducing procedure of Crown Writer Tom Edge increased his audience significantly during the run – no easy feat for a debut series – and was injected with lots of scary moments straight from the World Productions / Jed Mercurio playbook. Vigil Stars Doctor Fosters Suranne Jones as DCI Amy Silva (pictured) of the Scottish Police Service who is called in to investigate a fatality aboard a fictional submarine, which brings her into conflict with the Royal Navy and MI5, leading to a series of devastating discoveries . After the sale to Peacock in the US, further international deals are expected to follow in 2022, while Edge has already teased a second series.
The best of the rest
- The masked singer – 9.9 million (ITV): The second run of the British remake of the hit Korean format was rated far higher than the first and appears to have established the insane mystery show as an ITV Saturday night winter favorite.
- The Pembrokeshire Murders – 9.5 million (ITV): This mini-thriller with The hobbit’s Luke Evans started the year with a bang for ITV.
- The Great British Bake Off – 9.3M (channel 4): As always, Channel 4’s only show to make it into the top 10 – it’s no wonder the network has signed up for another three years of soaked bum 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 horror caused by Netflix.
- Death in paradise – 8.5 million (BBC1): Similar to Call the midwife and still going strong after a decade.