TV Overnights: the might of Call the Midwife returns to put Mr Selfridge in his place

21 Jan 2013  |  Niall Johnson 
Call the Midwife

The weekend brought us more sequins, injuries, celebrities diving and celebrities facing eviction. In the end, it was the call of breaking waters that locked in this weekend's biggest audience.

Friday

As the weekend kicked off in a cold and miserable fashion, BBC One saw fit to highlight this trend by kicking of the end of week festivities with a double whammy of grimness. First up was the final visit of the week to the cheery cockneys of London's fictional East End.

After the horror of The One Show (7pm, 5.7 million viewers) and panic-inducing public service piece BBC News: Snow Across Britain (7:30pm, 4.9 million viewers) Dot Branning was having a moment of doubt in EastEnders (8pm).

After her latest disappearance act, the soap legend wondered if she made the right decision returning to the hive of villainy and scum that is Albert Square. 8.8 million viewers watched as Alfie and Roxy (who sound like a tribute band, or something) hit a bump in their blossoming romance. The final trip of the week to the hard-hitting soap secured a 34% audience share, the highest in that time slot.

BBC One bounced back again at 9pm as the fourth episode in the latest series of Silent Witness won back the highest audience share from ITV and held onto it for the rest of the night.

Friday's offering of sunshine and happiness was, as usual, loaded with colourful characters and more stinky corpses than the prop department knew what to do with. The concluding part of the latest tale netted a consistent 5.9 million viewers and a 23% share.

ITV offered up the only real competition, starting out with Emmerdale securing 7.8 million viewers at 7pm. Next up was the first visit to Weatherfield as mentally delicate Kirsty and Tyrone prepared for their respective last night of freedom. Naturally, it didn't occur to them to have these events somewhere other than the street where the both work and live. Perhaps it was the weather.

The first bout of Jack Bauer style treachery and double crossing pulled in 9.3 million viewers, securing the biggest audience of the night for ITV. An audience share of 36% watched as Tyrone attempted to retrieve his sleeper cell phone from right under his unhinged fiancé's eyes.

Later at 8:30pm, only the most dedicated fans returned to see if the bumbling mechanic would be water boarded for information, with a slightly lower audience of 8.5 million people and a 32% share tuning in.

To counteract the weight of Silent Witness at 9pm, ITV offered up something altogether more light and airy with the second part of the comedy aimed squarely at the target demographic it's about, Great Night Out. Sadly, a great night out is exactly what you weren't having if you managed to catch up with the 'blokey' sitcom. You weren't even having a great night in.

Celebrity Big Brother

2.9 million viewers (a 12% share) watched as the group of best mates swilled beer and got into their latest spot of bother as their women-folk tutted from the sidelines.

Meanwhile on Channel 5, 2.3 million viewers watched as a bizarrely fresh looking Gillian Taylforth was spat out back into the real world to begin the inevitable campaign to bring Kathy Beale back from the dead. She does have a lot to answer for regarding her son Ben's recent activity. Celebrity Big Brother managed to secure a share of 9%.

Saturday

After all the excitement of Friday evening, Saturday got off to a more sombre start . 1.9 million viewers watched the entire three and a half hour coverage of Masters Snooker (BBC One, 1pm). Still, it must be a good excuse to a start drinking early. An audience share of 14% watched in blurry horror as Australia's Neil Robertson sent England's own Shaun Murphy out of the competition.

Britains Brightest

Later on at 6:45pm Clare Balding continued her vane search for Britain's Brightest (BBC One). The third episode in the series saw the sports presenter locking six competitors in rooms, with their brains as their only means of escape. Kind of like the Saw series but much more BBC teatime.  4.6 million viewers and a 19% share watched the desperate contestants flexing their grey matter.

Which makes Splash! (ITV, 7pm) Britain's Brightest mortal enemy. The set up is similar but with public phone-ins and loads of add breaks. Oh, and instead of proving how intelligent they are, the celebrity contestants on Splash! have to fall in the air and land in a large body of water. All for our admiration. The Tom Daley vehicle pulled in 5.2 million viewers down to its murky depths, resulting in a 22% share.

Later, the orange army of ladettes transported from the early 90s to the studios of Take Me Out (ITV, 8:30pm) had to contend with the dedicated army of Casualty (BBC One, 8:50pm) supporters.

Paddy McGuinness's charm and wit weren't enough to compete with the medical drama - the 'cheeky' dating show only managing 4.4 million viewers compared to Holby's most popular emergency department netting 5.2 million and a 22% share.

From that point in the night the BBC's flagship channel held onto the highest share with Mrs Brown's Boys (9:40pm) on right after. The repeat of the latest sit down with Agnes brought in 4.2 million viewers and an 18% share.

Poor old Wossy and his chummy celebrity mates only managed to take a small piece of the action with The Jonathan Ross Show (ITV, 9:45pm) attracting an audience of 2.8 million viewers at the same time.

Sunday

The festival of twirling sparkly leotards that is Dancing on Ice (ITV, 6:15pm) got the ball rolling for a busy Sunday evening. The third week of the skating competition once again provided a healthy teatime platform for ITV with an audience of 7 million viewers and a 27% share tuning in.

Surprisingly the results show at 8:15pm saw viewers drift away despite the drama of an injury. 5.3 million viewers watched as politician Oona King lashed out at her dancing partner Mark Hanretty just before Dancing on Ice: The Skate Off was set to begin. An audience share of 18% watched as he danced through the pain in vain which resulted in the pair getting the boot.

Over the last few weeks there has been an uneasy stand-off in the 9pm slot between ITV and the BBC, as they unleashed their lavish big budget dramas to ensnare the viewing public. Last night a new element was thrown in to the mix - the colossal force that is Call the Midwife (BBC One, 8pm) entered Sunday's savage gladiatorial arena of quaint period drama.

The return of the show, that has proven to be as popular as crack with middle aged women, helped sway the odds in the BBC's favour. The second series has been gestating in the protective womb of the Beeb for some time now with fans reaching a feverish level of impatience. Almost a year to the day when viewers first set their eyes on the 50' set East End drama, everyone's favourite group of ragtag special delivery personnel made a victorious return.

The show, which stars Miranda Hart and Jenny Agutter (who keeps her clothes on these days) attracted 9.3 million viewers, narrowly beating Friday's Coronation Street to reign triumphant over the whole weekend.

This may have helped encourage viewers to stick around afterwards with Ripper Street (BBC One, 9pm) improving on viewers slightly. The gentrification of an East End slum (there seems to be a theme this weekend) which naturally led to more murders pulled in 5.6 million viewers and a 21% share.

Mr Selfridge

While Ripper Street's viewers didn't see a huge change week on week, the fortunes of poor Mr Selfridge (ITV, 9pm) hinted at infeasible business plan. Last night saw the retail tycoon continue to develop what would become the familiar west end store oblivious to the fact he was missing 1 million loyal customers. Perhaps HMV were having a liquidation sale.

In a desperate bid to lure more ladies through his door, the drama even featured a scene in which Harry (to his mates) stripped off.

Alas, this wasn't enough as 5.4 million viewers tuned in for the latest episode. An audience share of 20% didn't help fight off the competition, handing the evening's success to BBC One in the process.

Overnight data is available each morning in mediatel.co.uk's TV Database, with all BARB registered subscribers able to view reports for terrestrial networks and key multi-channel stations.

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