‘Band’ boffo in Blighty

Over 5 million viewers tuned in Spielberg-Hanks mini

LONDON — British TV premiere of “Band of Brothers,” the HBO WWII miniseries by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks, has proved a spectacular success — making the pubcaster’s decision to bump the pricey, high-profile epic from flagship BBC1’s fall sked seem foolish.

More than 5 million viewers tuned in to the opening double episode on niche net BBC2 Friday night, which won an impressive 24% audience share according to overnight ratings.

The BBC coughed up a record 7 million pounds ($10 million) for the skein. But execs moved it to BBC2 amid fears that it would not be mainstream enough.

In fact, “Band of Brothers,” hailed by one U.K. critic as “a major and significant piece of television,” beat ITV’s ratings-banker “The Bill,” one of Blighty’s top police series, which drew4.7 million viewers.

A summer row blew up in the British press after local war vets, annoyed about Hollywood rewriting war history, claimed the storyline gave the impression that America won the war single-handedly.

Now it seems likely that the current tensions following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the U.S. may have helped “Band of Brothers,” which was filmed in the U.K., attract a larger aud.

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