The BBC drama “Bodyguard” bowed out on a high Sunday with 11 million viewers at its peak on BBC One, for a whopping 47.9% audience share. The six-part series, which Netflix is about to launch globally, is Britain’s most popular drama since “Downton Abbey.”
Starring Richard Madden (“Game of Thrones”) and Keeley Hawes (“The Durrells”), “Bodyguard” went out the gate strongly in the U.K., where it was the biggest launch for a scripted series in more than a decade.
Aside from soccer, the ratings for Sunday night’s finale make it the most-watched program of 2018 in Britain. It was the biggest drama across all channels since an episode of “Downton Abbey” on ITV in November 2011. For the BBC, it was the biggest drama since its Christmas Day episode of “Doctor Who” in 2008.
Madden plays David Budd, a war veteran-turned-cop and special protection officer who is assigned to guard Home Secretary Julia Montague (Hawes), who is targeted by mysterious assassins. Sunday’s denouement was hugely anticipated in the U.K., with the series achieving the rare feat of running weekly and becoming genuine water-cooler TV. The BBC launched the first three episodes on its iPlayer service when the series opener went out via regular broadcast, but the show ran in weekly installments thereafter.
The first episode has become the most-requested ever on iPlayer and the closer helped drive the streaming and catchup service’s biggest ever day, with 12.3 million program requests.
The final part ran to an extended 75 minutes. Series creator Jed Mercurio, whose crime series “Line of Duty” was also a hit, told BBC radio Friday that conversations with the pubcaster about a second season are just beginning. “We know that people out there are loving Series 1 and that there would be an appetite for Series 2, but we’ll just have to wait and see,” he said.
Speaking Monday about the colossal ratings, he said he was “completely stunned by the exceptional response to ‘Bodyguard.'” Simon Heath, CEO of World Productions added: “At a time when we’re told that linear TV is dying, it’s been thrilling to see the number of viewers flocking to watch ‘Bodyguard’ live.”
Netflix will drop all six episodes globally outside the U.K., including in the U.S., on Oct. 24.