The first episode of BBC One's four-part dramatisation of Thomas Hardy's novel edged Sunday night with 5.7m viewers and a 23.4% share of the 9pm-10pm audience.
The heroine Tess is played by Gemma Arterton, who stars in the next Bond film, 'Quantum of Solace' and will be the face of Avon's Bond Girl 007 fragrance.
'Agatha Christie's Poirot', starring David Suchet and Zoe Wanamaker, attracted 5m viewers on ITV1 and a 23.8% share of the 9pm-11pm audience.
Channel 4's 'Bring Back Star Wars' documentary, following comedian Justin Lee Collins as he attempted to track down and reunite the biggest names from the cast of the original 'Star Wars' trilogy, including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher, netted 1.9m viewers and an 8.4% share of the 9pm-10.40pm audience. Including Channel 4+1 it reached 2m viewers.
'Earth: The Climate Wars' continued on BBC Two with last night's episode, investigating the counter attack launched by global warming sceptics in the 1990s, attracting 1.6m viewers and a 6.7% share of the 9pm-10pm audience.
It beat Five's airing of the film 'Ronin', starring Robert De Niro, which pulled in 992,000 viewers and a 5.3% share of the 9pm-11.30pm audience.
Earlier in the day 3.4m viewers (34.1%) tuned in to watch ITV1's coverage of the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix from 12pm to 3.15pm
Viewing peaked at 4.9m as people tuned in to see 21-year old Sebastian Vettel of the Toro Rosso team make history by becoming the youngest Grand Prix winner to date.
On Saturday night BBC One's 'Strictly Come Dancing' returned for a sixth series with the first programme introducing contestants such as actor Phil Daniels, political correspondent John Sergeant, model Jodie Kidd and singer Rachael Stevens.
Shown at 6.30-7.30pm to avoid a clash with 'X-Factor', 'Strictly Come Dancing' drew 6m viewers and a 32.6% share of viewing, beating ITV1's 'You've Been Framed', which managed 4.3m and a 23% share.
'X-Factor', on at 7.30-8.30pm, continues to deliver a massive boost to ITV1 with the latest audition stage bringing in 9.4m viewers and a 43.1% share.
BBC One's 'The National Lottery: Who Dares Wins', in the same slot, got just 4m viewers and an 18.5% share, before the BBC recovered the lead with 'Casualty' at 8.15-9.15pm getting 5.3m against ITV1's 'All Star Family Fortunes' 5.1m.
On Friday night, ITV1 enjoyed a revival in its fortunes as Robson Green detective drama 'Wire in the Blood', scheduled at 9pm-10pm, pulled in an encouraging 5.6m viewers.
The first in a new series of the drama earned a 26.1% share, coming in well ahead of Channel 4's post-'Big Brother' offering, 'Ugly Betty', which was watched by 1.8m giving it an 8.4% share. Including Channel 4+1 ratings, 'Ugly Betty' was seen by 2m.
BBC One's 9pm-9.30pm helping of comedians Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse, 'Harry and Paul, managed 3.2m viewers and a 15% share.