ITV1's 'Lost in Austen' debuts with 3.8m

LONDON - ITV1's new time travel twist on costume drama, 'Lost in Austen', did well but came in a distant second to BBC One in last night's TV ratings with 3.8m, according to unofficial overnight figures.

The four-part programme is built on the premise that a modern bank clerk, Amanda Price (played by Jemima Roper of Sky One drama 'Hex'), discovers a gateway in her flat to the world of her favourite book, Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice'.

There was an extra twist in that the book's main character Elizabeth Bennet remains in Price's flat in Hammersmith.

Elizabeth Bennet is played by Gemma Arterton who stars alongside Daniel Craig in the forth coming Bond movie 'Quantum of Solace' as well as appearing in Guy Richie's new film 'RocknRolla'. Atherton is also putting on her bonnet again for BBC One's soon to air 'Tess of the D'Urbervilles'

The first quarter-hour of 'Lost in Austen' drew 4.2m viewers, while 5.7m tuned in to BBC One's 'Who Do You Think You Are?' with Esther Rantzen.

But after that ITV1's audience dropped down to 3.6m and BBC One's climbed to 6.5m, as some viewers decided this Austen wasn't their cup of tea.

The result was that BBC One earned 6.2m and a 27% share across the 9pm-10pm slot to ITV1's 3.8m and 16.6% share.

Among those who enjoyed 'Lost in Austen' was the Daily Telegraph's TV critic James Walton, who concluded "it does triumphantly achieve its main aim of being enormously good-natured fun". The Times agreed, giving it four out of five and describing it as "a funny, clever breeze".

However, the Independent decided that "not quite enough happens in the way of culture clash".

Critics aside, ITV1's audience was substantially higher than the 3.2m who opted for 'Big Brother', representing a 13.8% share of viewing for Channel 4.

Including the ratings for its Channel 4+1 outing, 'Big Brother' drew 3.5m and a 15.2% share.

Five's 'Rory and Paddy's Great British Adventure' brought in 1.3m viewers and a 5.5% share at 9pm-10pm.

BBC Two offered the night's heaviest fare with 'God on Trial', a one-off 90-minute drama about Auschwitz prisoners trying God for breaking his covenant with the Jews. It managed 721,000 viewers and a 3.3% share in its 9pm-10.30pm slot.

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