MEDIA: DOCTOR ZHIVAGO - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. ITV's Doctor Zhivago adaptation doesn't feel a TV-by-committee production, Jeremy Lee reports

As if to prove ITV has really turned the corner, it put on a lavish evening to premiere its adaptation of Doctor Zhivago, with invitations sent jointly from the two new and unlikely lovebirds Charles Allen and Michael Green.

Among the celebrities present for the Champagne reception and screening of the first episode at the Criterion Theatre were Sam Neill, Des Lynam, the bloke who plays Curly Watts (who fortunately stayed away from the bar) and Stuart Prebble.

Granada invested $1 million in acquiring the rights to the adaptation and spent, it is rumoured, a further $11 million making it. This shows remarkable commitment and faith in the adaptation bringing ABC1s back to its Sunday nights. But has it got its money's worth and will the audiences follow?

Well, on the basis of only having seen the first of three 90-minute episodes, I sincerely hope so. It is a quality production, shot on location in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, with none of the scrimping on cost and appealing to the lowest common denominator that has become almost universal in British television in general, and ITV's offering in particular.

The dramatisation will appeal to ABC1 women, although given its scheduling and the agreement ITV has secured with the BBC, which was threatening to screen its adaptation of Daniel Deronda at the same time, it should be required family viewing in the run-up to Christmas.

While it would be easy to make comparisons between Granada's Doctor Zhivago and its production of Jewel in the Crown two decades ago, both are TV events and it is understandable ITV wanted to trumpet its arrival to the schedules this Sunday.

There are both similarities and differences between the two productions.

Jewel in the Crown was made at a time when Granada wasn't cash-strapped and run by accountants, and ITV had a monopoly on the commercial TV market.

Despite this, it still took well over a decade for the series to pay for itself.

But the shape of the TV landscape has changed - Granada co-produced Doctor Zhivago with Evision, WGBH Boston and in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Nine Network Australia. This brought the risk of a TV production which was created by committee but, fortunately (and thanks to Granada's executive producer Andy Harries), it doesn't seem to have suffered.

While Doctor Zhivago lacks the film quality of Jewel in the Crown - you are aware that you are watching a TV drama rather than a movie - it is still a remarkable achievement for ITV. The casting and acting is good, although the presence of the ginger teenager from the dire BBC sitcom My Family playing Pasha Antipov may come across as a little surprising. Keira Knightley, playing Lara Guishar, is the real star.

While everyone left the screening with a warm feeling towards ITV, I was left wondering where the co-host of the evening, Green, was. Perhaps he and Charles had had a row.

- Jeremy Lee, Campaign's media reporter, is now far too old to stand a chance with Keira Knightley.

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