Arresting U.K. debut for 'Law & Order'

SPT also hails success of three series

LONDON -- ITV1's U.K.-produced version of long-running Dick Wolf drama "Law & Order" debuted with 6.4 million viewers and a 26% share Monday night, winning its 9 p.m. slot.

The hotly anticipated drama, commissioned by the network more than a year ago, stars Feema Ageyman as crown prosecutor Alesha Philips and Bradley Walsh as Detective Ronnie Brooks. Ben Daniels, Bill Paterson and Jamie Bamber, a co-star on the Sci Fi Channel's "Battlestar Galactica," also make up the key cast.

ITV originally commissioned 13 episodes but is understood to want to extend the run. Local versions also have been made in France and Russia.

Set against the backdrop of London's King's Cross area, the U.K. version uses scripts from the U.S. that have been adapted for the British legal and investigative systems. The first episode saw the team investigating the death of a baby whose body was found dumped in the backstreets and an investigation that led them into the world of London slum landlords.

Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Television International hailed three strong primetime outings in as many days for its shows in the U.K., with Season 2 of "Damages," debuting opener "The Beast" and returning series "The Shield" rolling out on terrestrial and digital channels Feb. 15-18.

The Glenn Close starrer "Damages" scored 1.7 million viewers for BBC1 on Feb. 15 in the Sunday night 10 p.m. slot, enjoying double-digit growth over last year's season finale. The drama has earned critical plaudits but, like "Mad Men," last year's other acclaimed U.S. hit, has found mainly niche appeal with viewers.

"The Beast," the investigative drama starring Patrick Swayze, proved to be the No. 1 show on Five USA, winning its 10 p.m. slot, while the return of "The Shield" on the same network also delivered a positive performance, leading Five USA's weekly primetime share to come in ahead of digital channels including Hallmark and FX.
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