Jeremy Piven Drama, New Diving Show Bring U.K.'s ITV Strong Weekend Ratings

4:21 AM PST 01/07/2013 by Georg Szalai

The eighth season return of reality series "Dancing on Ice," featuring Pamela Anderson, brought in its weakest audience figures for a season opener in the show's history.

U.K. commercial TV network operator ITV had strong weekend ratings for anticipated new series, such as Jeremy Piven drama Mr Selfridge and Splash! a reality show that sees celebrities learning to dive, as well as returning celebrity reality series Dancing on Ice

New ITV1 drama Mr Selfridge, starring Piven as U.S. retail magnate Harry Selfridge, drew an average of nearly 7.3 million viewers. That gave Mr Selfridge, set for its U.S. debut on PBS in late March, a 28.6 percent share of the TV audience in the 9pm Sunday slot that late last year once again featured hit costume drama Downton Abbey.

The show's first episode drew an audience that was only marginally down from what the slot has on average reached over the past three months. The Guardian said the ratings decline amounted to only 0.4 percent.

Mr Selfridge beat out the second episode of BBC Jack the Ripper mini-series Ripper Street, which drew an average of 5.4 million viewers. It kicks off in the U.S. on BBC America later this month.

Meanwhile, Dancing on Ice kicked off its eighth season with an average of 8.06 million viewers for ITV1. Its results show, which later in the night saw Pamela Anderson become the first celebrity to be eliminated this season, drew 7.2 million. The show boosted ITV1's average slot rating, but its ratings meant the lowest season opener in the its history.

On Saturday night, ITV1 had also seen a strong bow of Splash!, which sees celebrities taking the plunge from the diving tower. Comedian Omid Djalili and British ski jumping veteran Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards are being instructed by Olympic diver Tom Daley.

While some reviewers and viewers felt the show was a bellyflop, it drew an average of 5.6 million viewers, a quarter of the total TV audience at the time. At its peak, 6.3 million viewers tuned in.

British comedian and actor John Thomson was among the critics of the show based on a Dutch format. "Thank God I didn't agree to do #splash," he tweeted. "God help us! Yet another all-time low for television."

But Djalili defended the show on Twitter. "Seriously. #Splash most surreal Saturday night TV show ever," he said. "But it'll go global."

In the U.S., ABC has picked up the diving format.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai

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