How did you start your week? 700,000 viewers began their November by watching the premiere of, “His Dark Materials,” this past Monday on HBO. The fantasy steampunk show, based on Philip Pullman’s novels, is a joint project between HBO and the BBC. The first season, based on Pullman’s first book, will be eight episodes long. The only HBO show to premiere with higher viewership on a Monday was the now critically acclaimed mini-series, “Chernobyl”. “Chernobyl” saw its viewership grow week to week, and there’s no doubt HBO is hoping for the same success with their newest drama.
As the show sees HBO and the BBC working together, it’s also important to note what viewership looked like across the pond. BBC One debuted the series a day ahead of time, inviting British viewers to start their journey on Sunday night. Their weekend premiere paid off, bringing 7.2 million viewers to their television screens. That makes “His Dark Materials” the largest new British series to debut in almost five years. That’s not only the largest series debut on BBC One, that’s on any channel in the country. The country’s last smash hit was based on another beloved book, “The Three Musketeers,” which debuted to an audience of 7.4 million viewers in 2014.
This is good news for both networks, and Pullman fans the world over. The author’s last trip to the screen was in 2007, when a full-length feature based on the first book in “His Dark Materials” trilogy, “The Golden Compass,” debuted in theaters. Despite a cast that included Daniel Craig, Nicole Kidman, and Ian Mckellen, the movie was a flop and no sequels were ever attempted. The television series is already ahead of its predecessor in both tone and acclaim. While the premiere was slightly rushed and very heavy with information for the uninitiated, both the darkness and the gravity of the narrative that is present on the page, though never was in theaters, were clear in the television retelling.
With seven weeks to go there is plenty of time for the show to fall short, but if we’re only looking at the evidence presented so far, “His Dark Materials” seems to be on the right track and certainly prepared for more success down the road. Episode two will premiere on BBC One this coming Sunday, November 10, and on HBO this coming Monday, November 11. There’s no doubt many humans and daemons will be ready to watch.