(Not so wonderful) Copenhagen for BBC4

8.30am: BBC4's heavily promoted adaptation of Michael Frayn's award-winning play Copenhagen attracted just 18,000 viewers, writes Claire Cozens.

BBC4's heavily promoted adaptation of Michael Frayn's award-winning play Copenhagen has been a ratings flop, attracting just 18,000 viewers.

Despite glowing reviews and heavy advance publicity on BBC1 and 2 and Radio 4, the play put on hardly any extra viewers for the channel when it was shown between 9pm and 10.40pm last Thursday.

When BBC4 screened an adaptation of the controversial Falklands Play in April it peaked at more than 170,000 viewers - nearly 10 times the number that watched Copenhagen.

Frayn's play, based on a 1941 meeting between two physicists who were on opposite sides during the second world war, proved hugely popular when it was performed at the National Theatre in the late 1990s.

The television adaptation was almost universally praised, with the Guardian's Gareth McLean describing it as "a case study of how to transfer a stage play to the small screen with aplomb and dignity, giving proper writing and proper acting the care and attention they deserve".

But even heavy advance publicity and a star-studded cast that included Francesca Annis, Stephen Rea and Daniel Craig could not bring in the viewers.

The play's poor performance is bound to reignite criticism of the BBC for spending licence fee payers' money on programmes that appeal to so few people.

BBC4, which is available only on digital networks, made scarcely a dent in the viewing figures when it launched, attracting an average of 11,000 viewers on its first night on March 3.

In August it averaged only a 0.1% share of multichannel viewing - less than for the specialist channels Men & Motors and UK Food.


Claire Cozens

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
BBC4 goes weird and wonderful with abstract idents and new shows | John Plunkett
The channel’s editor, Cassian Harrison, is dismantling its branding and says he is excited about a range of new series. By John Plunkett

John Plunkett

08, Sep, 2014 @1:05 PM

Article image
Budget boost for BBC4

11.30am: As the channel prepares to celebrate its second birthday next week, BBC4 bosses have been handed an extra £10m to help them find the next Alan Clark Diaries, reports John Plunkett.

John Plunkett

24, Feb, 2004 @11:35 AM

BBC4 unveils winter and spring lineup

Jessie Wallace and Kelvin MacKenzie both feature in BBC4's winter and spring 2007 lineup. By Chris Tryhorn.

Chris Tryhorn

17, Jan, 2007 @11:10 AM

BBC4 ventures into costume drama

8am: Highbrow digital channel BBC4 is to make its first venture into costume drama with an adaptation of a trilogy of novels set in London in the 30s. By Chris Tryhorn.

Chris Tryhorn

19, Nov, 2004 @7:39 AM

Article image
Thriller hits high for BBC4

5pm: BBC1 thriller State of Play may have lost the ratings battle to ITV, but a preview episode on BBC4 gave the digital channel its biggest ever audience. By Jason Deans.

Jason Deans

19, May, 2003 @4:04 PM

BBC4 goes mad for science

8am: BBC4 will maintain its highbrow credentials with a three-part series on quantum physics, which forms part of its Science You Can't See mini-season. By Leigh Holmwood.

Leigh Holmwood

12, May, 2006 @8:18 AM

Article image
Smith raises doubts over BBC4

3.30am: Chris Smith has criticised Tessa Jowell's decision to give the green light to the digital channel. By Jessica Hodgson.

09, Nov, 2001 @4:08 PM

Article image
BBC4 commissions Enid Blyton biopic
Drama expected to focus on Noddy and Famous Five author's troubled private life. By Ben Dowell

Ben Dowell

05, Mar, 2009 @7:15 AM

Article image
BBC4 to resurrect After Dark

Notorious late night chat show After Dark, on which the late Oliver Reed once drunkenly tried to kiss a leading feminist writer, is being brought back by BBC4. By Jason Deans.

Jason Deans

28, Jan, 2003 @2:50 PM

Article image
BBC4 gets new look

8am: Digital arts and culture channel BBC4 is launching a new onscreen look later this month, using idents based around optical illusions. By Jason Deans.

Jason Deans, broadcasting editor

07, Sep, 2005 @2:37 PM