BBC1's new period drama Call the Midwife has become a ratings monster in its second week on air, with 8.6m viewers tuning in last night at 8pm, according to overnight figures – a 31% share of the audience at that time.
Call the Midwife – which stars Jenny Agutter, Pam Ferris, Jessica Raine and Miranda Hart and tells the stories of midwives in London in the 1950s – debuted last week with 7.95m viewers. Following it at 9pm was the highly anticipated finale of Sherlock, which scored 7.9m viewers.
So Call the Midwife is a bigger hit than one of the BBC's most acclaimed and talked-about dramas of recent years – and although Sherlock performs well when catch-up viewing is taken into account, on overnight figures the 1950s midwives are now well ahead.
In this week's 9pm slot was the hyped literary dramatisation Birdsong, which lost nearly a third of Call the Midwife's audience by attracting 6m viewers (24% share).
Up against Call the Midwife on ITV1 were Dancing on Ice, which averaged 6.7m viewers, and Wild at Heart, which was seen by 5.9m.
The premiere of the film 127 Hours brought 2.3m viewers to Channel 4 at 9pm, while Channel 5's big hit was Celebrity Big Brother at 10pm, with 1.8m.