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Des is ITV's biggest drama launch of 2020 with 5.4 million viewers

The true-crime series starring David Tennant as serial killer Dennis Nilsen is iTV's biggest drama launch of 2020.

Des David Tennant
Published: Tuesday, 15th September 2020 at 3:55 pm

True crime drama miniseries Des became ITV's biggest drama launch of the year after 5.4 million viewers tuned in to watch the first episode on Monday night.


The three-part drama's debut episode, starring David Tennant as recently deceased prolific serial killer Dennis Nilsen, peaked with 5.9 million viewers and was watched by almost a third of all watchers – 32 per cent – across its slot, according to ITV.

The series, which continues tonight and concludes on Wednesday 16th September, claims the top spot as the most-watched drama launch this year and is joined in the top five by ITV outfits Quiz and Van Der Valk.

Des tells the true story of how police captured Dennis Nilsen, a north London-based serial killer who murdered at least 12 men and boys prior to his arrest in 1983, based on Brian Masters' biography of the criminal, Killing for Company.

Tennant acts opposite Daniel Mays (Line of Duty), who plays real-life Detective Chief Inspector Peter Jay, and Jason Watkins (W1A), who portrays Nilsen's biographer Masters.

The likes of Ron Cook (Mr Selfridge), Barry Ward (White Lines), Chanel Cresswell (This is England), Jay Simpson (Foyle's War) and Ben Bailey Smith (David Brent: Life on the Road) round out the Des cast.

In a recent interview with, David Tennant said he's relieved Nilsen isn't alive to watch the drama, explaining that the serial killer became "obsessed" with the legend of 'Des' after his arrest.

"Whenever he slipped out of public consciousness, there was almost a sense that he wanted to get back into it," he said. "That's why I'm relieved he's not alive."


"I would hate for this to go out and for him to be sitting in some cell somewhere imaging we were in any way glorifying him."

Des airs on ITV from Monday 14th September to Wednesday 16th September. Find out what else to watch with our TV Guide.

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