Saturday 1 October 2016

Trial of the Century flops to 64,000, but TV3 insists it wasn't about the ratings

Sean O'Grady

Published 05/05/2016 | 07:19

Pictured in Green Street Courthouse, Tom Vaughan Lawlor stars as Padraig Pearse in TV3s new 1916 commemorative three-part series Trial of the Century.
Pictured in Green Street Courthouse, Tom Vaughan Lawlor stars as Padraig Pearse in TV3s new 1916 commemorative three-part series Trial of the Century.

TV3 has insisted it never expected big ratings for Trial of the Century after audiences switched off in droves for the Padraig Pearse drama.

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Although the station gave the show heavy promotion ahead of its debut on the bank holiday weekend, viewers were not impressed, with ratings falling consistently over the three episodes.

The show drew an average audience of 91,300 for its debut broadcast, with viewership dropping to 76,500 for episode two, and plunging to 64,200 for the final instalment on Monday night.

However, TV3 admitted it never expected the series to be a ratings winner.

Trial of the Century on TV3 - Episode 1 - Tom Vaughan Lawlor as Padraig Pearce (3)
Trial of the Century on TV3 - Episode 1 - Tom Vaughan Lawlor as Padraig Pearce (3)

"We did not air it in that slot to get fantastic ratings," a TV3 spokeswoman told the Herald. "That is not what the piece was about."

With the anniversary of the republican icon's death coinciding with the bank holiday, the broadcaster said paying tribute to Pearse was more important than drawing a large audience.

"Basically, it was put on that bank holiday weekend because it was the anniversary of Padraig Pearse's death," the spokeswoman said.

"It was a piece to mark the centenary year.

Trial of the Century on TV3 - Episode 1 - Mark Huberman as George Gavan Duffy
Trial of the Century on TV3 - Episode 1 - Mark Huberman as George Gavan Duffy

"We would not expect a piece like Trial of the Century to have colossal ratings on a bank holiday weekend. It is a very heavy drama, but it was received very well."

Director Maurice Sweeney speculated the drop in viewers may have been down to the third episode's departure from the drama of the first two instalments.

Chaired by Pat Kenny, a panel of well-known jurors decided Pearse was not guilty of treason.

"Tom [Vaughan-Lawlor] and the other actors bring their own audience," he said.

"I think drama will always get people rather than sitting around talking."

Mr Sweeney acknowledged working with the drama's low-budget was a struggle, but he was happy with the end result.

"It was tough, the whole drama was done in 12 days," he said. "I think we did well."

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