Sixties-set medical drama Breathless premiered on ITV1 in the UK on Thursday night with 3.7M viewers (including +1s) for a 17.5% share in the overnights. That was consistent with the slot average and was enough for the show to top other entries at 9 PM. Co-produced by ITV Studios and Masterpiece, the six-part drama about a group of doctors and nurses working in a London hospital draws inevitable comparisons to Mad Men given the stylish period look – not to mention the tag line, “Perfect lives built on lies.” It kicks off in 1961 and focuses on the changing roles of women at a time when abortion was still illegal, the contraceptive pill was only just available to married women and moral codes were shifting. Breathless is co-created, written and exec produced by Paul Unwin who was in Cannes at the Mipcom TV market earlier this week to talk up the series along with stars Jack Davenport and Zoe Boyle. The trio agreed with the oft-touted notion that today’s is a Golden Age of television, and especially for British period drama. A veteran of shows like Casualty and Shameless, Unwin credited Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes with opening things up, especially for showrunners. Davenport, who also starred in NBC’s Smash, also cited HBO for fostering more ambitious and nimble telvision. If Breathless hits its mark, the storyline could carry on to 1968. PBS Masterpiece will air the first season in the U.S. in 2014.

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