The Beeb has confirmed the first episode of Time has been viewed 8.4 million times, making the new Jimmy McGovern series its biggest new drama of 2021 so far.
The three-part tale, which also stars Stephen Graham, follows the life of a new inmate wracked with guilt over his crime as he starts life within the prison system.
After a drunken hit and run, Mark Cobden (Bean) is sentenced to four years behind bars and immediately finds himself the target of the thugs that inhabit the cells around him.
Formerly a teacher, Cobden is forced to find his feet or die trying.
Meanwhile, his family is dealing with the fallout back home, with his ex-wife (Nadine Marshall) and son, as well as his elderly parents, paying a different price for his crime.
Graham plays well-meaning guard Eric McNally, who tries to keep the peace but finds himself under threat when it’s discovered his son is now in prison elsewhere.
The series then spirals as both fall deeper into their respective problems, with unexpected friendships and alliances forming as power players begin to pick at the pair’s moral codes for their own gain.
They are joined in the cast by Downton Abbey’s Siobhan Finneran, as a nun working with the inmates, The Royle Family’s Sue Johnston, as Cobden’s terrified mum, Little Boy Blue’s Jack McMullen, as a violent inmate who could be Cobden’s undoing, and Dunkirk’s Aneurin Barnard, as a terrified cellmate who faces life behind bars.
The series has been praised for its unflinchingly dark look at prison life and the systems that operate within it.
This includes the impact sentencing has on mental health, what happens to those who need mental health access prior to sentencing, and the long-term effects of staying in prison.
All three episodes are now available on iPlayer, but that hasn’t stopped viewers making it the latest Sunday night drama to glue them to the sofa.
The series is created by Cracker and Broken writer Jimmy McGovern, and was shot around Liverpool.
Time is available now on BBC iPlayer and airs Sunday at 9pm on BBC One.
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