Rowan Atkinson helped ITV to a ratings winner over the bank holiday weekend, making his debut as the French detective Maigret in the new series of the same name, and netting nearly 6 million viewers in the process.

Reviews and reactions were mixed to the 61 year old’s portrayal of the detective Jules Maigret, created by Georges Simenon in a series of 75 novels that began in the 1930s. However, his performance was enough to attract 5.7 million viewers and earn ITV a 28.1% share of the audience in its 9pm slot.

Rowan AtkinsonRowan Atkinson plays the French detective 'Maigret' in a new two-part ITV series

It resoundingly beat the BBC’s offering of Marvel Avengers Assemble, with the all-star Hollywood ensemble managing just 3.1 million viewers (14.2% audience share).

It’s the first time that the pipe-smoking, brooding Maigret has been portrayed on TV screens since Michael Gambon’s famous take on the role for ITV in 1992 and 1993. Other actors to play the role in the past include Charles Laughton and French star Bruno Cremer.

More: Rowan Atkinson’s wife divorces him on grounds of ‘unreasonable behaviour’

But some were unsure about the wisdom of casting Atkinson, famed as a comedy actor in 'Mr. Bean' and 'Blackadder', in such a comparatively serious role.

“I was not sure, at first, why the team involved chose to do one of the Simenon books that was covered during the Michael Gambon years,” wrote Lucy Mangan of the Guardian. “Then I wasn't sure about Rowan Atkinson, who erred more and more on the side of 'blankly sullen, possibly depressed' than 'measured, ruminative and, you know, Maigret-ish' as time went on.”

For the Daily Mail, Sara Wallis thought: “Although Maigret is plugging away, pinning clues on his notice board and stroking his chin, he can’t solve the crime.”

Some were more positive, with The Telegraph’s Gerard O’Donovan writing: “Inspector Maigret took some adjusting to… But Atkinson's chameleon-like qualities gradually asserted themselves. He spoke sparingly, as if every word was weighed in advance.”

More: Tony Robinson says he thinks a new ‘Blackadder’ series is on the cards