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Viewers brand new drama Ackley Bridge a ‘Poundshop Waterloo Road’

They think there's one saving grace, though...

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Television viewers have said Channel 4′s new school drama Ackley Bridge is just “a budget version of Waterloo Road”.

The drama depicting the merging of two segregated schools – one predominantly white, one predominantly Asian – debuted on Wednesday night.

But viewers were largely unimpressed, declaring that it was a poor imitation of the award-winning BBC series Waterloo Road, which wrapped in 2015.

“So far this is like a budget version of waterloo road,” said another, while one disgruntled viewer deemed it “cheap and weird”.

Others said the series was only different in that it had a race issue thrown in.

The series, set in the fictional Yorkshire mill town of Ackley Bridge, features several television newcomers as well as established stars such as Jo Joyner and Sunetra Sarker.

But it was former EastEnders actor Paul Nicholls who proved to be one of the high points for viewers.

One even said that having Paul in the cast gave Ackley Bridge the edge: “Waterloo road didn’t have Paul Nicholls though did it? #AckleyBridge for the win!!!”

Former EastEnder Paul plays PE teacher Steve Bell; he is married to headteacher Mandy Carter.

She has been placed in charge of running Ackley Bridge academy and ensuring the transition runs smoothly – which, of course, it promises not to.

Jo says of the role: “It was nice to have a woman at the head of the school and she is completely career driven.

“She has worked so hard to lead this new venture that she has neglected her home life.

“She is determined, organised and possibly a little bit fierce at work but at home and relationship life is less in her control.

“You see that contradiction in a lot of great women – and I like that about her.”

Jo has been reunited with actress Sunetra, who plays mum and dinner lady Kaneeza Paracha.

They worked together on classic noughties Channel 4 drama No Angels.

Amy-Leigh Hickman – who recently played Linzi, the under-age schoolgirl that got Jay into trouble in EastEnders – stars as school pupil Nazreen, Kaneeza’s daughter.