GET your retaliation in early is a sentiment perfectly well understood by Becky Sharp, the grasping anti-heroine of William Makepeace Thackeray’s 1847 novel Vanity Fair. It’s a pity for Olivia Cooke, who plays her in ITV’s glossy new adaptation, that the channel didn’t take a leaf out of its own book and follow Becky’s example. Although Vanity Fair launched with the (now familiar) Sunday night-Monday night double whammy, it came a week after the BBC premiered The Bodyguard in the same manner and it suffered as a result, drawing less than half as many viewers. Or maybe there were other reasons. Has living in a tumultuous age of real-life political dramas sharpened our appetite for fictionalised ones? Or have we just reached peak-costume drama?

Not that this Vanity Fair is in any way fusty or old-fashioned. Writer Gwyneth Hughes and director James Strong have made sure of that. As Cooke’s arch, selfie-ready, to-camera asides make clear, this is a story all too easily applied to the age of Love Island and Instagram self-promotion. Anyone with any lingering doubts about that had them dispelled entirely when the credits rolled on episode two and Madonna’s Material Girl kicked in. See what they did there? Yup. Couldn’t miss it.

The first episode saw the big guns of British acting wheeled out one after another, namely Simon Russell Beale as John Sedley, father of Becky’s friend Amelia, Clare Skinner as Mrs Sedley, Suranne Jones as Miss Pinkerton, Becky’s former employer, and Martin Clunes as the irascible Sir Pitt Crawley. For episode two, enter Frances de la Tour as Sir Pitt’s rich, domineering, champagne-swilling sister Matilda, Tom Bateman as handsome rogue Rawdon Crawley (Sir Pitt’s son and Matilda’s favourite nephew) and the always-welcome Sian Clifford (Phoebe Waller’s Bridge’s disapproving big sister in the brilliant Fleabag). She plays Rawdon’s disapproving sister-in-law Martha Crawley.

It's all rumbustious good fun and in Olivia Cooke, last seen playing an American in Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi thriller Ready Player One, Vanity Fair has a lead actress well able to walk the necessary line between comedy and drama while also keeping the audience rooting for Becky even when she’s in full-on gold-digger mode. Which is most of the time.

There are mis-steps, however. Most glaring is the appearance of Michael Palin, playing Thackeray himself. So far his only actions have been to introduce each episode in a dreamy, fantastical opening section with the words “This is Vanity Fair. A world where everyone is striving for what is not worth having”, then snap his fingers to set a merry-go-round turning. So far it has seemed at odds with what has followed. And what’s with the dreadful theme tune, a cover version of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower given a ponderous, gloomy arrangement better suited to a Scandi Noir than a colour-drenched period romp? Maybe all will be revealed in time.