Underbelly premieres to 2.58m viewers

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The premiere of Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities skyrocketed to a staggering 2.58 million viewers.

That makes the series the highest ever scripted drama since the introduction of OzTAM People Meters in 2001.

Underbelly peaked at over 2.8 million viewers (and including regional viewers a peak of 3.9 million viewers).

The previous best for a scripted Aussie show was Kath & Kim's first episode on Channel Seven at 2.52 million viewers in 2007.

In comparison, the top show last year was the Opening Ceremony of the Beijing Olympics at 2.82 million viewers, although that was much later in the evening than Underbelly.

The huge figure more than doubled its rivals Desperate Housewives (971,000) and Good News Week (761,000). After a 2008 Victorian ban prevented the first series from passing the 2 million mark, the triumph will no doubt put a big smile on the faces of Nine executives.

Underbelly has not been without its other controversies, including a recent agreement between Nine and the Australian Communications and Media Authority to clamp down on classification issues. Last year, ACMA decreed that the show breached its "M" classification as content too hot for its timeslot.

Last week, Nine agreed to step up its monitoring of the show's racy content and promised it would not breach the guidelines for M-rated violence, nudity, language and drug use. It has opted not to air the show in an MA-rated 9:30pm timeslot because of the size and value of an 8:30pm audience. Significantly, it has disclosed its expected revenue for the timeslot to ACMA. If it breaches the M classification this time, Nine could have to pay the amount as a fine.

If you missed the premiere and want to see it again, Nine repeats it at 10:30pm this Sunday night. Rated M for "mobsters" of course…

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