SUNDAY: New female crime fighting duo Scott & Bailey helped ITV to its biggest drama launch audience in years.

The six-part detective drama, starring Suranne Jones and Lesley Sharpe, debuted with an average audience of 7.92m (31.67%) over the 9pm hour across ITV1 and ITV1 HD.

A further 262,200 (1.28%) watched an hour later on time-adjusted ITV1+1, according to overnight Barb figures supplied by Attentional.

It was one of ITVs best debut drama performances in years, even beating Downton Abbey’s first outing last year, which attracted an overnight crowd of 7.68m (30%).

The drama was also above the commercial broadcaster’s slot average of 6.43m (24.71%) for the year to date.

Scott & Bailey benefited from a strong inheritance from Britain’s Got Talent, which averaged 9.86m (40.44%) from 7.30pm to 9pm, and broadly held its audience over the period it was on air.

The detective drama also locked out competition from the first hour of action adventure film Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, which averaged an audience of 4.57m (20.9%) from 9pm to 11.20pm.

The second part of Louis Theroux: Miami Mega-Jail arrested an audience of 2.15m (8.6%) over the 9pm hour on BBC2. It was down on last week’s performance of 2.96m (11.9%).

Channel 4 aired fantasy film The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which drew 1.73m (8.9%) from 9pm to 12.20am. An additional 271,200 (2%) watched on C4+1.

Channel 5’s repeat of the Most Shocking Talent Show Moments entertained 1.17m (5.8%) between 9pm and 11.55pm.