Underbelly pushes the boundaries at 8.30pm. Underbelly shed 52,000 viewers to average 1.273 million for its second outing last night, with most of those losses coming in Sydney where the average audience fell 42,000 to a still strong 575,000. The audience in Brisbane was slightly higher, but it eased in Perth and Adelaide. It was a powerful episode, made a little cheap and tawdry by a set of bare breasts and then a simulated sex scene. But what got me was the cocaine snorting scene involving the characters playing Carl Williams and his about to be wife, Roberta. It was a bit of a shock that it was shown so graphically in the 8.30pm timeslot. I would have thought that should have earned it a MA15+ rating. — Glenn Dyer 

Backdoor men. New Labor Feds have been advised by party whips how to avoid the meeja throng that waits outside the Reps and Senate doors each morning when parliament sits. “People were told that there’s two entrances to the building, one underneath and one at the top,” Tasmanian Labor MP Dick Adams admitted to journos this morning. “There’s a lot of new members, and I guess sometimes they might not have all the briefing papers that they might want to comment on a certain subject matter.” — Christian Kerr

Nine brings back former programmer. Les Sampson was one of the first programming people Foxtel pinched from Nine back in the late 1990s as the Pay TV business realised it needed professionals to program its channels. Sampson is now returning to Nine to help David Healy and David Gyngell — who were forced to axe Monster House yesterday after it failed in its first two outings — program the Nine stations along the East Coast. Sampson will run Nine’s daytime schedule which the Network abandoned in 2006 when it allowed Ten to grab CBS programming including Dr Phil. Nine also got rid of the soap, The Young And The Restless, which is now on pay TV. He will also be in charge of Nine’s new channels (the second high definition channel is supposed to start next month) and he will be in charge of high-def programming. Sampson was head of acquisitions at Foxtel, which meant he bought programs in consultation with Brian Walsh and Patrick Delaney. — Glenn Dyer

Last night’s TV ratings
The Winners:
 RSPCA Animal Rescue averaged 1.594 million, Seven News was second with 1.393 million, Home and Away was third with 1.273 million and Underbelly had 1.273 million (without Melbourne). Today Tonight was next 1.224 million, followed by House (1.201 million), Nine News (1.159 million), Cashmere Mafia (debuted with 1.137 million), A Current Affair (1.087 million), the 7pm ABC News (1.081 million) and Spicks And Specks (1.032 million). Lewis averaged 950,000 for two hours from 8.30pm and probably helped Seven fight off Nine. Nine ran CSI Miami in Melbourne at 8.30pm last night and it averaged 287,000.

The Losers: Back To You (993,000) and Rules of Engagement (865,000) on Ten. They both started with well over a million viewers last week, but last night, Rules of Engagement lost 260,000 viewers and Back To You lost 350,000. Cashmere Mafia averaged 1.137 million but it is another fairy floss show that insults its target audience (female viewers in the 18 to 49 age group). It is not Sex And The City. The ABC bought Stupid, Stupid Man from Foxtel and slotted it at 9pm, it averaged 687,000 up against some tough competition. The Biggest Loser, 927,000: hovering between fame and flame.

News & CA: Seven News again won nationally and in every market but Melbourne. Today Tonight won everywhere but Melbourne and drew Brisbane with ACA. Nine News and ACA both fell well under 300,000 viewers in Sydney last night. The 7 pm ABC News was second in Sydney with 322,000. Ten News averaged 846,000; the Late News/Sports Tonight, 478,000. Nightline, 176,000. The 7.30 Report, 830,000; Lateline, 239,000; Lateline Business, 118,000. SBS News, 164,000 at 6.30pm; 208,000 at 9.30pm. Dateline, 188,000. 7am Sunrise down to 391,000; 7am Today, 288,000. The gap is tightening a little.

The Stats: Seven with a share of 29.5% (25.7%) from Nine with 27.3% (30.1%), Ten with 22.9% (22.6%), the ABC with 15.6% (16.8%), and SBS with 4.6% (4.7%). Seven won all five metro markets and leads the week 28.5% to 26.6% for Nine in regional areas it was also a win to Seven with Prime/7Qld on 31.0%, WIN/NBN next for Nine with 29.0%, Southern Cross (Ten) next with 20.7%, the ABC on 14.2% and SBS on 5.0%. In the Zone 1 6 pm to 10.29 battle, Fusion Strategy reported that Seven with a share of 24.16% (27.24% on the same night of 2007) from Nine with 23.52% (22.99%), Ten with 19.24% (19.81%, Pay TV on 15.51% (12.44%), the ABC with 13.73% (13.61%) and SBS on 3.82% (unchanged).

Glenn Dyer’s comments: Underbelly was again a solid performer for Nine, but The Chopping Block fell under a million viewers to average 918,000 for an ep that was better than the first two. It won’t go the way of Monster House which was “rested” yesterday after its second failure at 7.30pm on Tuesdays (the first casualty of the year). But The Chopping Block was easily beaten by Seven’s duo of Animal Rescue and The Real Seachange. Underbelly won’t be the megahit to drag Nine back from the brink without Melbourne. Tonight RPA will dominate for Nine. Lost will do well for Seven among the younger viewers and Ten will hope Law And Order SVU again does well.

Source: OzTAM, TV Network reports, Fusion Strategy