Singer HRVY has become the new favourite to win Strictly Come Dancing – as viewing figures shot up from last year.
The programme, which attracted 9.3 million viewers on Saturday, was the most-watched show across all channels, the BBC said.
It saw Strictly’s first same-sex couple, Nicola Adams and Katya Jones, wow the judges.
Meanwhile, former home secretary Jacqui Smith languished at the bottom of the leaderboard.
Bookmakers now predict she will be first out of the programme.
The first live programme in the series drew a 44.6% audience share and a peak of 10.1 million.
The 9.3 million average is up from last year’s equivalent overnight figure of 7.7 million.
Singer HRVY is favourite to win following his performance, which judge Motsi Mabuse declared “was the best first dance I have ever seen”.
He and Janette Manrara closed the show with a jive and shot straight to the top of the leaderboard, with 25 points.
The show returned on BBC One with a thank you to NHS frontline workers, who were invited to be in the audience at a social distance.
Olympic boxer Adams and Jones danced the quickstep as part of Strictly’s first same-sex couple.
Mabuse said she had been intrigued to see what the pair would come up with.
“I have to say I was very curious, ‘How is it all going to happen? How is it going to turn out?’” she said.
“And you haven’t disappointed me … We loved it, keep going.”
Craig Revel Horwood said the dance was “absolute dynamite” while Shirley Ballas said Jones was a “genius” for coming up with the choreography.
“I’m a dancer baby,” Adams exclaimed and the three judges awarded the pair a total of 21 points.
Ex-home secretary Smith finished last on the leaderboard after taking to the dancefloor with Anton Du Beke to perform a foxtrot with top hats.
“This is my chance to show you can have a new adventure even when you’re getting on a bit,” Smith said.
She played on her former career as a politician, with a dance which began with Smith pretending to be a candidate sitting next to a ballot box.
Revel Horwood had plenty of criticisms but also some good news.
“When you consider Theresa May and her dancing, I think you’re 10 times better than that,” he said.
The pair were awarded 13 points by the judges.
EastEnders actress Maisie Smith and Gorka Marquez impressed judges with a samba, scoring 24 points.
Made In Chelsea star Jamie Laing, who was invited back for a second year after having to leave the last series when he was injured, was the first to dance live on this year’s show.
Laing said afterwards he was “nearly physically sick” at the prospect of dancing first, doing the cha cha cha with Karen Hauer.
Claudia Winkleman and Tess Daly paid tribute to NHS workers before the celebrities took to the dancefloor.
“We have invited some very special people to be in our audience tonight. We are delighted to be joined by some of our incredible frontline NHS workers,” Daly said.
“Thank you so much for everything you have done for us and everything you continue to do, and we really hope you enjoy tonight,” Winkleman told the NHS workers.
The show also saw performances from actress Caroline Quentin, Good Morning Britain presenter Ranvir Singh, former marine and TV presenter JJ Chalmers, DJ Clara Amfo, The Wanted singer Max George, former NFL star Jason Bell and comic Bill Bailey.
Bruno Tonioli made a short appearance on video, from the US, and will return to the show later in the series.
A celebrity will not be voted out until next week.