'Raising the Bar' breaks record in debut

Legal drama premiered on TNT at 10 p.m. Monday

TNT set the bar high with its new series "Raising the Bar."

The legal drama debuted commercial-free at 10 p.m. Monday with 7.7 million total viewers tuning in, making it the most-watched series premiere ever on ad-supported cable (which includes most basic cable networks with exceptions like Disney Channel), according to Nielsen Cable Fast Nationals. That beat the previous record set in 2004 by USA Network's "The 4400" (7.4 million) and also bested the 2005 debut of TNT's hit drama "The Closer" (7 million).

In the key demos, "Bar" drew 2.8 million adults 18-49 and 3.5 million adults 25-54, surpassing USA's "In Plain Sight" with the best numbers for a new series bow on ad-supported cable this year.

Steve Koonin, president of Turner Entertainment Networks, which includes TNT, was pleased with the numbers, saying it was a "very competitive" night.

"This proves we can compete with broadcast," he said. "The world of television is changing, and quality dramas will attract a large audience."

He said the numbers for "Bar," which led out of "The Closer," were the result of a "perfect storm."

"The real estate after 'The Closer' is the best real estate on all of cable television," he said (numbers for Monday night's "Closer" won't be available until Wednesday, but the show is averaging 7.2 million viewers this season). "Also it aired commercial-free, which gets people hooked into the story; we scheduled (marathons) of 'The Closer' and 'Law & Order' where we promoted (the series); and with schools all over the country going back today, it was a great TV night."

He hopes this bodes well for TNT's upcoming drama "Leverage," but "it's a double-edged sword. Everything isn't going to be the biggest ever, and we don't want to be graded every time out on becoming the biggest in history."

"Bar," from Steven Bochco and ABC Studios, stars Mark-Paul Gosselaar, Gloria Reuben and Jane Kaczmarek.