Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the new Marvel television spin-off, became Channel 4’s biggest drama launch of the year after netting a staggering 3.1 million viewers when it premièred last night at 8pm – despite many in the UK reportedly downloading the episode illegally after it first aired in the US on Wednesday.

There was also a positive response on Twitter, with the #AgentsofSHIELD hashtag advertised on-screen in advance of the show trending across the UK.

The programme focusses on employees of the top-secret S.H.I.E.L.D. organisation dealing with the fallout of the Battle of New York seen in Avengers Assemble, with Clark Gregg reprising his silver screen role as Agent Coulson.

The final episode of The IT Crowd aired immediately afterwards and scored a markedly smaller audience of 1.4 million.