By James Hibberd
Updated September 07, 2011 at 10:07 PM EDT

After a barrage of headlines in recent weeks, Bravo’s Real Housewives of Beverly Hills returned Monday night to strong ratings.

The second season premiere delivered 2.2 million viewers, up a steep 42 percent from the first season premiere last year. This news is tempered by the fact that Housewives of Beverly Hills grew during its first season run and concluded with a finale of 2.8 million viewers, so one might have expected — given the controversy — the second season premiere audience to be higher than this. BUT, then again, the show did return on a holiday weekend, which can often result in lower ratings, and Bravo pulled its premiere advertising for the show in the wake of Russell Armstrong’s suicide (not that the network, you know, needed the ads anymore anyway). So all these things considered: Strong numbers for the show’s return.