Sir Alan hauls in 8.1m for first view of Apprentices

LONDON - The fifth series of the 'The Apprentice' debuted with 8.1m viewers last night, almost 5m ahead of ITV1, as a third of the audience tuned in to BBC One to see the candidates fighting it out to become Sir Alan Sugar's fifth hire, according to unofficial overnight figures.

The 8.1m strong audience is a considerable leap from the 6.4m who tuned into watch the first of the fourth series, which gathered steam as it attracted 8.9m viewers for its final episode in which Lee McQueen won.

In the first of 12 instalments business strategist Anita Shah was the first to be kicked off the show after her team failed in a challenge to start up a car cleaning company.

The series demonstrated its staying power when 3m, a 15.1% share, decided to watch the 10pm-10.30pm round-up studio-based show 'The Apprentice: You're Fired' on BBC Two.

BBC Two had earlier put up Alan Whicker against Alan Sugar in the 9pm-10pm slot. The veteran journalist and travel broadcaster returned to screens for the first of a four-part series in which he reviews his career; 'Alan Whicker: Journey of a Lifetime', managing 2m viewers and an 8.1% share.

After BBC One, the slot's best audience went to ITV1 as 'Taggart' brought in 3.3m viewers, giving the channel a 13.3% share.

The ninth of 13 'Grand Designs' episodes secured a 10.5% share for Channel 4. It was watched by 2.8m on Channel 4 and then by 198,000 on Channel 4+1.

Five managed 1.4m viewers and a 5.7% share for 'Extraordinary People: Tree Man - The Cure'.