Forget the preamble, let's get straight to the pointed finger. This appears to be the consensus among viewers of the new series of The Apprentice. This week hundreds of thousands tuned in only to watch the bit when Lord Sugar fires someone, rather than sit through the preceding 55 minutes.
The ninth series, in which the 14 remaining Apprentices compete for investment of £250,000 by the business mogul, has seen the worst audience figures for an opening episode since the programme moved from BBC2 to BBC1 six years ago.
Tuesday night’s episode commanded an average 6 million viewers – but at least 660,000 appear to have watched nothing but the final five minutes of the show in which Lord Sugar jabs his finger at the least impressive Apprentice and utters his trademark “You’re fired!”.
Official BARB overnight ratings show that the episode started with 5.66 million viewers when it started on BBC1 at 9pm. But by 9.55pm the viewership had peaked to 6.32 million.
The average viewing figures for last year’s series was 6.41 million, meaning series nine has lost around 400,000 of its audience.
Historically The Apprentice has been one of the BBC’s highest-rating non-soap programmes. But it has drawn criticism for its formulaic nature, as the Apprentices compete in samey tasks designed to test their business acumen every week.
Producers behind this series have notably chosen contestants with very strong personalities. On Tuesday night the show was responsible for 80 per cent of all TV-related activity on Twitter as viewers responded, often negatively, to the latest crop of contenders.
Lord Sugar said during the first episode that he was “Sick of cliches”, but those hoping to impress him seem only to talk in well-worn platitudes.
Luisa Zissman, 25, retail entrepreneur reveals she has“the energy of a Duracell bunny, sex appeal of Jessica Rabbit, and a brain like Einstein”; marketing man Myles Mordaunt, 39, calls himself “business perfection personified”; while Zeeshaan Shah, 27, property investment CEO takes the hyperbole to a new level with: “I’m a ‘Great’ of my generation. I’m an innovator and a leader in business. I take inspiration from Napolean; I am here to conquer.”
The first episode saw the departure of42-year-old former teacher Jaz Ampaw-Farr; last night Tim Stillwell, 23-year-old Mexican food entrepreneur, left the show. He had embarrassingly drawn attention to himself at the end of the first task by launching into a speech about how Lord Sugar had not seen the best of him.