LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Martha Stewart launched her version of NBC reality hit "The Apprentice" to disappointing ratings and criticism that the domestic diva and ex-con needs to be a nastier TV boss.

Stewart, who gently fired her first corporate wannabe by saying, "Jeff, you just don’t fit in," drew only 7.7 million viewers to her highly anticipated premiere on Wednesday night. She finished a distant second behind a recap of ABC’s "Lost," according to Nielsen Media Research.

That marked the smallest audience, by far, for a debut episode of NBC’s vaunted "Apprentice" franchise featuring real estate tycoon Donald Trump and his curt signature phrase, "You’re fired."

Trump, who averaged 14 million viewers last spring, returned to the NBC schedule on Thursday to launch the fourth instalment of his show.
NBC said the debut of "Apprentice: Martha Stewart," which followed her recent return to syndicated daytime television, failed to live up to expectations.

"The numbers are clearly not where we wanted them to be with the premiere," NBC spokesman Jeff DeRome told Reuters. "But the competitive landscape was an unusual one, and you’ve got to hang in there."

NBC hopes Stewart will do better later in the season against comedies set to air on rival networks ABC and CBS.