The new series of ‘Britain’s Got Talent‘ is off to a flying start after the show scored its highest rating launch episode ever with 11.1 million of us tuning in.

According to ITV, the talent show attracted almost half of all TV viewers as series eight got under way on Saturday night.

The previous highest audience for a ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ launch show was in 2010, when the opening episode attracted 10.6 million viewers.

britains got talent

Among the highlights were five-piece boyband Collabro whose version of ‘Stars’ from Les Miserables won them a standing ovation, with Amanda Holden describing them as "bloody brilliant".

The judges – Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden, Alesha Dixon and David Walliams – also took to 79-year-old grandmother Paddy Jones, who danced her way into the live shows with her salsa partner Nico Espinosa, 40.

And soprano Lucy Kay, 25, had them all in tears after she revealed she had been forced to move from England to Scotland to escape bullies.

Other acts included German musician Peter Panduranga, whose love song he wrote for his wife was called "fantastically bad" by Simon Cowell, and Sean Wozencroft from Gloucester who tried to set a record for the time taken to eat a raw onion.

The show’s international appeal was confirmed with acts from as far afield as Ukraine, Greece and the United States all auditioning.

Mzz Kimberley, a 39-year-old cabaret artist originally from Detroit, Michigan, performed in a Wonder Woman costume on roller skates and made a good impression on David Walliams who told her: "If I was on Britain’s Got Talent that is the act I would do".

VIewing figures for Saturday night’s series opener peaked at 12.3 million viewers.

Peter Fincham, ITV’s director of television, said: "The fantastic overnight figures show that Britain’s Got Talent is event television, and we’re delighted that so many viewers tuned to last night’s launch episode, on what was a strong night for ITV."

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Jack Carroll <strong>In A Nutshell: </strong>Hilarious, and surprisingly touching, mini Jason Mamford <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 7 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Runner-up <strong>Who Did They Lose To?</strong> Attraction <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> In between studying for his GCSEs (!), Jack is still performing stand-up in venues all over the country, and has signed a deal with Simon Cowell to release his autobiography which will detail his childhood, living with cerebral palsy and his rise to fame on ‘BGT’.

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Richard & Adam <strong>In A Nutshell: </strong>A pair of Welsh brothers <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 7 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Finalists <strong>Who Did They Lose To?</strong> Attraction <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> Since making it to the final of last year’s show they’ve released not one but two albums, which isn’t bad at all considering their performance in the final was rather upstaged by disgruntled violinist Natalie Holt, who was seen pelting the judging panel with eggs before quickly being escorted offstage by producers.

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Gabz <strong>In A Nutshell: </strong>Onesie-wearing youngster hoping to be the next Alicia Keys <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 7 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Finalist <strong>Who Did They Lose To?</strong> Attraction <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> After wowing the judges – and the general public – with her original composition ‘The One’, Gabz released it is a single on Simon Cowell’s label, where it peaked inside the UK top ten. Not bad considering she’s just 15 years old.

  • <strong>Who?</strong> George Sampson <strong>In A Nutshell: </strong>Shy schoolboy who surprised us all with his impressive dance skills <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 2 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Winner <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> George was just 14 when he wowed us with his ‘Singing In The Rain’ breakdance performance, and his career his since gone from strength to strength. Although he found fame as a dancer, you’re more likely to see him acting these days, and has had TV roles in ‘Mount Pleasant’ as well as ‘Waterloo Road’.

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Diversity <strong>In A Nutshell: </strong>Dance troupe with a different who wowed the public with their innovative routines <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 3 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Winner <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> Undeniably one of Britain’s Got Talent’s biggest success stories, Diversity did it all following their big win – they’ve sold out UK tours, appeared in the film StreetDance 3D and become household names as individuals too – Ashley Banjo is now a judge on Sky’s ‘Got To Dance’ while Perri Kiely recently triumphed in the second series of ‘Splash!’

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Ashleigh and Pudsey <strong>In A Nutshell: </strong>One girl and her dog <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 6 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Winner <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> After becoming the first animal act to win ‘BGT’, Pudsey become an overnight household name. Later this year ‘Pudsey: The Movie’ will hit cinemas, while they have also appeared together in the ITV2 series ‘Top Dog Model’. Our favourite Ashleigh and Pudsey moment, though, was when they did a conga with Kim Kardashian on ‘Alan Carr: Chatty Man’. Despite it all Pudsey has not let fame go to his head.

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Attraction <strong>In A Nutshell: </strong>That trick you used to do with a torch when you were a kid, on a much grander scale <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 7 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Winner <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> They won Britain’s Got Talent in 2013 and since then have performed in venues all over the globe including China, Las Vegas and, of course, for the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance. Of course, their crowning achievement will always be getting the ice-hearted Simon Cowell to actually shed a tear, and they didn’t even need to threaten Squiddly and/or Diddly.

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Paul Potts <strong>In A Nutshell: </strong>He can bring a tear to your eye with his singing and fix your mobile at the same time <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 1 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Winner <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> Paul won the very first series of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ with his impressive operatic performance, and has since gone on to release albums, a memoir and even had a film made about his life, ‘One Chance’, which saw James Corden in the lead role.

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Loveable Rogues <strong>In A Nutshell: </strong>Olly Murs x3 (with instruments) <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 6 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Finalists <strong>Who Did They Lose To?</strong> Ashleigh and Pudsey <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> After coming fourth on ‘BGT’, Eddie Brett, Sonny Jay Muharrem and Te Qhairo Eugene were snapped up by Simon Cowell (surprise, surprise) and signed to his Syco label. Despite supporting Olly Murs on his UK tour, the group were dropped by Simon’s label in October 2013, and are now gearing up to release a new EP, ‘Honest’.

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Stavros Flatley <strong>In A Nutshell:</strong> Michael Flatley-inspired father (Demetri) and son(Lagi) comedy dance combo. Except Greek. With no dancing talent. <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 3 <strong>How Did They Do? </strong>Finalists <strong>Who Did They Lose To?</strong> Diversity <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> Since the show, they have been performing all over the world including gigs in Cyprus, Greece, Australia and China, and continue to do so today. They also released a book, ‘How to Be (A Little Bit) Greek’ in 2009, but Demetri ran into financial trouble in 2011 when his electrical firm went into administration.

  • <strong>Who? </strong>Shaheen Jafargholi <strong>In A Nutshell: </strong>The original Ronan Parke <strong>BGT Series: </strong>2 <strong>How Did They Do? </strong>Finalist <strong>Who Did They Lose To?</strong> George Sampson <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> Shaheen’s love of Michael Jackson saw him invited to join him at his This Is It gigs in London. After Michael suddenly died before the tour, Shaheen performed a tribute to him at the 2009 Mobo Awards. A month later he flew to the US to appear on Oprah and the Jackson family invited him to sing at Michael’s globally televised funeral memorial service. After then signing a record deal, Shaheen is still waiting to release music after plans for his album were shelved.

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Susan Boyle In A Nutshell: Reclusive Scottish spinster to international star in 24 hours <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 3 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Runner-up <strong>Who Did They Lose To?</strong> Diversity <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> She might not have won series 3 of ‘BGT’ but SuBo is by far the most successful act to have come out of the show. Her debut album ‘I Dreamed A Dream’ was the fastest selling UK debut album of all time selling 411,820 in its first week and reached No.1 on both sides of the Atlantic. She has since released another three hit albums and received two Grammy nominations. Despite being worth over £22 million, Susan still lives in a council house in Blackburn.

  • <strong>Who? </strong>Twist & Pulse <strong>In A Nutshell:</strong> Body-popping street dance duo made up of cheeky chappy pals Ashley Glazebrook (Twist) and Glen Murphy (Pulse) <strong>BGT Series: </strong>4 <strong>How Did They Do? </strong>Finalists <strong>Who Did They Lose To?</strong> Spellbound <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> After finishing second in 2010, they released a single called ‘Jump’ a year later with little success. The dancing duo then went on to support Jedward on their Irish tour before returning to the show in 2012 after setting up their own dance troupe, ‘Twist and Pulse Dance Company’, who reached the live semi finals. The lads then went up and down the country on the Olympic torch relay, performing every night at the torch stopovers.

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Escala <strong>In A Nutshell:</strong> String quartet. Definitely not fuddy-duddy. <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 2 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Finalists <strong>Who Did They Lose To?</strong> George Sampson <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> After Simon Cowell snapped the girls up and signed them to his Syco label they released their Trevor Horn-produced eponymous debut album, which reached No.2 on the UK album chart. They’ve yet to release another longplayer but have a new member in the shape of Honor Watson (replacing original member Izzy Judd, who married McFly’s Harry) and continue to tour and play private events.

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Jonathan and Charlotte <strong>In A Nutshell:</strong> Unlikely teen opera duo who did a ‘Susan Boyle’ <strong>BGT Series: </strong>6 <strong>How Did They Do? </strong>Runners Up <strong>Who Did They Lose To?</strong> Ashleigh and Pudsey <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> After signing to Simon Cowell’s Syco label for £1 million, the duo released their debut album, ‘Together’, which went gold in the UK and reached No.5 on the UK album chart – the highest every entry by a classical album into the main album chart. Unfortunately it wasn’t to last, and in February 2014 they announced they were going their separate ways as solo artists. We were very emotional, it was like H & Claire all over again…

  • <strong>Who? </strong>Flawless <strong>In A Nutshell:</strong> Street dance troupe who were definitely not like Diversity (ahem) <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 3 <strong>How Did They Do? </strong>Finalists <strong>Who Did They Lose To?</strong> Diversity Where Are They Now? The dance group may not have had what it took to beat champions Diversity in the 2009 final, but they didn’t do too badly afterwards. They appeared in the 2010 film ‘StreetDance 3D’ and its 2012 sequel ‘StreetDance 2’, and also performed with Kylie Minogue outside Buckingham Palace at The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert.

  • <strong>Who? </strong>Ronan Parke <strong>In A Nutshell: </strong>Cutie-pie singer who melted Amanda Holden’s heart BGT Series: 5 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Finalist <strong>Who Did They Lose To? </strong>Jai McDowall <strong>Where Are They Now? </strong>After a shock result which saw the firm favourite come second, Simon Cowell quickly signed Ronan in a joint deal with another label. However, his record deal was short lived after his debut album failed to set the charts alight. Ronan is still planning to release more music and performed at the Beijing New Year Gala to an estimated TV audience of 700 million.

  • <strong>Who?</strong> Only Boys Aloud <strong>In A Nutshell: </strong>Welsh choir made up of (you guessed it) only boys <strong>BGT Series:</strong> 6 <strong>How Did They Do?</strong> Finalists <strong>Who Did They Lose To?</strong> Ashleigh & Pudsey <strong>Where Are They Now?</strong> Having already achieved minor success before ‘BGT’, the all male choir were signed to Sony following the show. They teamed up with fellow series six runner-ups Jonathan and Charlotte on ‘The Prayer’ before releasing their own album in November 2012.