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'American Idol' finale defies the odds and posts ratings gain for first time in years

May 26, 2011 | 11:18 am

"American Idol" defied just about every expectation this season, right down to the very end. Even though many skeptics expected the show to cave without Simon Cowell, the Wednesday finale of Fox's singing smash delivered more viewers than the previous season's for the first time in three years.

The two-hour extravaganza — really, a star-packed variety show with two minutes of results at the end — logged 29.3 millon total viewers, up a big 21% compared with last season, according to early figures from the Nielsen Co. Among the musical acts appearing were Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Tim McGraw and Jack Black. Scotty McCreery was crowned the winner of the show, with fellow country crooner Lauren Alaina as runner-up.

The finale did not produce an "Idol" record; the Season 2 finale crowning Ruben Studdard averaged 38.1 million total viewers. Still, the Wednesday numbers were a notable achievement for a show wrapping up its 10th season and missing its purported star in Cowell, the "mean judge" of years past.

In the key group of adults ages 18 to 49, "Idol" scored a 9.2 rating, compared with an 8.2 last season. The show, with its steadily aging audience, had not posted year-to-year growth in that category in five years.

Trackers, what did you think of the finale? Will you watch "Idol" again next year?


And the 'Idol' winner is ....

Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina face off

Did the data predict Scotty's win?

— Scott Collins (

Photo: Scotty McCreery was the victor on "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker/Fox.