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Ellen era of 'American Idol' starts strong; 'Past Life' needs CPR; Leno fades away

February 10, 2010 | 10:41 am


The Ellen DeGeneres era of "American Idol" got off to a solid start Tuesday night for Fox, with almost 28 million viewers tuning in to watch her pass judgment on wannabe superstars. DeGeneres, who has replaced Paula Abdul, didn't make waves in her debut and there were no major conflicts or dirty looks between her and Simon Cowell.

For "American Idol," the 27.7 million viewers and 10.1 rating in adults 18-49 (each rating point in that demographic equals about 1.3 million people), is the second-biggest number for the talent show this season. Last month's season premiere drew 29.9 million viewers and a 11.8 rating in adults 18-49.

More importantly for Fox, last night's "American Idol" -- the judges kicked off the arduous two-week process of weeding out the pool of singers to less than 100 -- had slightly higher numbers than the same episode last year, which is always a good sign. And when compared with ratings data from last week's show, Tuesday's episode also posted double-digit gains in viewers and adults 18-49. Of course, viewer interest is high at this point of the show's run.

The strong numbers for "American Idol" at 8 p.m. didn't do much for "Past Life," Fox's new drama. About two-third's of the "American Idol" audience disappeared at 9 p.m. and the worse news was that the show lost more than 30% of its audience in its second half-hour.

While DeGeneres' appearance on "American Idol" was heavily watched and talked about (the morning shows milked it for all it was worth Wednesday morning), there was no big tune in for Jay Leno's final prime-time show on NBC. Leno, who was officially fired by Donald Trump last night (where was he back in September?), finished third with 5.9 million viewers and a 1.8 rating in adults 18-49.

For the night, Fox won in viewers and among adults 18-49, followed by CBS, NBC (thanks to "The Biggest Loser") and ABC.

-- Joe Flint

Photo: "American Idol." Credit: Michael Becker / Associated Press