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Posted at 2:37 PM ET, 01/20/2011

About 26 million check out Steven Tyler and JLo on "Idol" Wednesday

By Lisa de Moraes

[This blog post has been updated]

About 26.2 million people checked out the new judges on "American Idol" Wednesday.

That is the Fox franchise's smallest ever in-season debut.


The new "Idol" judges stopped in New Jersey for the first round of auditions. (Fox)

On the bright side, that's about 5 million more viewers than caught the much ballyhooed season debut of the most recent edition of ABC's "Dancing with the Stars," featuring Bristol Palin.

And, in its 10th-season debut, "Idol" still managed to attract about 2 million more more viewers than the combined efforts of ABC, CBS, NBC, and CW on the night.

The debut -- did we mention it's season 10? Of a reality TV show? -- is also, by a hefty margin, the highest-rated night of entertainment programming on any network this season.

But there's no getting around the fact that the first episode of the new "Idol" season attracted nearly 4 million fewer than the debut of the 9th season -- aka Simon Cowell's last as resident meanie.

Those 26.2 million who came to the game Wednesday witnessed Aerosmith frontman Tyler becoming the best thing that's happened to "Idol" in years: a much needed breath of let's-not-take-ourselves-too-seriously. Another treat for those who tuned in: new judge Jennifer Lopez struggling to make every moment her close-up:

See JLo wail, "This is so HARD!" at the show's only surviving judge, Randy Jackson, during New Jersey auditions.

See JLo tear at her hair as the mounting pressure of sharing camera time with all these Idolette wannabe's begins to take its toll.

See JLo's head drop -- kerplunk -- on the judges's desk when she no longer has the will to hold up her hair after telling two people they cannot sing.

Until Wednesday night, the second edition of "Idol" had recorded the singing competition's smallest debut audience: 26.5 million viewers. But that was also the show's first ever "in-season" edition.

The very first season of "Idol" actually copped its smallest numbers, though they were eye-popping at the time. That first season aired in the summer of 2002 and the show's unveiling attracted 9.9 million viewers. Technically, the summer months do not fall within the "official" broadcast-TV industry season, as set by Nielsen. I know, it's a distinction for TV wonks -- but there you are.

Time for Full Disclosure: This year's season kickoff was moved to Wednesday night; since the beginning, the show has aired with a Tuesday/Wednesday play pattern. This season Fox changed that to Wednesday/Thursday. This change may have affected the debut's audience size.

Care to join us as we go further down the ratings rabbit hole?

Very important to Fox -- and Ford and Coca-Cola and AT&T which are all back to work their ham-handed product-placement magic in the show this season -- just under 10 percent of the country's 18-49 year olds tuned in Wednesday to see how Tyler and JLo did in their first stint as judges. That's also a record low and that age bracket is Fox's ad sales break-and-butter.

Last season's debut attracted nearly 12 percent of the country's 18-49 year olds.

Fox issued an email noting that, at 9 o'clock Wednesday, "Idol" handily beat ABC's "Modern Family" -- television's No. 1 ranked scripted show among those coveted 18-49 year old (tied with ABC's "Grey's Anatomy") -- both in that age group, and among "total viewers" which actually means anyone over 2 years old.

ABC was not going to take that lying down. It issues its own email, pointing out that "Modern Family" scored is best ever ratings against "American Idol" Wednesday night.

By Lisa de Moraes  | January 20, 2011; 2:37 PM ET
Categories:  "American Idol"  
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Comments

Any word on the ratings for the second-season debut of "Hot In Cleveland"? A wonderful ep last night, including seeing Betty White's character in jail playing the harmonica, being told to shut up by her orange-jumpsuited cellmate, who turns around and shows herself to be...Mary Tyler Moore! (Turns out their characters both have ties to the Cleveland mob and knew each other way back when.) In-joke heaven. What a fun series, full of your old sitcom friends (Wayne Knight was back in his recurring role, likely marrying Jane Leeves so she won't be deported; next week's ep will have Bonnie Franklin as Valerie Bertinelli's mom -- where have we seen that before?).

The new show that followed it, "Retired At 35," isn't quite as good, though it's invariably fun to see Christine Ebersole in just about anything.

Posted by: VPaterno | January 20, 2011 12:10 PM | Report abuse

So far this season has been pretty funny! I think New Orleans has the better talent. Who do you think is the better American Idol host? Steven Tyler & Jennifer Lopez or Simon Cowell & Paula Abdul http://j.mp/isHotr-ai

Posted by: isHotr | January 20, 2011 10:32 PM | Report abuse

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