American Idol 4 debuts with 33.6 million viewers, FOX’s third biggest night ever.

American Idol 4 debuts with 33.6 million viewers, FOX’s third biggest night ever.
The third most watched evening in FOX history was Tuesday night, as the network’s debut of American Idol 4 was watched by 54 million, who tuned in at some point, and an average of 33.6 million viewers overall. That’s “only 4 million short of the most watched ‘Idol’ episode ever, the second-edition finale in May 2003, when Ruben Studdard beat Clay Aiken,” according to the Washington Post. The two-hour episode was also “the most watched TV broadcast since the ‘Friends’ finale in May and the most watched season debut since that of ‘Friends’ in 2002.” And finally, it was “Fox’s third most watched night of entertainment programming”; the only two evenings that have done better are the American Idol 2 finale and the finale of Joe Millionaire. FOX President Gail Berman, who’d previously suggested that ratings could slide again this season, as they did last season, said, “I wasn’t trying to manage expectations. No one in their right mind would have predicted a 9 percent increase. I’ve never seen numbers like this. I’m stunned–we are all stunned. I can’t process these numbers.”

Frankie leads Big Brother's parade of delusion

Frankie on Big Brother

Heading into the finale, the delusion continues, with a re-appearance by evicted Frankie.

Related: The unwatchable cast of Fox's Utopia keeps yelling and screaming.

Shark Tank is getting a spin-off

Shark Tank

Companies that get deals on the show will be followed for this new spin-off.

Also: Before the show began, Shark Barbara Corcoran was cast and then replaced--but then she sent this amazing e-mail and won the job.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.