‘Idol’ return delivers big, fat ratings

'Fiance' bow big for Fox

To the delight of Fox and the dismay of every other broadcaster, “American Idol” returned to the airwaves bigger and better than ever Monday night.

The popular music talent show, again being asked to help rally the sluggish net to a strong second-half finish, opened with the first of three audition segs this week and delivered the second highest young-adult rating for an entertainment telecast this season — and was up vs. last year’s premiere.

Monday’s special “Idol” helped funnel a huge audience into Fox’s latest high-concept reality show, “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance,” which opened to boffo numbers in the 9 o’clock hour.

According to preliminary nationals from Nielsen, the 68-minute premiere of “American Idol 3” averaged roughly a 12.7 rating/30 share in adults 18-49 and 28.5 million viewers overall, making it the season’s best demo score for the premiere of a returning skein. National ratings are delayed due to Monday’s holiday.

In the key 18-49 demo, “Idol” on Monday delivered the season’s second-highest rating for an entertainment program, coming in a tad below last week’s episode of NBC comedy “Friends” (12.9/34). And in total viewers, the 28.5 million ranks it fourth among entertainment shows this season, trailing only three episodes of CBS drama “CSI.”

“Idol” also stands up well to third-season openers of other franchise reality skeins, topping the scores of both CBS’ “Survivor” and ABC’s “The Bachelor.”

It really popped, as usual, among adults 18-34 (13.4/36) and teens (13.2/35), hitting a 39 share in women 18-34 and a 40 share in females 12-34, according to Nielsen prelims.

From 9:08-10 p.m., “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance” (roughly 9.6/21 in A18-49, 20.8 million) became the highest-rated series premiere since Fox’s “Joe Millionaire” about a year ago.

The convoluted skein outperformed the premiere of NBC’s “The Apprentice” by 5% in 18-49 (9.6/21 vs. 9.1/22) and by 12% in total viewers.

Combined, “Idol” and “Fiance” led Fox to a dominant victory Monday, one night after Sunday NFL playoff action gave the net its highest-rated night of the season.

NBC did well at 10 with “Average Joe: Hawaii” (prelim 5.6/13 in 18-49, 11.8 million), which was up nicely week-to-week and appeared to have edged out in 18-49 a repeat of CBS drama “CSI: Miami” (prelim 5.5/13 in 18-49, 16.3 million).

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