'Idol' Finale: Awfully Irresistible (or Irresistibly Awful)

Amanda Peet, Steven Weber and Matthew Perry in
Amanda Peet, Steven Weber and Matthew Perry in "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," which NBC moved to avoid ABC's 800-pound gorilla "Grey's Anatomy." (By Scott Garfield -- Nbc)
By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, May 26, 2006

More than 36 million viewers watched Fox's badtastic "American Idol" finale Wednesday night, in which Taylor Hicks was crowned winner of the singing competition.

That's the largest audience ever for an "Idol" mop-up night, and Fox's highest-rated night ever with entertainment programming.

More 18-to-49-year-olds watched the "Idol" finale than watched the Academy Awards in March. But for sheer train-wreck entertainment value, how can Jon Stewart dying in a room full of self-absorbed Hollywooders hope to compare with the sight of Mary J. Blige swatting away her duet partner, or Toni Braxton writhing like a cat in heat while singing "In the Ghetto" -- plus Prince?

Among viewers of all ages, only three broadcasts have clocked larger crowds this season: the Super Bowl (90.8 million viewers), the Oscars (38.9 million) and the post-Super Bowl episode of "Grey's Anatomy" (37.8 million).

The 8-10 p.m. finale outstripped the final night of the 2003 "Idol" competition, when Ruben Studdard edged out Clay Aiken, by about 2 million viewers. On both nights, the ratings spiked in the 9-10 p.m. hour and this year's crowd was about 3 million more than in '03.

* * *

That new schedule NBC unveiled to advertisers last week? Never mind.

Yesterday, the day the stats came out showing the network had finished the season in fourth place, its head of programming held a phone news conference to announce it was making adjustments to that new schedule to pull Aaron Sorkin's new one-hour, "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip," away from ABC's "Grey's Anatomy" on Thursday nights.

And since moving one show on the schedule is, NBC Entertainment chief Kevin Reilly noted, like pulling the end of a string, that one move has resulted in changes to five nights on his network's lineup.

NBC was the first network to announce its fall schedule and its biggest news was Sorkin's next drama series getting the Thursday 9 p.m. hour as part of a bid to return some of the luster to NBC's once-great Thursday slate. But when ABC announced its lineup the next day, it included the move of ratings magnet "Grey's Anatomy" from Sundays to Thursdays at 9.

In reaction, NBC has decided to relocate "Studio 60," Sorkin's take on "Saturday Night Live," to Mondays at 10, replacing psychic cop show "Medium." There it will face far less stiff competition: CBS's "CSI: Miami" and ABC's "What About Brian." (On Thursdays it also would have been pitted against CBS's formidable "CSI.")

Replacing "Studio 60" Thursdays at 9: game show "Deal or No Deal."

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