By Lisa de Moraes
Thursday, April 15, 2010; C06
When NBC broke "American Idol's" six-year unbeaten ratings streak in February with two nights of Winter Olympics programming, Fox suits claimed, in response to questions, that they weren't giving it much thought.
But when the 10th edition of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars" attracted more viewers than the singing competition for two consecutive weeks, Fox suits started behaving like bulldogs who've had their chew bones taken away at the mere mention of the ballroom dance competition.
For public consumption, Fox execs continue to insist they don't care a fig about "Idol's" overall audience -- only for its viewers between the ages of 18 and 49. That's the demographic both networks sell to advertisers, because Madison Avenue pays a premium to reach them.
Even so, the air was electric with excitement, in our own head anyway, to see which show would come out on top this week: Monday's "Dancing" performance show or Tuesday's "Idol" competition night. The expectation was that "Idol" would return to the top spot now that the first blush of excitement is over on the new season of "Dancing," which debuted in March -- about two months into the "Idol" season.
And, of course, this week was Elvis week on "Idol" -- always a crowd-pleaser -- and last season's Really Big Deal (though not winner) Adam Lambert had been booked to mentor the Idolettes. And all that mind-numbing padding would be taken out of this week's performance show -- always a plus for viewers -- in order to get it down to one hour and 28 minutes in length, making way for the highly hyped return of Fox's musical dramedy "Glee."
But, over at ABC, they brought out the heavy artillery on "Dancing." Which is to say: rumba, tango and Pamela Anderson. Some deep-thought thinker also put a cap on the women's clothing at 10 percent body coverage.
Monday's potent rumba/tango and barely covered Pamela would be tough to beat.
The next night, "Idol" gave its all. Host Ryan Seacrest interviewed his mother in the audience, ran his hands through an audience member's hair and jumped into the "Idol" Mosh Pit to squeal like Dana Carvey playing a pixie with the Swaybots, and Lambert mentored his heart out at the Idolettes, urging them to wake up, drink something caffeinated and get a pulse.
Late Wednesday afternoon, Nielsen issued the final numbers.
"Dancing With the Stars" and "American Idol" had tied, with 20.6 million viewers each.
Actually, if you take it out to enough decimal points, "Idol" (20.639 million) barely edged out "Dancing" (20.562 million) by the population of Sandusky, Ohio (pop. 77,000) -- the Roller Coaster Capital of the World.
As usual, "Idol" beat "Dancing" among the 18-to-49-year-olds advertisers target and among the subset 18-to-34-year-olds who are the Hot Blondes of Madison Avenue -- ultra-desirable.
But "Idol" did not win the night among 18-to-34-year-olds. The formerly invincible singing competition show got beat in that age bracket by the show that followed, "Glee."
That win is owing to the 2.650 million Gleek chicks who tuned in to the musical dramedy's return to Fox's lineup after more than four months off. "Idol," meanwhile, attracted 2.422 million 18-to-34-year-old chicks.