America's long nightmare is over.

Fox announced yesterday that "American Idol" will not -- repeat, not -- be moved to Thursday nights, but will stick with the Tuesday-Wednesday play pattern that has done so much to make it impossible to phone home on those nights. For weeks now, the show's nearly 30 million fans have been angsting over reports about a possible move to Thursday night. In the reality series, would-be pop stars compete on Tuesday, viewers phone in their faves that night, and the bottom vote getter is whacked the next night.

"Despite fevered guessing by industryites and some overeager media outlets, Fox Wednesday said 'American Idol' will remain on Tuesday and Wednesday nights when it returns for its fifth season in January," trade paper Variety reported yesterday afternoon on its Web site.

"After weeks of speculation about a possible scheduling move of 'American Idol,' Fox has decided to keep the blockbuster reality series on Tuesday and Wednesday nights," the Hollywood Reporter chimed in.

"Fans of 'American Idol' won't have to change their weekly plans," the Associated Press pointed out.

And, our personal fave: "Fox is indeed shaking up the Thursday-night landscape at midseason, although the announcement the network made about its schedule isn't quite the earth-shattering one many were expecting." That from (FYI, that Thursday-night shakeup consists of aged "That '70s Show" and Pamela Anderson's "Stacked" moving from Tuesday to Thursday at 9.)

And this, boys and girls, is how you get the media worked into a frenzy over your otherwise utterly boring announcement about your midseason schedule changes -- the most exciting bit of which is that "House" will not, as Fox suits had told advertisers in May, move to Monday at 8 but will stick in its Tuesday 9 p.m. time slot. Try making a TV Column out of that.

Instead, we are joining the pile-on of stories about the shocking decision by Fox to not -- repeat, not -- move "American Idol" to Thursday night.

And why not? you might ask. Good question.

Because, Fox scheduling guru Preston Beckman explained to the Associated Press, "It's been a Tuesday-Wednesday institution and it's in its fourth year.

"It works. People expect it then," he said.

All undeniable. Plus, he added, "I don't believe it would make significantly more money if we moved it."

Thursday is a big advertising night on television and a special favorite of movie studios because that's the night a lot of viewers make their weekend plans.

Fox suits, who had pulled the media's strings on this one like they've seldom been played before, got a real kick out of yesterday's big "reveal," which started with this headline:

The Guessing Is Over as 'American Idol' Returns Tuesday and Wednesday on Fox

"With all of the speculation and rumor, it's great to finally announce the premiere of the second half of our season," Fox Entertainment President Peter Liguori crowed in the announcement.

"It takes discipline to hold back '24' and 'American Idol' [for a January debut] but doing so allows us to strengthen our schedule across the week and to give our viewers nonstop excitement from January through May," he added.

With the announcement that "Idol" would not -- repeat, not -- move to Thursday, NBC is now free to maybe move "My Name Is Earl" to that night. And how about moving out that loser "Joey," which last week got stomped by Charlie Brown? Just a suggestion.

The PBS show that contributed so much to Ken Tomlinson's exit from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is moving to Fox News Channel.

Yes, "Journal Editorial Report" -- your tax dollars at work to the tune of $4 million in CPB money for startup costs, pilot program and 35 first-season episodes -- is now going to work to make money for News Corp.

Those figures, by the way, are from the internal investigation conducted by CPB Inspector General Kenneth Konz, results of which were made public last month.

The Wall Street Journal told PBS last month that it would not do a third season of the show with the programming service and, soon thereafter, said in an editorial that the show had been "blackballed by some of the largest PBS stations."

"The last time we checked, PBS stations in eight of the top 30 TV markets don't run the show at all and another four do so in the dead zone of the post-midnight morning," the Journal said in its editorial.

A rep for New York's WNET, the show's "presenting" PBS station, told The TV Column that in the most recent quarter, 290 PBS stations ran the program, 21 in the top 30 markets, and it averaged about 481,000 households. In the same quarter, the PBS show "Now" was carried on 342 stations, the rep said.

A spokesman for Journal publisher Dow Jones, asked for a response to the WNET stats, said the company declined to comment and issued the following statement: "The Journal decided not to pursue a third season on PBS because the carriage on the network, especially the refusal of many of the top PBS TV stations to carry the program, didn't justify the effort.

"Fox approached us and we are delighted to have the opportunity to work with a network that offers the national exposure this program deserves.

"As we reported in our Nov. 17 editorial 'PBS and Us,' we told PBS on Nov. 1 that we had decided not to pursue a third season on PBS. This was two weeks before the Inspector General issued his report and before we had any idea what would be in the report."

In that report, Konz found that Tomlinson may have violated federal law by shepherding the conservative talk show onto PBS's schedule, among other transgressions. Tomlinson resigned from the CPB board as the organization privately reviewed those findings, The Post's Paul Farhi wrote in a Nov. 16 story.

Konz said he found no criminal violations, but his report documented a series of Tomlinson-led initiatives that were undertaken without the knowledge of CPB's board or that directly violated the agency's statute and procedures.

Among Konz's most damning findings was that Tomlinson made efforts to steer "Journal Editorial Report" onto PBS's schedule, Farhi wrote. Federal law bars CPB board members from involvement in PBS programming decisions.

Konz found Tomlinson was very involved in the development of the show he had touted as the ideological alternative to "Now," which had starred Bill Moyers. Konz also said Tomlinson helped get funding for the show -- a possible violation of his fiduciary responsibilities, Farhi wrote.

"Journal Editorial Report" will have its last airing on PBS tomorrow. It debuts on Fox News Channel next month. FNC did not say what time slot it will get, but look for it on Saturdays.

Same time, same channel: "American Idol" judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell.