NEW YORK – Millions worshipped Fox's American Idol Tuesday night, giving the reality show a promising start.
About 9.9 million viewers tuned in to the two-hour debut, which made it the most-watched show of the night.
At its peak, from 9:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Idols drew about 11 million viewers. The show did so well, Fox officials changed the rules yesterday to give the three judges — '80s pop-icon Paula Abdul, Grammy winner Randy Jackson and British record producer Simon (nicknamed ‘Mr. Nasty') Cowell — even more pull.
The judges, who peppered the show with snarky comments while cutting the pool of thousands of hopefuls to 120 semi-finalists, will have more power than they did in the original British version of the show.
In the original version, the panelists were used only as color analysts after the first few rounds.
"The judges are still going to have influence and still be there to tell everybody how bad they were," said Mike Darnell, one of Fox's executive vice presidents and its reality TV guru.
In three later episodes, they'll get to eliminate one performer from the competition. They then will add a performer of their choice during the final round.
Viewers seemed to think the best part of the show was its worst acts.
But without the wannabes' off-key singing and freakish dance moves, one of the show's creators says it's big attraction now will be getting viewers to root for better acts.
"What was first an attraction to the train-wrecks then becomes attachment to the people, and then you have rooting interest. That's what we're hoping to develop over the course of the next few weeks," Darnell said.
For the rest of the summer, American Idol will settle into its two-day format: a one hour pre-taped show on Tuesdays at 9 p.m. in which viewers will watch 10 performers and at the end of the show phone in a toll-free vote as to who they think should go on to the next round.
The winner of the vote will be announced the next night (Wednesdays at 9:30) during a live, half-hour episode. Both nights will begin live broadcasts starting in July.
By September, the field will be narrowed to two — with viewers picking the final winner.
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