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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- The season premiere of “American Idol” gave Fox its largest entertainment programming audience ever, with 35.5 million people tuning in to watch high school and college kids sing embarrassingly off key. Fox got more viewers than rivals ABC, CBS and NBC got all together, even though CBS got a respectable 17.47 million viewers for “NCIS.” Nothing apparently can trump the appeal of watching host Ryan Seacrest’s bemusement at the hordes of talentless, or judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson suffer through some of the worst singing ever put before a TV audience.
'American Idol' Judge Simon Cowell alternately snaps at host Ryan Seacrest and fellow judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson.

Getting Simon back on board for five more years was obviously one of the smartest things Fox has done, because much of the show’s appeal is to see the snarling interaction between Simon and Paula, Simon and Randy, Simon and Seacrest, and Simon and the contestants. Classic Simon moments after just two nights? Cutting off the guy dressed as the Statue of Liberty after just one note, asking after one particularly hefty singer was put through if the show had gotten a bigger stage this year, and, of course, numerous incidents where he got to trot out the word “appalling.”

For our part, Watercooler always finds the early days of ‘Idol’ incredibly painful, given all that naked ambition yoked to absolutely no chance in hell. But as long as there remains thousands of delusional would-be Idols willing to humiliate themselves on national TV, and face the eye-rolling of Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul and the flaming sarcasm of Simon Cowell, it seems Fox’s hit will continue to draw in viewers in record numbers. After all, the next William Hung could be just around the corner.

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