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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 10:32 GMT
US Idol 2 draws record ratings
Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul
Simon Cowell (centre) heads up a tough panel
A record 26.5 million viewers watched the second series of American Idol, making it the biggest première TV show in the Fox network's history.

The figures eclipsed the 22.8 million that watched pop hopeful Kelly Clarkson win the first American Idol competition in September.

British judge Simon Cowell returned to join his fellow US panellists Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson in the search for the US's next pop sensation.

Excluding sporting events, it was also the most watched night on TV for Fox.

"We certainly didn't expect to come close to the finale's numbers, and to exceed them by 16% is a dream come true," said entertainment president Gail Berman.

Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson won the first American Idol in 2002

Cowell, notorious for his cutting comments and a judge on the UK version of the show, told one hopeful: "If you lived 2,000 years ago and sang like that, I think they would have stoned you."

It had been thought that American Idol would have trouble drawing a large enough audience in the winter, when it faced tougher competition.

But the show has exceeded all expectations, giving Fox its second big hit in a month.

'Phenomenon'

Its show Joe Millionaire was seen by more than 17 million last week.

Simon Fuller, the man who helped devise the TV talent contest and also steered the Spice Girls to fame, said he was "delighted" with the show's success in the US.

"Already, American Idol 2 has far exceeded all our expectations in week one," he said.

"It really is developing into a global phenomenon."

See also:

22 Jan 03 | Reviews
21 Jan 03 | TV and Radio
18 Oct 02 | TV and Radio
08 Oct 02 | Music
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