Which sounds like more compelling TV programming: two hours of explosions, child kidnappings, and emotional flashbacks on ABC’s Lost season finale, or an hour and 55 minutes of stalling, followed by five minutes of excitement on Fox’s season finale of American Idol? To no one’s surprise, America picked the latter, with 29.4 million fans tuning in to see Carrie Underwood’s victory, according to early Nielsen estimates. That’s slightly up from the 28.8 miliion who watched Fantasia Barrino win the vote a year ago. Still, viewers didn’t leave Lost stranded. The cliffhanger drew 20.2 million viewers during the same 8-10 p.m. slot on Wednesday, with 10.8 million sticking around for the season finale of Alias at 10.
The night’s biggest also-ran (besides Bo Bice) was CBS, which drew only 7.5 million to its made-for-TV movie Amber Frey: Witness for the Prosecution. NBC sat out the competition by airing Law & Order reruns for the first two hours of primetime, though a 10 p.m. airing of Law & Order: Criminal Intent drew a healthy 14.8 million to beat Alias.
One person watching the Idol finale with great interest was Corey Clark, who was apparently incensed by the sketch making fun of his appearance on ABC’s Primetime Live earlier this month, where he spelled out his allegations that judge Paula Abdul had coached and seduced him when he was a finalist during Season 2. ”By choosing to spoof such a serious situation on last night’s final episode, Fox and American Idol have collectively made a complete mockery of their viewers, their sponsors, and the FCC,” said a statement issued by the former contestant’s spokesperson on Thursday. ”Instead of honoring their promise to conduct a proper investigation, Fox and American Idol continue to waste valuable time and energy on juvenile diversion tactics when they should be pursuing the truth.”