Were we that desperate to hear Simon Cowell rip singing hopefuls with pronouncements like, ''If you lived 2,000 years ago and sang like that, I think they would have stoned you''? Apparently so. According to Nielsen, Tuesday's season premiere of ''American Idol'' drew 26.5 million viewers, making the evening the most watched night of entertainment programming in Fox history.
Tuesday's numbers are even 16 percentage points higher than last September's ''Idol'' finale, that saw Kelly Clarkson crowned as the show's first winner. It was also the fourth highest season premiere for any show this year, after ''Friends,'' ''CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,'' and ''ER.'' Add this to Monday's showing for ''Joe Millionaire,'' which earned its highest ratings yet, and you have a reality bonanza for Fox that might only be improved by siccing Simon on Evan Marriott.