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American Idol Without Simon Cowell?

Simon Cowell FOX

How close is Simon Cowell to exiting American Idol? What's the difference between Jimmy Fallon and Conan O'Brien? And what would make Tyra Banks' head explode (with happiness)? 

The answers—and more questions—in the latest TV ratings pop quiz:

1. If Cowell has said he doesn't want to do Idol when it slips from No. 1—and he hasthen how more much time should we give him and his T-shirt collection? Quite a few more wash cycles, probably. Right now, Idol is about as dominant as it's been since the Tuesday edition became TV's most-watched show in 2005. Last season, the franchise's average audience lead over the next-biggest show was 29 percent; this season, it's 27 percent. In adults 18-49, Tuesday's and Wednesday's Idol is in its own league entirely.

2. Did Cowell already miss his best exit opportunity? Perhaps. To go out on the toppest of tops, Cowell arguably should have left after the 2006-07 season, when Idol's Sanjaya-swayed audience led the next-biggest show by more than 9 million viewers, or a whopping 45 percent.

3. Where did Idol finish last week? No. 1, of course. Tuesday's disco Idol scored the biggest audience (24 million), per the latest Nielsen rankings. It was followed by Wednesday's Idol (23.9 million), natch, Monday's Dancing With the Stars (20.5 million), Tuesday's DWTS (14.7 million) and CSI (14.6 million). In the demo, Wednesday's Idol took the top spot over Tuesday's Idol, Grey's Anatomy, Monday's DWTS and Desperate Housewives.

4. How can you tell Fallon and O'Brien apart? Fallon's the one who is a smidgen more popular as a talk host. With Fallon at the desk, Late Night has widened its lead over Craig Ferguson's Late Late Show, and averaged 2.2 million weekly viewers versus the 2 million O'Brien's Late Night was drawing earlier this season. (The two's ratings among adults 18-49 are virtually identical, although Fallon has the slight edge there, too.) O'Brien, who departed Late Night Feb. 20, takes over The Tonight Show June 1, at which point he and his ratings will be interminably compared to Jay Leno's. 

5. How can you tell CBS and the CW apart? On the CW, a 41st-place finish would make Tyra Banks' head explode, in a good way. On CBS, a 41st-place finish, and another time-slot loss to Southland, gets Harper's Island exiled to Saturday night, pronto.

6. Why should Banks' head be pretty big, as is? Because her America's Next Top Model is the one CW show consistently doing what the CW wants its shows to do: score chicks. Last week, Model finished 13th among women 18-34, ahead of Fringe (14th) and Tuesday's DWTS (15th), and way ahead of One Tree Hill (27th) and Gossip Girl (33rd).

7. What's the new SpongeBob SquarePants? Nick's Penguins of Madagascar continues to try to wear the short pants in the cable family. Last week, the new 'toon placed five daytime and prime-time broadcasts in cable's top 60. Not to be outdone yet, SpongeBob placed 13.

8. What's more entertaining than watching young men with thick necks take phone calls and thank their agents? Oh, not much. Saturday's ESPN coverage of the NFL draft was cable's third-biggest overall show, with 5.1 million enthralled viewers. WWE Raw (5.3 million for back-to-back episodes), Sunday Night Baseball (4.6 million), iCarly (4.5 million) and the season finale of For the Love of Ray J (4.2 million) were the top prime-time shows. 

9. How did Patrick Swayze's The Beast close out its first season? Not at all like it began it: from 2.4 million for January's premiere, to 849,000 for last week's finale.


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