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Don't Believe the Hype—The X Factor Was Bigger Than American Idol?!

X Factor, L.A. Reid, Nicole Scherzinger, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell Ray Mickshaw / FOX

Simon Cowell's The X Factor had a rough morning in the headlines, but was its debut really all that bad?

A look at Wednesday's key premiere-week TV ratings performances:

RELATED: Our X Factor recap

BIG IS BIG

The X Factor (12.2 million viewers, per estimates): Yes, it's true, it "premiere[d] lower than American Idol," but which American Idol? Against latter-day IdolThe X Factor was no competition. But versus Idol's own series premiere, The X Factor looked huge. (Understood: The Cowell of 2011 is far more famous than the Cowell of 2002, so even this comparison is imperfect.) The bottom line: The X Factor is the biggest new fall debut yet for a show that didn't debut after the Two and a Half Men Super Bowl. 

BIGGEST IS BIGGEST

Modern Family (14.2 million viewers): The night's No. 1 show with series-high numbers, no less. Take that, Emmy curse.

GOOD STARTS

Criminal Minds (14.1 million viewers): The night's No. 2 show in overall viewers held steady (and actually improved) compared to last fall's premiere.

Revenge (10.2 million viewers): The newbie won the 10 p.m. time slot in adults 18-49, beating the likes of Harry's Law (7.3 million viewers overall), and assembled a New Girl-sized audience.

The Middle (9.6 million viewers): The returning comedy, now three seasons old, held its own and then some against the first hour of The X Factor.  

NOT BAD, NOT WHAT THEY USED TO BE

CSI (12.6 million viewers): The aged crime series, making its Wednesday and Ted Danson debuts, was an upgrade for CBS in the 10 p.m. hour over CSI: NY. Versus its own history, it was down about 2 million from last fall.

Up All Night (6 million viewers): In its regular time slot, and on its own minus America's Got Talent, the Will Arnett-Christina Applegate comedy was down a fast 4 million from last week's premiere. Still, it's an upgrade for NBC at 8 p.m. over last fall's short-lived Undercovers

JUST NOT WHAT IT USED TO BE

Law & Order: SVU (7.6 million viewers): In the wake of a cast shakeup, the 13th season premiere ran a distant third at 10 p.m.

DEATH-POOL WATCH

Free Agents (3.9 million viewers): Coming off its underwhelming early-bird premiere, the Hank Azaria was even more underwhelming in its second outing. Worse, it was not an upgrade over Undercovers.  

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