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Lindsay Lohan Ruled?! Plus, 14 Other Surprising Factoids About the 2011-12 TV Season

Glee, SNL, American idol, DWTS FOX; NBC; ABC

Lindsay Lohan was a bigger draw than Harry Potter. Michael Jackson was a bigger draw than Whitney Houston (and Lohan, too). And, for the first time in nearly a decade, something was a bigger draw than American Idol

With the 2011-12 season ending tonight, it's time to run the numbers, and come up with some TV ratings shocks and surprises:   

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1. Lohan's Saturday Night Live Hosting Gig Was No "Mistake": Outside of the football-boosted Charles Barkley episode, the praised-and-panned Lohan appearance drew SNL's top overnight ratings, besting strong Nielsen performances by Mick Jagger, Eli Manning and Daniel Radcliffe, among others.

2. Oscar Nominations, Shmosar Nominations: Moneyball's Jonah Hill hosted SNL's lowest-rated episode; onetime nominee Josh Brolin tied for the second-lowest-rated show. And while Melissa McCarthy was one of Season 37's ratings stars, she hosted a few months before securing her Academy Award nod for Bridesmaids.

3. Controversy, Shmontroversy: All the (bad) press that led up to Lohan's cameo on Glee added up to, well, not much—"Nationals" was the show's second-least-watched episode of the season.

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4. Who Knew? After its spring return in April, Glee performed like Smash, and vice versa, averaging about 6 million or so viewers an episode heading into Tuesday night's finale. (Note: Aside from its Super Bowl-pushed premiere, Smash didn't perform anything like Glee among viewers who matter most, people aged 18 to 49. But considering all the heads rolling at Smash, that part you probably already knew.) 

5. Michael Jackson Is Still Box Office: "Michael," the Glee tribute episode to the late King of Pop, was the only episode that rivaled the show's season opener for sheer audience.

6. Whitney Houston Is Still Box Office, Too—Sometimes: "Dance With Somebody," the Glee tribute episode to the late singer, aired two months after her death, resulted in a ratings uptick, but couldn't lift the show from its sping malaise (and wasn't as big as the Jackson episode). At the same time, the Grammy Awards, held one day after Houston's death, beat the Billy Crystal-hosted Oscars for honors as the season's most-watched special (but, no, it wasn't as big as the 1984 Jackson-led Grammys.)

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7. American Idol Lost More Than Some Shows Won: 30 Rock, Raising Hope and Community were among the series that averaged fewer than 6 million viewers, or roughly the equivalent of what Idol's performance night bled from this season versus last. 

8. Idol Should Stop Doing Premieres and Finales: The season premiere was significantly off from the previous season's; Tuesday's final performance episode was significantly off from the previous week's performance show. In between, Idol was consistently No. 1 or close to No. 1. (And, frankly, even on those significantly off nights, it was No. 1, too.)

9. The Grandkids Remembered They Don't Like Ballroom Dancing: Dancing With the Stars sustained huge losses among young adults, falling from a Top 10 demo performance last year to, roughly, a top 30 performance this year.

10. An Era Ended: As Idol gave ground and DWTS aged, Sunday Night Football emerged as the season's most-watched show. Barring a game-changing finale tonight, Idol will be trumped for the No. 1 spot for the first time in eight years.

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11. But, No, There Are Not Too Many Singing Shows: As things stand now, Idol and The Voice account for one-third of the season's 10 most-watched shows.

12. The Rabbit Lost to the Turtle, Again: Two and a Half Men started out like the Super Bowl, and ended up like the World Series, which, mind you, is not a bad thing, it's just not the same thing. The Big Bang Theory, meanwhile, was consistent, and consistently big. It finished as the season's most-watched comedy. Men will finish right behind Bang.

13. 2 Broke Girls Was Not the Most-Watched New Comedy: The canceled Rob was. The renewed 2 Broke Girls was the most demographically desired new comedy, which is why it was renewed.

14. Grey's Anatomy Is Still Grey's Anatomy: The season finale was its most-watched episode of the season, and a monster draw in the demo. Overall, even as the like-aged Desperate Housewives retired, the medical drama held steady, barely down in viewers from last season.

15. Some Shows' Audiences Actually Got Bigger! Really, it's 2012—it isn't supposed to happen, but it did to The Big Bang Theory, Modern Family and Castle to name three outliers. NCIS, the most-watched scripted show of them all, was up ever-so-slighlty, too. 

Here's a rundown of the 2011-12 season's most-watched shows (through Sunday), per Nielsen Media Research stats:

  1. Sunday Night Football, 21.2 million viewers
  2. American Idol (Wednesday), 19.7 million viewers
  3. NCIS, 19.5 million viewers
  4. American Idol (Thursday), 18.3 million viewers
  5. Dancing With the Stars (Monday), 18.28 million viewers
  6. Sunday Night Football pregame, 16.3 million viewers
  7. NCIS: Los Angeles, 16 million viewers
  8. Dancing With the Stars (Tuesday), 15.9 million viewers
  9. The Big Bang Theory, 15.82 million viewers
  10. The Voice, 15.77 million viewers

PHOTOS: 2012 Fall TV Preview

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