American Idol, Top 24, Shawn White, Lindsay Vonn, Shani Davis

Patrick Ecclestein/FOX; ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP/Getty Images; FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images; VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images

And you thought Shaun White soared above the halfpipe last night…

White and his fellow Winter Olympians soared way, way, way above Wednesday's American Idol, sending TV's No. 1 show—and its newly minted 24 semifinalists—to an unaccustomed podium position: No. 2. 

Seriously, the Lindsey Vonn race was closer.

In the 9 p.m. hour, NBC's Olympics action outdistanced Idol by nearly 12 million viewers: 30.1 million to 18.4 million, per preliminary estimates.

Not only doesn't Idol get beat by 12 million, it doesn't get beat, period. Or, at least, until last night, it hadn't been beat by a time-slot competitor since 2004.

Just the night before, on Tuesday, Idol was its usual dominant self, scoring with 23 million-plus opposite the resurgent Olympics. And even on Wednesday, it was TV-big. The switch was that the Olympics got old-school Idol-big.

The main credit for Wednesday's stunning ratings win goes to Vonn. It was her event—women's downhill—that directly took on, and took down, Idol. But NBC on the whole benefitted from a night of gold-medal-winning performances by the U.S. team: speedskater Shani Davis leading off at 8 p.m.; snowboarding star White taking over the late shift. Overall, the three hours'-plus worth of coverage averaged a gigantic 29.4 million.

Maybe those Idol semifinalists should consider adding some Double McTwists to their repertoires.


If we ruled the world, we'd hand out gold medalists to these folks: Our Winter Olympians.


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