David Cook, David Archuleta, American Idol

Frank Micelotta / FOX

The impending battle of the Davids put a little spring in American Idol's flagging step last night.

Fox's hit show—which, despite showing signs of deflation, still exhibits juggernaut behavior—attracted nearly 24.3 million viewers Wednesday, a 1.4 million-strong bump from last week and its largest audience since April 2, when Michael Johns and Carly Smithson were still singing for their supper and little Ramiele Malubay got the boot.

Idol also saw viewership jump by more than 4 million people in its second half-hour, ensuring that Fox would flay the competition in its time slot—although CBS' Criminal Minds put up quite a fight, averaging 12.7 million inquiring minds—and win the night in total viewers.

Although it's unlikely the expected showdown between David Archuleta and David Cook will bring the millions who have gone missing this season back in full force next week, Fox has to like the fact that its (yes, still dominant) numbers are creeping back up.

But why should you care?

No reason, but it's still kinda interesting.

Let's pretend for a moment that every network not airing Dancing With the Stars wouldn't kill to have a twice-weekly show pulling in such numbers (28.96 million on Tuesdays and 27.5 million on Wednesdays, thanks to large premiere audiences) and reflect:

Last night's elimination show, as expected, stomped the yard as far as 18 to 49-year-olds—and all the other key demographics—were concerned, but there has been an overall dip in interest from that corner of the national living room this season.

First off, this year's premiere, watched by 33.4 million, was off 13 percent in the 18 to 49 demo from season six's debut, not to mention missing 4 million viewers overall.

And, maybe it's a Mariah Carey thing and waning interest in Idol can't be blamed, but Mimi's appearance alongside the Top 7 on April 15—the night before Kristy Lee Cook's ouster—"only" attracted 11.5 million adults in that age group.

We say "only" only because it was Idol's lowest 18 to 49-year-old audience in five years.

So, one year after 6 million fewer people turned out to watch Jordin Sparks' victory than caught Taylor Hicks' coronation in season five, do David A. and David C. have the oomph to end the 2008 edition of Idol on a high note?

To be sure, interest tends to rise as the number of finalists dwindles, but what does Idol have to do to win the departed back for good?

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