Reality check: 'Idol' tops premieres

Fox's "American Idol" hit high ratings notes in its third season premiere.

The talent show drew 29 million viewers Monday, the best start for any series in the 2003-04 season, according to preliminary Nielsen Media Research figures released Tuesday by Fox.

"American Idol," which has produced three instant music stars in Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard and Clay Aiken, was expected to provide a boost for the struggling network.

Gail Berman, Fox's entertainment president, recently called the show Fox's "engine" and said it's as important to the network as "Friends" is to NBC or "Survivor" is to CBS.

This year, an estimated 80,000 aspiring stars applied to be on the show. Contestants are again being judged by Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson and Simon Cowell, with Ryan Seacrest back as host.


New York socialite Paris Hilton and her best friend Nicole Richie now have another reason to visit Altus, Ark.

Mayor Veronica Post named an intersection in honor of the stars of the reality TV show "The Simple Life," reports Arkansas' KATV. The intersection will now be known as Paris Hilton Boulevard and Nicole Richie Avenue.

The event, in the town with a population of about 800, marks the release of "The Simple Life" on DVD. The entire town attended the unveiling.


He knows he'll never get the chance, but Jeff Probst would love to play "Survivor" instead of just be the host.

"I would love to try it now that I've seen how it changes people's lives, because you just don't get that opportunity to test yourself like that," he said.

He likes both the physical and mental aspects of the game, and thinks he'd make a good contestant because he has a strong point of view and isn't afraid to express it.

Eighteen past "Survivor" contestants return for the all-star edition, which premieres Feb. 1 after the Super Bowl on CBS. Two past contestants were invited but didn't come back, said Mark Burnett, the series' executive producer.

One, Elisabeth Hasselbeck -- formerly Filarski -- is now a co-host on ABC's "The View." Colleen Haskell from the first show didn't want to go back.

"She just had enough," Burnett said.


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