The rumblings throughout the season that "American Idol" was past its prime, that viewers were over the show, that it was time for the ratings juggernaut to be put out to pasture...

Maybe not.

For the finale Wednesday night, which saw David Cook beat David Archuleta for the title, "Idol" averaged 30.6 million viewers for the two hour show, essentially on par with the 30.7 million "Idol" attracted for the Jordin Sparks win in 2007.

As expected, the number of viewers grew as the evening progressed, from 24.7
million from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. to a homerun of 36.3 million for the final half hour when Cook was crowned and George Michael performed. (By comparison, the average number of people watching "Idol" last night beat the other traditional evening of appointment viewing - this year's Academy Awards - by 1.5 million people.)

It walloped all other competition on the night; the second place show in the 8 p.m. hour was CBS's "The Price is Right" primetime special, which had 7.7 million viewers; and the "Criminal Minds" season finale at 9 p.m., which drew in 12.9 million.

And while "Idol" producers and Fox executives have hinted in recent weeks that they may revamp the show for the 2009 season to boost sagging ratings - the numbers seem to point to the audience's desire for something simple: suspense.

For at least half of the season it could easily be forecast that there would be a Cook vs. Archuleta finale, and the seeming inevitability of that match-up surely sucked some of the air out of the ratings. The final pairing was a toss-up, however, and it seems as though viewers responded.