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LOS ANGELES — The Ellen DeGeneres era of “American Idol” got off to a solid start Tuesday night for Fox, with almost 28 million viewers tuning in to watch her pass judgment on wannabe superstars.


For “American Idol,” the 27.7 million viewers constituted its second largest audience this season. Last month’s season premiere drew 29.9 million viewers.


The strong numbers for “American Idol” at 8 p.m. eastern didn’t do much for “Past Life,” Fox’s new drama. About two-thirds of the “American Idol” audience disappeared at 9 p.m. and, worse, the new show lost more than 30 percent of its audience in its second half-hour.


There was no big tune-in for Jay Leno’s final prime-time show on NBC at 10 p.m. It finished third in its time slot with 5.9 million viewers.

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