Paula who?  Whether it will survive Simon Cowell's 2011 absence as smoothly seems unlikely, but American Idol's ninth-season premiere appears to have weathered Paula Abdul's departure without a significant ratings impact.

Tuesday night's premiere of American Idol's ninth season still drew monster ratings and delivered the highest-rated entertainment telecast of the 2009-2010 television season.

American Idol's two-hour debut averaged 29.9 million total viewers and scored an 11.8 rating in the Adults 18-49 demographic and a 10.7 rating among Adults 18-34, according to time-zone adjusted fast national Nielsen Media Research data released by Fox.

While the premiere broadcast slipped slightly among total viewers compared to last January's eighth-season debut (29.9 million vs. 30.1 million), it did increase by 1% among Adults 18-49 (11.8 rating vs. 11.7 rating) and by 9% among Adults 18-34 (10.7 rating vs. 9.7 rating).

"This is an amazing achievement," Fox reality chief Mike Darnell told The Hollywood Reporter about the ratings for the premiere, which covered the season's Boston auditions location and featured guest judge Victoria Beckham serving as a replacement for Abdul, who announced her surprise departure from Idol in August.

"To be in its ninth season, and to have taken a lot of punches over the last couple years, we are thrilled to come back this strong. For Idol to break even -- and probably climb in the nationals -- this is champagne cork-popping time. Look at the competition, we are more dominate than ever. Our competitors, they're saying, 'Crap, we thought this thing was over!'"

Despite the self-proclaimed "amazing achievement," American Idol's ninth-season premiere ratings were below several prior season debuts, including the show's January 2008 seventh-season premiere, which averaged 33.2 million total viewers and scored a 13.8/32 rating/share in the Adults 18-49 demographic and a 12.9/33 rating/share among Adults 18-34, and the show's monster sixth-season premiere in January 2007 -- which averaged 37.3 million total viewers, a 15.7/36 rating/share among Adults 18-49 and a 14.8/38 rating/share among Adults 18-34.

American Idol's ninth-season premiere also fell short of the ratings numbers that the show's fourth (33.5 million viewers and a 14.0/33 in Adults 18-49) and fifth season (35.5 million viewers and a 15.3/34 in Adults 18-49) premieres had delivered, while it was on par with the show's third-season debut in January 2004.

Tuesday night's two-hour American Idol premiere still managed to hammer the combined total programming of the four other major network broadcasters in the 8-10PM ET/PT time period -- out-delivering CBS, ABC, NBC and The CW's combined ratings by 55% among Adults 18-49 (an 11.8 rating vs. a combined 7.6 rating); 84% among Adults 18-34 (a 10.7 rating vs. a combined 5.8 rating); and 278% among Teens (a 10.2 rating vs. a combined 2.7 rating).

In addition, it also outperformed CBS, ABC, NBC and The CW by 7% among total viewers (29.9 million vs. a combined 28 million).

American Idol's premiere also helped Fox deliver the highest-rated entertainment programming night of the 2009-2010 season among Adults 18-49, Adults 18-34, and total viewers.