Fox has announced that the fifth season of its smash-hit American Idol reality talent competition will premiere on Tuesday, January 17 with a special two-hour 8-10PM ET/PT broadcast. After that, the broadcast of American Idol 5's open auditions will continue with a one-hour American Idol broadcast on Wednesday, January 18 at 8PM ET/PT.

Following American Idol 5's two premiere week broadcasts, the show will continue to air weekly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8PM ET/PT throughout the audition process. Once the show's viewer voting begins, Idol's Wednesday results show will move back to its regular 9-9:30 PM ET/PT time period -- a move that due to ABC's fall relocation of its hit Lost drama, will result in American Idol's Wednesday broadcast facing its stiffest competition ever.

Fox's announcement brought an end to several months of speculation during which numerous media outlets had reported that the network had been considering moving American Idol to a Wednesday/Thursday schedule in what would have been a bold attempt to dramatically improve its Thursday night ratings. However in the end, Fox decided to not take the risk of upsetting the ratings of its biggest hit -- a decision that instead required the network to make several other changes to its midseason lineup.

Rather than move to Mondays at 8PM ET/PT as Fox had announced when it originally unveiled its 2005-2006 lineup last May, House will now remain in the plum post-Idol Tuesdays at 9PM ET/PT that was directly responsible for turning what was a then-struggling freshman drama into a bona fide ratings hit. Instead Bones -- the freshman drama that currently airs in Idol's initial Tuesdays at 8PM time period and was originally scheduled to move to Tuesdays at 9PM -- will move to Wednesday's post-Idol 9PM time period (at least until Idol's results show begins airing at 9PM, at which time Bones will move up an hour into Idol's vacated 8PM time period.)

With Idol and Bones filling Fox's Wednesday night schedule, That 70's Show and Stacked, the 8PM hour's previous occupants, will receive the broadcasting kiss of death and move into the Thursdays at 9PM ET/PT time period (most recently home to Fox's canceled Reunion drama) beginning March 2.

In addition to Idol, Fox's midseason schedule will also include two other reality shows: Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy (currently airing Wednesdays at 9PM ET/PT) and Skating With Celebrities, the network's new celebrity reality competition show that basically takes the format of ABC's Dancing With The Stars ballroom dancing competition and moves it to figure skating. With Wednesdays filled by Idol and Bone, Trading Spouses will move to Fridays at 9PM ET/PT beginning January 6 (taking over the time period of Fox's just-cancelled Killer Instinct drama.)

As for Skating With Celebrities, Fox will give it a high-profile post-Idol premiere on Wednesday, January 18 at 9PM ET/PT, but after that the show will move to its regular Mondays at 8PM ET/PT time period for the duration of its run. Once Skating ends, Prison Break, the new Fox drama that just broadcast its "fall finale," will make an earlier than originally expected return by taking over the time period beginning Monday, March 13. Filling Fox's Mondays at 9PM ET/PT hour beginning January 16 will be the fifth season of Kiefer Sutherland's 24 drama

"With all of the speculation and rumor, it's great to finally announce the premiere of the second half of our season," Fox entertainment president Peter Liguori stated in the network's announcement of its midseason schedule. "It takes discipline to hold back 24 and American Idol, but doing so allows us to strengthen our schedule across the week and to give our viewers nonstop excitement from January through May."

"I'm also pleased to announce that we're bringing back Prison Break earlier than planned because fans are demanding it and because it's a fantastic companion for 24," Liguori added. "All of this necessitates some other moves, but we're keeping House behind the Idol performance show, where it performed so successfully last year."