'iDOL' handily wins

After a season of downbeat headlines, Fox's "American Idol" managed to pull itself up to match — and by some measures exceed — last year's finale performance. About 31.7 million viewers tuned in Wednesday to watch David Cook take the crown as the Season 7 winner. The audience measurement is up 3% from last season, when Jordin Sparks won Fox's singing competition. The night ranks as the series' third-most-watched finale. But among adults 18-49, "Idol" registered an 11.4 rating — down 1% from last year and coming in as the lowest-rated "Idol" finale since the show's debut season in 2002. The rating also is down a sharp 20% from the show's 2006 finale. Still, with the show's ratings having declined an average of about 10% this season, the final-lap surge suggests that the show's WGA strike-era erosion isn't necessarily permanent. Nothing on the other broadcast networks came close to "Idol" on Wednesday night, with competitors opting for repeats in some time periods. CBS' "Criminal Minds" (13 million, 3.3/8) was the second-highest-rated show of the night.