Paula Abdul dances back into hearts of viewers

Wed Jan 5, 2011 5:34pm EST
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Paula Abdul danced back onto U.S. television for the first time since her controversial 2009 exit from "American Idol", attracting the biggest audience of the night for her "Live to Dance" competition show.

Broadcaster CBS said on Wednesday that 10.2 million viewers tuned in to the premiere of "Live to Dance" -- an "American Idol" style contest for dancers in which Abdul is the chief judge.

"Live to Dance", which featured acts ranging from a nine year-old hip-hop dancer to an 83 year-old tapper, was the most-watched show on U.S. TV on Tuesday.

It marked the comeback of the unpredictable but endearing Abdul, 48, a former dancer and pop star who abruptly ended her eight-year run as an "American Idol" judge after a contract dispute with producers in August 2009.

Abdul was replaced on "Idol" by talk show host Ellen DeGeneres but was missed by fans, and audiences for the singing contest slid last year.

Daily Beast commentator Richard Rushfield said that in her new role, "Paula has decided to double-down on being Paula -- hyper-dramatic, gushy, tongue-tied Paula, staging a house to house battle with emotions at every turn."

But other reviewers expressed disappointment with her first outing on "Live to Dance". Entertainment Weekly's Ken Tucker said that Abdul was unusually sane, adding that she "seems to have intentionally lost her gift for absurdist gush."

"Live to Dance" is the latest entry in TV dance competition shows, including "Dancing with the Stars" and "So You Think You Can Dance". The ultimate winner on "Live to Dance" gets a prize of $500,000.

(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte)