‘American Idol’ Is TV’s Top-Earning Series

Show raked in $7.1 million per half hour in 2010, while 'Two and a Half Men' comes in at #2.

Last year was a rocky one for “American Idol.” From the turmoil on the judging panel with uncomfortable short-timer Ellen DeGeneres (and the firing of Kara DioGuardi) to lackluster winner Lee DeWyze and the eventual departure of lead judge Simon Cowell, you’d think “Idol” would have suffered as a result.

But, according to Forbes magazine, not only did “Idol” retain its ratings crown in 2010, it was also the biggest moneymaker on TV. The show brought in an astounding $7.11 million per half hour for the Fox network, according to estimates tallied by the financial magazine. As big a number as that is, the figure was actually a 12-percent drop from 2009, but still enough to top the Forbes list of TV cash cows.

Despite fears that the nearly wholesale changes on the judging panel and the debut of untested TV stars Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez at the desk might throw the ratings for “Idol” off this season, so far the show is holding steady. After initial ratings slumps in the audition episodes, the show is now down just 1 percent for the season and appears to be rebounding to its former heights.

“Idol” was far-and-away the list leader on the Forbes tally, followed by the troubled “Two and a Half Men,” whose 2010 shows earned $2.89 million per half hour in what will now be remembered as former star Charlie Sheen’s final full season. Forbes predicted it will be hard to keep those numbers up without polarizing star Sheen, whom producers are reportedly looking to replace.

The rest of the list includes: “Desperate Housewives” ($2.74 million), “Grey’s Anatomy” ($2.67 million), “Dancing With the Stars” ($2.67 million), “Lost” ($2.60 million), “The Big Bang Theory” ($2.50 million), “24″ ($2.45 million), “Private Practice” ($2.32 million) and “Mike & Molly” ($2.11 million).

Don’t miss “Idol Party Live” every Thursday on MTV.com, following the “American Idol” results show, for analysis, celebrity guests and even some karaoke — get in the conversation by tweeting with the hashtag #idolparty! In the meantime, get your “Idol” fix on MTV News’ “American Idol” page , where you’ll find all the latest news, interviews and opinions.

Often guilty, never convicted. Serving 15 years to life at MTV News.