LOS ANGELES - The "American Idol" finale got under way Tuesday with a startling revelation: the contest between David Archuleta and David Cook wasn't even close.
With a record 97.5 million audience votes cast by phone and text, the split between the two contestants was 56 percent for one David and 44 percent for the other, host Ryan Seacrest announced at the start of the show.
Seacrest, of course, left in question who got the lion's share; that detail wouldn't come until the closing moments of the two-hour live broadcast.
In the meantime, viewers got songs from runners-up including Syesha Mercado, who dueted with Seal on his song "Waiting for You," and a solo on "Hallelujah" by dreadlocked Jason Castro.
Other "Idol" contestant and name-brand pairings: Cook with ZZ Top, Archuleta with OneRepublic, Bryan Adams with the top six male singers and Brooke White with Graham Nash.
"Brooke looks so much better than Crosby," Nash quipped backstage, referring to bandmate David Crosby.
The Jonas Brothers got the stage to themselves for a performance.
"American Idol" also celebrated the awfulness that is part of the show, usually confined to the early auditions, with a performance by failed contestant Reynaldo Lapuz that threw in University of Southern California cheerleaders and marching band members.
There was also an extended promotion for a new Mike Myers film, "The Love Guru," with the finalists gamely taking part in a mock counseling session with Myers in character.
A live show can have its glitches, but they were minor Wednesday in the early going. During a duet between Mercado and disco queen Donna Summer, an apparent malfunction in Mercado's hand mike prompted Summer to quickly hand over her own rhinestone-studded one.
When it comes to the main event, the contest, "Idol" usually is cagey about releasing vote counts, to the annoyance of fans - and once to Fox's embarrassment.
During the 2003 finale, "American Idol" ran into math trouble when Seacrest twice announced incorrect numbers for the close vote between winner Ruben Studdard and runner-up Clay Aiken. The first incorrect figure - 13,000 - was displayed on the TelePrompTer; the second - 1,300 - was written on a card given Seacrest.
The difference between the two, out of nearly 24 million votes counted, was about 130,000, Fox later said.