Paris Hilton's internship is paying dividends for Fox.

The third-season premiere of The Simple Life got the show off to its strongest start ever--13.3 million viewers (20th place), per Nielsen Media Research.

The hourlong opener, setting Hilton and partner-in-ineptitude Nicole Richie loose as interns in a mechanics shop and an office mailroom, owed a big debt to American Idol. Nearly 27 million endured that show's off-key auditions on Wednesday, giving The Simple Life, airing at 9 p.m., a more than ample lead-in.

Idol's healing touch also continued to work wonders for House. The once flatlining medical drama improved to 12.4 million viewers (25th place) airing in the hour after Tuesday's Simon Cowell snarkfest (first place, 28.1 million).

Thanks to its monster Tuesday and Wednesday nights, Fox won the week among 18-to-49-year-old viewers, and improved to third among all viewers, averaging 10.4 million.

The Simple Life's big bang came as many 2005 taste-makers were writing off Hilton as so 2004. The downward-trending numbers for Life's second season, which aired last summer, only encouraged such thought.

But never count out a hotel heiress--or her ability to remain famous for being famous. Last month, Hilton generated headlines for allegedly stealing her own sex tape from a newsstand and for offending the sensibilities of Buena Vista Township, New Jersey, parents, who led a fight to ban her Fox series from filming new episodes at a school there.

Hilton is laughing all the way to the top of the Nielsens.
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