In 2018, TV is a world of reboots and spin-offs, and reality TV is no different. We've recently seen the return of beloved shows like America's Next Top Model, and producers in Hollywood are always on the lookout for the next old thing to turn into a new thing once again. Now, it's American Idol's turn to come back, just two years after its 'farewell season' aired in 2016. They don't waste any time.
American Idol was a complete smash when it first premiered in 2002, and it churned out the stars and high ratings for the better part of a decade. Huge music icons like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood were discovered on Idol, and many other contestants had hit records and movie appearances after their stints on the show. Things started to slip though, as the competition from other singing shows heated up, and as audiences got tired of the predictable format they'd grown almost too used to during AI's 15-season run. Fox pulled the plug in 2016, but now ABC is bringing the show back for a revival 16th season. It may have only been two years since the show got pulled off-air, but there are a lot of things you may've forgotten — or even better, never knew in the first place!
You might think of this as a solo job, but Ryan Seacrest didn't always host American Idol alone. In the first season, Ryan was joined by Brian Dunkleman, but he didn't last long. He quit after the first season because the gig ~wasn't for him~, but according to rumors, he would've likely been fired anyway. He was never a natural fit for the job like Ryan was, so it made sense. He did return for a cute reunion moment on the finale though, which we kind of loved.
There are only a handful of genuinely original ideas in the entertainment industry, and sadly American Idol is not one of them. While it was a pioneer in the competition reality format, it was based on a British show called Pop Idol. Pop Idol only lasted two seasons before being replaced by The X Factor, but that didn't stop judge Simon Cowell from bringing the concept to the American market. It was probably a good business decision because here we are 16 years later still talking about it. The X Factor went on to become a huge hit in the UK, but it didn't do so well when it was brought to the US in 2011, being canceled after only three seasons.
Sometimes determination is all that matters. Talent probably doesn't hurt either. Jordin Sparks ended up winning season six, but it wasn't a smooth trip to the finale. Jordin was turned down at her first audition, and she traveled to two more audition cities before finally getting her golden ticket to Hollywood. Clearly, her strategy worked out in the end, and she became the show's youngest winner ever at just 17 years old. Out of all the people to win American Idol Jordin's one of the show's biggest success stories!
American Idol found tons of undiscovered talent, but even the judges missed out on something special every once in a while. There are numerous famous singers who tried out for the show, and some are pretty surprising. Colbie Caillat, who had a big hit with her song "Bubbly," wasn't what the judges were looking for. Neither was Hillary Scott, who would later strike gold as a part of Lady Antebellum. Additionally, the amazing Tori Kelly made it past her initial audition but wasn't kept around for any of the live voting rounds. Simon and his team are probably kicking themselves over letting all this talent get away.
Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell became an important part of the American Idol formula, but they almost weren't on the show. Paula recalled in an interview how she quit eight times on her first day of auditions for the show because she felt so bad about being judgmental. She was always known as the nice judge on the panel, so watching Simon tear the contestants to shreds was tough for her. Simon also tried to quit the week before filming began. He was apparently nervous about how American audiences would respond to him, but clearly, it wasn't an issue.
In its early seasons, being on Idol was a huge opportunity even for those who didn't win. After placing seventh on season three, Jennifer Hudson was cast in the movie version of Dreamgirls as Effie White. Her powerhouse performance made her a household name and won her an Oscar, and she's been an A-list star ever since. She's also put out hit R&B albums, and she won a Grammy in 2009. Seventh place doesn't sound so great, but Jennifer is probably okay with it now.
When Kelly Clarkson was crowned the winner way back in season one, she immediately became America's sweetheart. Everyone loved the cute girl from Texas with the powerhouse voice, how could you not? She burst out in tears when she won, but not for the reason you'd think. Kelly later said that she cried because she was so exhausted, with the finale being a huge moment. There was probably a little joy in those tears too, but Kelly definitely earned a nice long nap.
If Kelly Clarkson is the Queen Elsa of American Idol, Carrie Underwood is kind of like Princess Anna. These two are the true crown jewels of the Idol legacy, and their achievements speak for themselves. Carrie has long been a top star in country music, and her potential was clear from the beginning. In 2007, she won the Grammy for Best New Artist, one of the most prestigious awards in music. She's since won a total of seven Grammys, as well as two ACM Awards for Entertainer of the Year.
When Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey were announced as judges for season 12, it was a surprising move. They were both stars at the top of their game, and both have huge diva personalities. It didn't work so well. These two were like cats in a box, and their constant drama behind the judging table pulled focus from the contestants. Nicki and Mariah probably helped the ratings, but it's really supposed to be about the singing, not the drama. They both chose to leave after one season, which really wasn't that surprising considering all the drama.
The audience voting format is a lot of fun to watch, but it doesn't always lead to the most balanced results. Over the show's 15 original seasons, only five of the winners were women. In the last nine seasons, only one woman won. In a situation where the results are so directly tied to the opportunities available, it sucks that more women didn't get a chance at that top spot. At least six winners are white men who play guitar, so at least the voters at home are consistent? It'll be interesting to see if this trend continues when the show is brought back.
Kanye West always knows how to keep things interesting, we'll give him that. It was confusing when the king of ego showed up to audition for season 15, but nothing Kanye does should surprise us. They let him do an audition, and even gave him a golden ticket to Hollywood. He didn't show up for that, but we have a feeling he wouldn't have done well in the group round anyway. We really want to know what goes on in his head.
The entertainment industry works in mysterious ways. American Idol concluded its original run in April 2016, and networks were fighting over who would bring it back less than a year later. Originally, the talks were between original network Fox and competitor NBC. ABC then swooped in and bought the rights for a reboot, launching March 2018. We're not sure why Fox even canceled it in the first place, but clearly someone thinks there's money to be made. At least Ryan Seacrest probably got to take a nap.
20th Century Fox
It's an undeniable fact that everyone loves a showmance. During and after season one, there were always rumors that Kelly Clarkson and runner-up Justin Guarini were romantically involved, but they never addressed it. Until 13 years later, that is. Kelly confirmed in a 2015 interview that they did date at one point, though it was never serious. Justin confirmed the fling took place, saying that it was natural because of how much time they spent together. If you've seen their movie From Justin to Kelly, you know that the chemistry was there.
While there might be a gender bias among winners, certain seasons went against the trend. In season 12, the top five contestants were all women, something that had never happened before. Audiences loved eventual winner Candice Glover from the start, with her powerful soul performances wowing them week after week. The rest of the top five were Kree Harrison, Angie Miller, Amber Holcomb, and Janelle Arthur. This was the season that Nicki and Mariah judged, so maybe their energy had something to do with all the strong females.
Okay, so this probably isn't something you "forgot," but it's pretty interesting nonetheless. When the show comes back this spring, it'll have a completely revamped judging panel. ABC went big with their judges, getting legend Lionel Richie, country superstar Luke Bryan, and pop queen Katy Perry to do the honors. Katy was the first judge to be announced, and it leaked that she's getting paid a whopping $25 million for one season. Katy was rightfully proud of her deal, saying that "as a woman, I got paid." She's almost definitely getting paid more than her male costars, and there's no reason she shouldn't.
Speaking of big paydays, Ryan Seacrest has probably benefited more than anyone from the continued success of American Idol. Seacrest has built an unstoppable career, hosting a radio show, producing TV shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians, and obviously hosting on TV. He's one of the biggest names in entertainment, and this new reboot will only heighten his success. It's easy to make fun of him for his height or his highlights, but we'd love to be in his shoes for a day. And besides, it just wouldn't be American Idol without Seacrest.
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