Friday 30 September 2016

American Idol set to bow out with 'amazing' final series

Published 04/01/2016 | 21:01

American Idol made stars of winners including Kelly Clarkson
American Idol made stars of winners including Kelly Clarkson

American Idol, the TV creation of British producer Simon Fuller, begins its 15th and final season this week with bosses promising an "amazing" send-off.

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The US singing contest, which debuted in 2002, premieres for the last time on Wednesday.

Based on Fuller's 2001-03 ITV hit series Pop Idol, it was t he top-rated show on US television for eight consecutive seasons from 2003 to 2011.

Network Fox finally pulled the plug in 2015 when the show fell to a series-low average of 11.6 million viewers, including DVR playback figures.

Idol reached a high point in 2006 with an average of nearly 36 million viewers watching Taylor Hicks win, according to ratings measurement company Nielsen.

Executive producer Trish Kihane said the series will get a send-off worthy of a television landmark.

"It's that tricky thing of, 'Hey, it's the 15th season, let's do nostalgia, let's look back at the show's really rich history'," Ms Kihane said.

"But on the other hand, you've got to find an amazing American Idol. So we're trying to combine both of those things."

The show made stars of winners, notably Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, and it also proved a launching pad for the likes of Oscar-winner Jennifer Hudson and Adam Lambert, who is now singing with Queen.

However, some industry watchers contend the biggest star Idol made was Simon Cowell.

The X Factor boss has the distinction of serving as a panellist on both Pop Idol and American Idol, but it was the version broadcast on Fox which made him an influential television player.

When Cowell left American Idol in 2010, Fox snapped up his ultimately doomed US version of The X Factor.

Seated alongside pop singer and choreographer Paula Abdul and record producer Randy Jackson (no relation to the family of Michael Jackson), the lone British judge became a phenomenon courtesy of his acerbic critiques of the wannabe pop stars.

Catapulted into popular culture, Cowell was spoofed and parodied in The Simpsons, Family Guy and Scary Movie 3, to name a few.

Abdul left in 2009, while Jackson carried on until 2014, but f or many fans, the show was not the same without the original judging panel.

Along the way, the series became such an impressive promotional platform that established artists including Steven Tyler, Mariah Carey and Prince dropped in as panellists, mentors and performers.

Various celebrities also sat on the judging panel, including Ellen Degeneres in 2010 and Mariah Carey three years later.

The current line-up sees artists Harry Connick Jr, Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban return for their third year together as Idol bows out.

Past winners and familiar runners-up will be sprinkled throughout th e season, starting with the open auditions in which winners Ruben Studdard, Clay Aiken and Hicks were on hand to share tips with the hopefuls.

Kanye West made a surprise appearance at the judges' auditions in San Francisco in September, with wife Kim Kardashian West along as his cheerleader.

His "tryout" is included in Wednesday's episode.

Idol's influence extends to resurrecting the TV talent show as a boom industry that includes NBC's The Voice and ABC's Dancing With The Stars, the US version of Strictly Come Dancing.

"It not only was a huge success for Fox but impacted everyone else," said Bill Carroll, media analyst with Katz Television Group. "It once again underscored the fact that broadcast television is communal and an event."

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