One of reality TV’s most beloved shows has finally come to an end. “American Idol” was a show originally created by Simon Fuller as a singing competition based off of the British series “Pop Idol.” It ran for 15 seasons over 14 years, kicking off many popular singers’ careers. Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Jordin Sparks, Jennifer Hudson and Chris Daughtry all got their start on “American Idol,” whether or not they took home the title of “American Idol.” First airing in 2002, the show quickly rose in popularity and remained incredibly well-received in its first 10 years on the air. In those formative years, America became familiar with the faces of the show: host Ryan Seacrest and the three famous judges, music producer Simon Cowell, former pop star Paula Abdul and bassist-singer-producer Randy Jackson. All four of them came in with their own unique, strong personalities—each of which was inherently different from the rest.
It was the contrast of these personalities—combined with the broadcasted audition process followed by the competition itself and audience voting—that shot “American Idol” to the top. Contestants such as William Hung and Sanjaya Malakar became mini-phenomena for their ridiculousness. Others gained popularity with audiences through their talent, and to some degree, attractiveness. Among these are David Archuleta and Scotty McCreery—the winner of season 10.
“American Idol” suffered a hit during its sixth season when viewership started to decline. Viewership continued to drop and, before long, judges started to fall away as well. Abdul was the first to leave just before season nine and a whole slew of judge replacements followed her departure.
Cowell left before season 10 and Jackson left before season 14. Those among the revolving cast of judges included Ellen DeGeneres, Kara DioGuardi, Steven Tyler, Nicki Minaj and Mariah Carey. The final season ended with Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban as judges. Seacrest acted as the one constant of “American Idol,” hosting all 15 seasons.
Despite its decline in viewership, “American Idol” has kept up its energy and continuously churned out great talent. Season 11 winner Phillip Phillips, for example, went on to release the hit single “Home,” which was featured heavily in the 2012 London Olympics.
“American Idol” was so popular over the years that multiple spin-off enterprises have been created such as the “American Idol” tour, “American Idol” video games, “Idol Gives Back”—a special charity event held during the show—and even an “American Idol” theme park attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios that was open from 2009–2014.
There’s no question that “American Idol” has had a deep cultural impact on American society. Mention it to almost anybody and they will most likely be familiar with the name, even if they haven’t actually seen it. So, even if viewership has gone down over the last few years, the show still holds memories for most.
Even after its ending, the show is still generating a buzz. When Seacrest signed off for a final time, he lamented, “And one more time—this is so tough—we say to you from Hollywood, goodnight America. For now.” Such a suspicious final goodbye has given many viewers hope that the show will live on, whether it is through a revival or through a spin-off show.
It’s clear that while we won’t be seeing the last of the show, we must say goodbye to “American Idol”—for now.