American Idol is an American singing competition. It is part of the Idol series, originating from the UK show Pop Idol, a singing contest to determine the best singer in the UK. In recent years it has become one of the most highly publicized music competitions in the world, reaching the status of a phenomenon.
The first season of American Idol debuted without hype as a summer replacement show in June 2002 on the Fox Broadcasting Company after being rejected by numerous other networks. The show’s co-hosts were Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman. Through word of mouth generated by the appeal of its contestants and the presence of acid-tongued British judge Simon Cowell, the show grew into a phenomenon. An estimated fifty million people watched the Season 1 finale in September 2002. Following such a success, the second season was moved to air the upcoming January.
In Season 2, Seacrest surfaced as the lone host. Dunkleman reportedly hated working on the show and the studio was dissatisfied with his performance. Kristin Holt was a special correspondent. This time, Ruben Studdard emerged as the winner with Clay Aiken as a very close runner-up. Out of 24 million votes recorded, Studdard finished just 130,000 votes ahead of Aiken.
The third season of American Idol premiered on January 19, 2004. The winner of this season of American Idol was Fantasia Barrino, later known professionally as simply “Fantasia,” and the runner-up was Diana Degarmo. This was also the season that Golden Globe Award-winning and Acadamy Award-winning actress Jennifer Hudson was discovered.
The fourth season of American Idol premiered on January 18, 2005. It was the first season in which the age limit was raised to 28, in order to increase variety. All Season 4 contestants had to be between the ages of 16 and 28 on August 4, 2004, born on or between August 5, 1975 and August 4, 1988. Among those who benefited from this new rule were Constantine Maroulis (born September 17, 1975) and Bo Bice (born November 1, 1975), considered to be the eldest and somewhat most experienced of the season’s Idol contestants. They were also constantly mentioned by Seacrest and in the media as “the two rockers”, since their long hair and choice of rock songs made them stand out from conventional Idol standards. The presence of more rock-oriented contestants has continued with Chris Daughtry in Season 5, who was inspired to audition for the show by Bice.
This season also implemented new rules for the final portion of the contest. Instead of competing in semi-final heats in which the top vote-getters are promoted to the final round, 24 semi-finalists were named; 12 men and 12 women, who competed separately, with 2 of each gender being voted off each week until 12 finalists were left.
The fifth season of American Idol began on January 17, 2006; this was the first season of the series to be aired in high definition. Auditions were in Austin, Boston, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco, with Greensboro, North Carolina and Las Vegas, Nevada included after the cancellation of the Memphis auditions due to Hurricane Katrina. The season used the same rules as Season 4. Contestants had to be between the ages of 16 and 28 on 2005, being born on or between August 16, 1976 and 1989. Chris Daughtry was discovered during this season after being voted in one of the most surprising eliminations.
Finalist Bucky Covington also had prior troubles with the law. Coincidentally, Covington’s crimes involved himself and his twin brother, Rocky. The two had allegedly switched spots in 1998 to confuse the police. However, this prior crime had no effect on Covington’s time on American Idol, and he was voted off on April 12.
American Idol Season 6 began on Tuesday, January 16, 2007. The premiere episode of the season drew a massive audience of 37.7 million viewers, peaking in the last half hour with more than 41 million viewers. It has been reported that the 2006 British The X Factor winner Leona Lewis is scheduled to perform on an early episode of American Idol Season 6, thanks to the connection with Simon Cowell.
The seventh season of American Idol is expected to take place beginning in January 2008, with auditions likely to be held starting in July 2007. Few other details are known at this time.
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