Once considered to be a juggernaut in US TV ratings, American Idol was for many years the number one prime time show as the public chose a singer they believed could be successful in the charts.
Known by many as simply ‘Idol’, it began life in 2002 and is the brainchild of pop impresario Simon Fuller and is based on the earlier successful versions of Britain’s ‘Pop Idol’.
One of the most controversial judges from that programme, Simon Cowell, headed Stateside and became instantly famous for his withering put-downs and critiques.
Idol essentially holds lots of auditions across America before whittling contestants down to a manageable number and putting them in a ‘boot camp’.
The result of this final audition process is to find 12 finalists – six men and six women – to take part in the live televised finals and after each performance a team of four judges hand out their assessments.
At the end of each show the phone lines are opened and viewers can vote for their favourite. The singer with the least number of votes leaves the show.
The series culminates in a grand finale with two singers going head-to-head in a programme which attracts some of the biggest singings names in the business.
The winner of the series is signed by a major label and they then head to the studio to produce an album, which is usually destined to top the Billboard chart.
Shown on the Fox network in America, it was shown in the UK on ITV2 for many years until the 12th season when it switched to 5*. In recent years, Idol hasn’t been as successful but still dominates its schedule.
One reason for the decline in viewers is that Cowell left the show to produce and judge an American version of X Factor, which is also shown on Fox.
However, American Idol has generated several big name music stars including Kelly Clarkson, Adam Lambert and Carrie Underwood.