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American Idol is a reality game show/singing competition created by Simon Fuller and produced by 19 Entertainment, and distributed by FremantleMedia North America. It began airing on Fox on June 11, 2002, as an addition to the Idol franchise based on the UK show Pop Idol and has since become one of the most successful shows in the history of American television. For an unprecedented eight consecutive years, from the 2003–04 television season through the 2010–11 season, either its performance or result show had been ranked number one in U.S. television ratings.
The concept of the series is to find new solo recording artists where the winner is determined by the viewers. Winners chosen by viewers through telephone, Internet, and SMS text voting were Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, Lee DeWyze, Scotty McCreery and Phillip Phillips.
The series employs a panel of judges who critique the contestants' performances. The original judges were record producer and music manager Randy Jackson, pop singer and choreographer Paula Abdul and music executive and manager Simon Cowell. The current season's judging panel consists of Randy Jackson, R&B singer Mariah Carey, hip hop artist Nicki Minaj, and country singer Keith Urban. Radio personality Ryan Seacrest is the emcee of the show.
The series was described by a rival TV executive as "the most impactful show in the history of television." It has also become a recognized springboard for launching the career of many artists as bona fide stars. According to Billboard, in its first ten years, "Idol has spawned 345 Billboard chart-toppers and a platoon of pop idols, including Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, Fantasia, Ruben Studdard, Jennifer Hudson, Clay Aiken, Adam Lambert & Jordin Sparks while remaining TV ratings juggernaut.
American Idol was created based on the British show Pop Idol, which was in turn inspired by Popstars, a show TV producer Nigel Lythgoe saw in Australia and brought over to Britain. Using the idea from Popstars of employing a panel of judges to select singers in audition, then adding other elements such as telephone voting by the viewing public (which at the time was already in use in shows such as the Eurovision Song Contest) & the drama of backstories & real-life soap opera unfolding in real time, Simon Fuller then created Pop Idol. The show debuted in 2001 in Britain with Lythgoe as the producer & Simon Cowell as one of the judges, & was a big success with the viewing public.
Fuller & Cowell attempted to sell the Pop Idol format to the U.S. in 2001, but the idea was met with poor response from U.S. TV networks. However, Rupert Murdoch, head of Fox's parent company, was persuaded to buy the show by his daughter Elisabeth, who was a fan of the British show. The show was renamed American Idol: The Search for a Superstar & debuted in the summer of 2002, & became one of the summer hit shows that year. The show, with the personal engagement of the viewers with the contestants through voting, & the presence of the acid-tongued Cowell as a judge, grew into a phenomenon.
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