American Idol has become a huge hit in America since it's debut in 2001. The show began with a concept that wasn't seen previously on television; a virtually unknown singer can be transformed into a superstar. The show wass a spin off of Britain's Pop Idol, where thousands of people compete for the chance to be named the next American Idol. Along with the title, the winner received a million dollar contract with 19 Entertainment. In it's early years, singers could only audition up to the age of 22; however, by the fourth season the age limit of the contestant expanded to 27 years of age. This change allowed more polished and experienced singers to try out.
The reality show has been successful in America because we get to see people who may have not been discovered catapulted into the spotlight. The longer a contestant can stay on the show, the more exposure he is given. The winner is guaranteed a recording contract but there have been many people on the show who didn't win the competition but were still successful. Some of these singers include Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson, Elliot Yamin and Kelly Pickler.
The talent show has had some cast changes since it's debut. Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul were the original judges on the show. Simon Cowell became known as "The Mean Judge" for his harsh and sometimes very truthful criticism of contestants performing on the show. Paula Abdul was considered "The Nice Judge" for her ability to find something positive to say about every contestant, even the ones that have a terrible performance. She was also known for her quirky behavior. Randy Jackson usually was somewhere in the middle. While he could be critical at times, he did offer support as well. In season eight, Kara DiaGuardi joined the cast as the fourth judge. She appeared to be very knowledgeable and gave critiques that the contestants can use to improve. The only dilemma was that having a fourth judge on the show increased the judge's talk time and made the show go over it's time limit some nights. There were some fans who preferred the original three judges as well and did not like the addition of a fourth judge. Paula Abdul quit before the start of the ninth season over a salary dispute. She was replaced by Ellen DeGeneres, who currently provides the show with comic relief.
The winners from previous season's were Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook and Kris Allen. Each winner has become widely known and has worked on various projects.
American Idol is successful because it is entertaining. We see virtual unknowns become a household name. There are also disputes among the judges. Contestants are sometimes given hurtful criticism which makes viewers feel sorry for them. In addition, viewers control the outcome of the show (or so we think). There will be more changes next season after Simon Cowell leaves to work on his new show X-Factor. We shall see if viewership diminishes. While there may be some viewers who decide not to tune in when he leaves, overall we are watching the show for the contestants.