The Sunday Magazine: American Idol

All good things must end. One of those good things came to an end this past week; the television singing talent show American Idol. After a typical season of following the stories of 24 hopeful singers the fifteenth, and final, American Idol was crowned.

American Idol began as a summer replacement series in June of 2002. The Fox Network was looking for a cheap reality show for the time of the year which generally sees the least amount of people watching TV. I didn’t start to watch until part way through that first season as people at work were actively talking about their favorites. They were also talking about how hard it was to vote as they kept getting busy signals. This was one of American Idol’s innovations they were going to let the audience choose who continued on until they eventually chose the winner. From the beginning it created voting blocs who would support their favorite by voting multiple times. As the show gained in popularity it was probably one of the first reasons many people learned how to spell out V-O-T-E on their phone’s text function. I am probably not too far from the truth when I say American Idol taught many how to text.

american idol

By the end of that summer of 2002 American Idol had grown into a phenomenon. By the time the second season kicked off in January of 2003 thousands wanted the opportunity to become an American Idol. One of the hallmarks of the show was the early audition rounds where prospective contestants performed acapella in front of a panel of three judges. It was always fascinating to watch a singer grow from that audition throughout the competition. The thing I didn’t like was poor singers were allowed through for comic effect. The ones who were clearly in on the joke were fine. It was the ones who genuinely thought they were good singers, and weren’t, who were then crushed by the judges; always felt cruel to me. Which was why I always recorded those rounds and fast forwarded through those moments. Once that first large group of contestants was cut down to a final 24 then I got the chance to vote for my favorites.

American Idol definitely lived up to its name as it produced numerous alumni who have gone on to amazing success. Winning wasn’t always necessary for the show to give a young talent the opportunity to continue on with a career.

It is that which separates American Idol from a show like The Voice. Idol was always about the contestants first, judges second. The Voice is all about the judges, the contestants are just props to be used. If you need proof name a winner on The Voice who has had success after the show. Do the same for Idol.

I am going to miss spending the first part of every year watching a few talented young singers blossom into confident talents.

Mark Behnke

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