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Happy 10th anniversary, ‘American Idol’!

Idol best momentsTen years ago today, “American Idol” debuted as a fill-in Fox summer TV reality show.

I read some of the stories from the time. Expectations were modest. “Idol” did not send out an advance copy of the first episode, which made TV writers at the time instantly suspicious.

The Chicago Tributne: American Idol” (8 p.m., WFLD-Ch. 32), copied from a British hit called “Pop Idol,” operates under the flawed assumption that this nation wants or needs another treacly pop star. Don’t the producers know that Celine Dion is back from exile and only one of the ‘N Sync boys is planning to go to space?

The Cleveland Plain Dealer: How bad is “ American Idol“? Well, we learned long ago not to ask how low Fox will go.

The Salt Lake Tribune: Fox mailed a short clip of the program to television critics, and, oh daddy, the cringe factor is really high — for the viewer, too. This is the show for those who truly love the sight of someone making an unintentional fool of themselves.

And it’s interesting to hear how Nigel Lythgoe spun the show before it first aired to the Los Angeles Times:

Lythgoe maintains that “American Idol” is less a talent show and more a slice of human drama, “like the kid who turned up and said to the judges, ‘Both my parents are deaf and they’ll never hear me sing.’ And he sang ‘When I Fall in Love’ and signed it at the same time. It was just beautiful.”

I recall the two TV writers at the AJC at the time passed on covering the show so they handed me some early advance tapes (in VCR form!) Fox did send out in June. Believe it or not, I still have them.

The PR person at “Idol” also informed me of five folks who were from the Atlanta area.

So I started tracking them in Peach Buzz.

Here’s the very first thing I ever wrote about “Idol,” which ran in Peach Buzz June 17, 2002:

Idol‘ has five Atlantans

Atlantans heavily populate the Fox television show “American Idol, ” which seeks to find the “best” singer/performer via popular vote. Of the 30 semifinalists, five are from the Atlanta area.

So far, the twice-weekly summer replacement series has done well amid a sea of repeats. Tuesday at 8:30 p.m., the first group of 10 will sing individually, and viewers will vote whether they’re worthy of moving to the next round.

Among the 10 will be Christopher Aaron, 23, of Duluth (a fan of Brandy) and teacher Tamyra Gray, 22, of Norcross (who loves Prince). R.J. Helton of Cumming, Melanie Noelle of Atlanta and an Atlantan who goes only by Jamar are the three other competing locals who will be shown on later episodes.

On my 33rd birthday, June 21, 2002, I wrote about Gray, who would ultimately finish fourth:

Norcross’ singing ‘Idol

Norcross resident Tamyra Gray blew away her crooning competitors in the first semifinal round of “American Idol, ” a twice-weekly Fox show that takes elements from Ed McMahon’s old “Star Search” and adds a dollop of edgy nastiness (or simple honesty) from a panel of judges.

Gray (left), competing for one of three finalist slots along with nine others, including Duluth pal Christopher Aaron, pulled in the most votes out of 3 million cast by the viewing public. The results were announced live Wednesday night.

To get to the finals with gorgeous Ryan Starr and sentimental pick Jim Verraros (who has deaf parents), 22-year-old Gray sang an inspiring version of “And I’m Telling You I’m Not Going, ” made famous by torch singer Jennifer Holliday.

Gray told Buzz that she chose that song because her mother, Rita Preston, loves it. When Gray reached her mom on the phone, “all she did was scream and then hang up the phone.”

The judges all predicted Gray would be the top vote-getter. “At the audition in Atlanta, I described her as having the X factor with a capital X, ” said the usually snide British record executive Simon Crowell, one of three judges that culled 10,000 contestants down to 30. “This girl is a star.”

Gray, unlike many of the jilted contestants, of course has nothing bad to say about Crowell. “I’m just a girl from Norcross being who I am. I’m so grateful people actually support me, ” she said.

The ratings for the first episode were solid and away the show went until Kelly Clarkson beat Justin Guarini before more than 23 million viewers, a huge number for a summer show. (I remember being at a Star 94 viewing party at Dave & Busters for that one.)

For folks who watched the show from 2002, what are some of your memories?

For nostalgia’s sake, here’s the first few minutes of episode one from a decade ago:

And check out this story on Billboard.com: “Idol” contestants have had 345 separate titles from 29 different “Idol” contestants reach No. 1 on one of its charts over 10 years for a total of 1,142 weeks. Kelly Clarkson has the most No. 1’s (73), followed by Carrie Underwood (62), Daughtry (38), Fantasia (31) and Ruben Studdard (16).

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By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

257 comments Add your comment

Rickster

June 11th, 2012
10:20 am

Ten years? Wow. Just wow.

Not bad for a show that’s been dying for years.

Deirdre

June 11th, 2012
10:21 am

Great history lesson, Rodney! Loved the critics’ opinions. are those guys still working?

And Nigel’s early description of the show…perfect!

Rodney Ho

June 11th, 2012
10:22 am

As you know Deirdre, I wouldn’t be where I am now without “American Idol.” I’d probably be covering cops out of DeKalb or serving sandwiches at Chick Fil-A…

Deirdre

June 11th, 2012
10:23 am

LOVED the video!!!

Sam-A

June 11th, 2012
10:24 am

Harriett: from the last thread, me too. Drives me nuts to only have capability to record 2 and have to watch one of them at the same time! AT&T U-Verse supposedly has a dvr to record up to 4 shows at once, but I’ve not heard a lot of good stuff about them. Anyone here got U-V and can comment?

Rickster

June 11th, 2012
10:24 am

The one really interesting nugget in all that is that Rodney will be 44 in 10 days!

Happy early birthday Rodney! :-)

Rodney Ho

June 11th, 2012
10:25 am

The show’s fundamental DNA has not changed from day one, Dunkleman or no Dunkleman.

Rodney Ho

June 11th, 2012
10:25 am

Hey Rickster! I’ll be 43! I’m old enough as it is!

Rickster

June 11th, 2012
10:26 am

or.. 43…. in 10 days.

Math was never my strongest subject.

Which is why I let someone else do my taxes :-)

Rodney Ho

June 11th, 2012
10:27 am

Interesting fact from MJ’s blog: that infectious song “Call Me Maybe,” which is topping the top 40 charts, is sung by Carly Rae Jepsen, who finished third season five of “Canadian Idol.”

Sam-A

June 11th, 2012
10:28 am

And Deirdre, that “Sunday Night Cram ‘em all in” syndrome kills me too. Need something good to watch on Fri/Sat nights (not everyone is a bar hopper or party guy/gal). I’d really like to see all the Downton’s again, but “Falling Skies” is back next week, and I’d like to watch rather than tape it. Monday’s are usually that way for me as well, especially when the “winter” editions of “The Closer” have been on – too many choices, not enough time to watch a bunch of recorded stuff. Guess that’ll be what retirement is for, if there’s still enough to interest me to record by then.

Deirdre

June 11th, 2012
10:28 am

Dunkleman must’ve read the reviews and thought he was making a good decision.

Rickster

June 11th, 2012
10:29 am

but happy $#%^%^ birthday anyway!! :-)

Rodney Ho

June 11th, 2012
10:30 am

Things seem to be going from bad to worse for the “America’s Got Talent” military fibber. He has a warrant out for his arrest!

http://www.thedaily.com/page/2012/06/09/060912-news-singer-fibs-1-2-zzfpvzz/

Deirdre

June 11th, 2012
10:32 am

Lying sack of youknowwhat!

Deirdre

June 11th, 2012
10:34 am

Falling Skies has commercial…that says “tape it” loud and clear to me.

Rickster

June 11th, 2012
10:45 am

Simon: “We’re going to show the audition process as it really is.”

other than the fact that they try and make people think the judges are there for the cattle call sessions and omit the intermediate audition –
and often have the cattle calls in one city and the judges’ auditions in another –

other than that… they pretty much show the audition process as it really is.

Rickster

June 11th, 2012
10:54 am

Sam-A: AT&T U-Verse supposedly has a dvr to record up to 4 shows at once, but I’ve not heard a lot of good stuff about them. Anyone here got U-V and can comment?

We love the U-verse. Had a little bit of an issue with the initial set-up, but after that it’s been great. One thing is that while you can record up to 4 shows at once… if you are – you can’t watch anything live.

Sam-A

June 11th, 2012
11:00 am

Rickster: Well, that kinda sux. Is that only if recording 4, or does it apply if you’re recording at all? I had thought about a switch with the ads about the wireless feature, but a bit wary.

G

June 11th, 2012
11:05 am

Idol’s presence was fairly noticeable in the sports world this weekend.

Jessica Sanchez performed the national anthem for the big boxing match (Pacquio vs Bradley). She did a great job as usual. I was at Hudson Grill (Midtown) to watch the fight. The people in the bar gave her a nice ovation after her performance. That’s rare for a bunch of sports dudes.

As a result of the controversial decission from the judges, ESPN compared that to American Idol voters. They mentioned Sanjaya and the overall “head-scratching” decissions that Idol voters make from year to year. LOL!!!

I can’t make this stuff up. I’ll try and find the video and write-up some time today.

G

June 11th, 2012
11:09 am

Guess pp was too busy to pull this main event gig, huh?

Deirdre

June 11th, 2012
11:11 am

On that note, Phil has tweeted a thank you for all the good wishes and prayers and says he’s resting comfortably after his surgery. Hopes are that he will be recovered in time to start the tour.

Harriett

June 11th, 2012
11:19 am

I would love to watch the first season from beginning to end, not just for nostalgial’s sake, but for comparison. I think they got away from some of what endeared Idol to us in the name of a more sophisticated product. I’d love to watch the second season, too.

Rickster

June 11th, 2012
11:19 am

Sam. you can watch a show while recording 1, 2 or 3 shows at the same time. Or you can record 4 shows at the same time and watch 0.

As long as you’re not in the house to watch anything, that’s fine. I rarely find four shows i want to watch at the same time anyway, so it’s rarely an issue.

Mercedes S.

June 11th, 2012
11:26 am

Interesting to see that already ten years ago, Simon “Crowell” talked about X-factor.

The clueless TV-writers who didn;t care about “Idol”, who were they? Are they still with the AJC?

If I was a TV-writer and I heard of a new show that had been a huge sucess in another country (”Pop Idol” in England, “Robinson” in Sweden – it became “Survivor” here) I think I would be a wee bit interested,

G

June 11th, 2012
11:31 am

@Harriet. You don’t need a rewind. It’s real simple. Once Idol jumped the shark by allowing singing musicians to participate, The whole game changed. Just my personal opinion, but most mucians that happen to sing, are vocally not as strong as those singers that do not play instruments. THAT is the major difference that I have noticed over the years.

Deirdre

June 11th, 2012
11:31 am

I started watching about halfway through season 1 because my younger son called me from his freshman dorm room and said I had to see this singer, Kelly Clarkson. One song from her and I was hooked.

He stopped watching the season that Fantasia won.

Kenyan Idol

June 11th, 2012
11:33 am

After 10 years, I am thankful to say I have never ever watched 5 minutes of this amusement for the most simple-minded among us.

I actually came here to read Rodney’s piece about QUALITY programming for the upcoming week, but unfortunately clicked here by mistake.

Deirdre

June 11th, 2012
11:36 am

So far, no other singing competition show has managed to live up to Idol. I imagine that people who have stopped watching Idol are tired of that particular genre of show so they wouldn’t be all that interested in other competition shows. And Idol managing to remain a relatively simple concept rather than the high-concept The Voice or the almost sleazy X-Factor helps Idol remain on top of the ratings war.

I don’t doubt that X-Factor will draw a big audience this fall with the Britney addition but will they manage to hold on to it?

Sam-A

June 11th, 2012
11:41 am

I started with the very first show and never missed one yet, even when I was in the hospital on opening week last year, and when I was in emergency room 3 years ago with dislocared/shattered/broken wrist, my boss took me to hospital, and he called my sister to come and relayed my message (misted with pain!) to be sure and set her dvr up for Idol so I wouldn’t miss it.

2 or 3 years ago one of the lesser ATL stations ran Idol Rewind, with season’s 1 & 2 – a little bit edited, I think they only showed maybe one episode of the auditions from each season. It was on about 7:00 on Sunday evenings. Really nice to revisit Idol the way it should have stayed.And refreshing to see again Simon, when asked who he thought should win Season 1, saying “If America gets it right, absolutely Kelly Clarkson”.

Deirdre

June 11th, 2012
11:41 am

Kenyan…if you’ve never watched even 5 minutes of the show, how in the hell would you even know what you’re talking about?

Deirdre

June 11th, 2012
11:44 am

I think Idol should announce when its final season will be then do an Idol all-star season. What fun that would be.

♥ kelly&carriefan ♥

June 11th, 2012
11:47 am

Hi y’all!

Wow does time fly. I was in college when Idol started. I started watching around the time of the semi finals when along came Kelly. And well, I was glued to the show after that. The thing that struck me from the write up, Tamyra was the top vote getter with 3 million votes! How “cute” is that?

So, um, as the unofficial Idol Historian (Yes, I gave myself a made up title!) I have one question, where’s EJ in this? Or is that who “Jamar” refers to?

Rodney, VHS? Ha. Add those to the time capsule in your backyard. :)

Rickster

June 11th, 2012
11:49 am

Kenyan Idol… I think you insulted us. But I may be too simple-minded to know for sure.

Rickster

June 11th, 2012
11:51 am

Found these opening sentences interesting:

Simon Cowell is not the only one who knows how to play hard-to-please on The X Factor. During auditions in Kansas City – where Cowell was out sick – Britney Spears proved she was taking her new job very seriously.

http://www.people.com/people/article/0,,20602881,00.html?xid=rss-topheadlines

♥ kelly&carriefan ♥

June 11th, 2012
11:54 am

Sam-A, I have U-Verse. I’ve never really had any problems with it. The internet can be a little slow at times, but for TV viewing, it’s awesome. Like Rickster said, the DVR can record 4 things at the same time, which is a lot. Because of this, their DVRs have to have a lot of storage space. It comes in very handy for me.

D, you nailed it. I think Idol succeeds in what other shows fail. People watch Idol and SYTYCD for the same reason…yes it’s about “finding a star” but also, it’s about the journey and the connections that the viewers make with the contestants. The Voice had potential, but it evolved into being more about the judges which is, imo, one of the reasons it lost so much steam. That as the “make up as you go rules” which were extremely manipulative and annoying. Duets is also suffering from that problem, imo. It’s hard to capture that without seeming too much of a copycat..

Sam-A

June 11th, 2012
11:59 am

Me thinks Kenyan doth protest too much. I suspect he/she’s seen a good bit of the show. By this remark: “I actually came here to read Rodney’s piece about QUALITY programming for the upcoming week, but unfortunately clicked here by mistake., I assume he/she only watches PBS – if so, I’d love to hear your opinion of “Downton Abbey” – or is that also too pedestrian for your oh-so-sophisticated tastes?

Harriett

June 11th, 2012
12:01 pm

Good point, G, but I do not agree that is the entire reason. I believe there is more to it. I do remember Taylor Hicks’ comment about David Cook’s playing his guitar and saying how things might have been more sbstantive (my word) if during his season instruments had been allowed.

Harriett

June 11th, 2012
12:01 pm

or maybe substantive?

G

June 11th, 2012
12:10 pm

IF musicians were still not allowed to perform today, do you guys think the WGWG winners would even participate? Talk about changing the landscape…..for the worst IMO.

Traffic Headache

June 11th, 2012
12:11 pm

Ten years too long. This and its copycats are fodder for twenty-something career ladies, their daughters and their gay friends.

MyPatootie

June 11th, 2012
12:15 pm

“Kenyan Idol” …..if what you say is true, then why would you take up your valuable, sophisticated time to even post a comment? Whenever I see a post like yours nothing but ????????????? comes up in my mind. Don’t go away mad, JUST GO AWAY!

MyPatootie

June 11th, 2012
12:19 pm

“TH”….. I am not in any of the 3 categories you named, so you are wrong right off the bat. BTW, me thinks the moniker “RoadRage” might be more appropriate for you.

Deirdre

June 11th, 2012
12:26 pm

k&cf..please!!!! You’ve been the Official Idol Historian for years!

Deirdre

June 11th, 2012
12:27 pm

I don’t fit Traffic Headache’s criteria either. So much for that theory!

Rickster

June 11th, 2012
12:37 pm

As many as 100 people are feared dead in an earthquake and landslide that buried more than 20 houses in northern Afghanistan on Monday, officials said.

Reached for comment, Timothy Michael Poe stated, “Don’t blame me. That didn’t happen while I was there.”

“Ummm.. I mean I wasn’t there when that happened.”

bknsty14

June 11th, 2012
1:04 pm

for all the Kelly fans, here’s an old (2008) video of a “slightly” intoxicated Kelly Clarkson singing with an 80’s hair metal band. ten minutes long and has some language and sexual comments in it, but it is still entertaining to see her a little tipsy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=id1Ayo-G4eU

JTesla

June 11th, 2012
1:09 pm

Hey, I just met you,
And this is crazy,
But here’s my number,
So call me, maybe?

It’s hard to look right,
At you baby,
But here’s my number,
So call me, maybe?

Hey, I just met you,
And this is crazy,
But here’s my number,
So call me, maybe?

- Carly Rae Jepsen “Call me maybe”

I’d comment on Idol being old, or Poe being a turd, or the fact that certain people don’t like the show (thanks for sharing), but I am too busy trying to get this song out of my head. So, call me, maybe.

Mercedes S.

June 11th, 2012
1:18 pm

As for “Idol” memories of ten years ago… Kelly was our girl from the getgo, but we also liked the red-haired girl who was kicked off after being forced to tell a tasteless joke. That was the first season, right?

Rodney Ho

June 11th, 2012
1:19 pm

Poor Vanessa Oliveros from Atlanta? She was the first off season two!