American Idol is a reality television competition to find new solo singing talent. Part of the Idol franchise, it was created by Simon Fuller as a spin-off from the British show Pop Idol, of which two series were broadcast between 2001 and 2003. Debuting June 11, 2002, as American Idol: The Search for a Superstar on the Fox network, the show has since become one of the most popular in the history of American television. It is currently the #1 program in the Nielsen ratings and is one of only three that have been #1 for five consecutive seasons, along with All in the Family and The Cosby Show.
The program aims to discover the best singer in the country through a series of nationwide auditions in which viewer voting determines the winner. Through telephone and SMS text voting, viewers chose past winners Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, and Kris Allen (listed in chronological order). The eligible age-range for contestants is currently 16–28 years old. The upper age limit was 24 in the first three seasons.
The series employs a panel of judges who critique the contestants' performances: Grammy award-winning record producer and music manager Randy Jackson and award-winning music executive and music manager Simon Cowell have been judges for the entire series. Grammy award-winning pop singer and Emmy award-winning choreographer Paula Abdul was a judge for the show's first eight seasons. The format originally featured three judges, with Latin Grammy Award-nominated singer–songwriter and record producer Kara DioGuardi added as a fourth judge for the eighth season. On September 9, 2009, Emmy award-winning talk show host Ellen DeGeneres was confirmed to be Abdul's replacement for the ninth season. The show has been renewed for three more seasons. On January 11, 2010 Simon Cowell announced that he was leaving the show to pursue introducing his show The X Factor to the USA for 2011.
Ryan Seacrest has hosted the show for its entire run. During the first season, he was joined by comedian Brian Dunkleman. The American Idol band is currently led by Rickey Minor. Dorian Holley of Los Angeles Music Academy is Music Director and vocal coach; he has been with the show since 2006.
The show usually airs on Tuesday and Wednesday nights in the United States and Canada, Wednesday and Thursday nights in Australia, parts of Asia, and the United Kingdom, Friday nights in Ireland, Friday and Saturday nights in Israel, and Saturday and Sunday nights in Latin America.
Entertainment Weekly put it on its end-of-the-decade, "best-of" list, saying, "It's given us Kelly, Carrie, Daughtry, and J. Hud. Idol rules the reality roost because the winners of Fox's ratings juggernaut actually do go on to greatness. And Taylor Hicks? He's the exception that proves the rule."