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'American Idol' (FOX)
Premiered: June 11, 2002
When "American Idol: The Search for a Superstar" premiered in 2001, audiences didn't know Simon Cowell. We didn't know Randy Jackson. We didn't know Ryan Seacrest. We didn't know Brian Dunkleman. It was basically the singing "Star Search" knock-off with the mean British guy and the woman who danced with the cat in the "Opposites Attract" video. By the time the show ended in September, with nearly 23 million people watching the finale, Kelly Clarkson was a budding superstar, Justin Guarini had become our favorite high-voiced Muppet, Tamyra Gray's elimination was a national outrage, all three judges (particularly Simon) were icons, Ryan Seacrest was on the cusp of full media domination and Brian Dunkleman... Well, we all know what happened to Brian Dunkleman. "Idol" became the dominant TV program of the decade and no matter how much people like to mock its current "decline," the show remains a star-making hit for FOX after 12 installments.
- Daniel Fienberg
Photo Credit: FOX