American Idol airs final episode after fifteen seasons



From left, American Idol contestants La'Porsha Renae, Dalton Rapattoni, and MacKenzie Bourg take a seat during a dress rehearsal for the March 24th episode at CBS Television City in Hollywood, Calif. (Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Anna Scheuring, Reporter

After fifteen years of making dreams come true and turning ordinary people into stars, Fox’s hit American Idol concluded with its last standing ovation. The finale closed its curtains after crowning Trent Harmon the title of the final American Idol.

American Idol began on June 11, 2002. The show was so monumental, as it was the first television show where the American people were able to be a part of the voting process that turned ordinary people with dreams into rock stars.  The show had open invitations for tryouts in populous cities around the United States, and people from all walks of life came to prove their talent in front of the three judges. The prospects waited in lines all day just for their short interval of time to perform for the golden ticket to Hollywood. The original judges of American Idol – Paula Abdul, the infamous Simon Cowell, and Randy Travis – offered their opinions and then decided either yes or no. The majority vote would either send the singer home or to Hollywood. Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman co-hosted the show in its first seasons. Starting from the first season, the show gained more and more viewers every night until it set records with the most views in TV history. Some seasons it was the most watched show on television at the time.

Since its premiere, American Idol has debuted some of the best musicians in the industry, such as Carrie Underwood, Kelly Clarkson, Phillip Phillips, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, Kris Allen, Scotty McCreery, and Katharine McPhee.

The last season began just like the previous fourteen. Ryan Seacrest opened up the show, leading nervous contestants into the audition. Jennifer Lopez, Harry Connick Jr. and Keith Urban returned as judges for the final season. Auditions were held in Denver, Savannah, Little Rock, San Francisco, and Philadelphia, among other cities throughout the US. Kanye West even made a surprise visit to San Francisco to perform. After the week of auditioning, Hollywood week aired in four episodes. The contestants were tested physically and emotionally in a group and solo setting. The time in Hollywood narrowed the competition to 24 contestants, who than performed to impress the American Idol judges and producers, as judging was not open to people yet. Eventually, a Top 14 formed into the semi-finals, and weekly performances with the theme week were targeted toward the millions watching through the television screen. Some stand out performers from the final season were La’Porsha Renae, Dalton Rapattoni, Olivia Rox, Trent Harmon, MacKenzie Bourg and Gianna Isabella. The finals took place over six weeks and seven shows, the singers being weeded out by judge voting and the audience vote. Idol alumni Kelly Clarkson came back to the show as a guest judge. For the first time with six remaining contestants, the men and women were paired to sing duets. For the Top 5 week, the finalists performed songs fan-requested on Twitter. Sia and Stevie Van Zandt made an appearance as guest mentors for the week. When three contestants remained, Dalton Rapattoni was eliminated, making the Final Two La’Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon. On the final episode of American Idol, 13.3 million viewers tuned into Fox to watch one last star awarded the legendary title. In the end, Trent Harmon was voted the 2016 American Idol. As confetti floated from the roof one last time, Harmon performed the original song Falling.

The show at Dolby Theatre brought back the people who built American Idol, including the three original judges and dozens of previous contestants. Throughout the tedious weeks, stars such as Demi Lovato, Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, Adam Lambert, Keith Urban, Jennifer Lopez and Kris Allen among many others performed. President Obama even congratulated Idol on its successful 15 seasons, using the platform of the Finale to promote participation in the democracy by voting.

“This show transformed television. It inspired young artists and captivated audiences across the country. And it taught America what it means to be ‘pitchy.’ American Idol has achieved something else as well: for over a decade, this show has motivated millions of young Americans to vote – often, and with enthusiasm. We should do the same in our lives as citizens of this country that we love,” said the Commander-in-Chief on the show’s success.