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'American Idol': Saying farewell to the competition show that changed television

Kelly Clarkson. Simon Cowell. Ryan Seacrest.

Those are just a few of the names that were largely unknown in the United States before “American Idol” premiered in 2002. Fourteen years later, each is a household name – and television and pop music have taken different, visibly “Idol”-ized forms.

The singing competition, which began its last season in early January, opened the Top 40 to new talent and helped transform the record industry into a digital business. It whetted our still-raging appetite for ritualized talent judging. And it demonstrated that a live TV show could reach a mass audience – around 30 million people at its peak – well into the Internet age, a prospect that’s driven network executives (for better or worse) ever since.

EDITION: California | U.S. & World
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