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BEST OF BASH

Rupert Murdoch

'American Idol' became a big star, but now it has been voted off

'American Idol' became a big star, but now it has been voted off

In the summer of 2002, a new singing contest with a distinctly patriotic title premiered on Fox with little fanfare. "American Idol" took the worn format of the talent search and within months became an unstoppable force, vaulting to the top of the Nielsen ratings by its second season.

The show's success hinged on two key factors: the drama at the judges' table, where British record executive Simon Cowell mixed it up with '80s pop icon Paula Abdul and bassist Randy Jackson, and the competition factor, heightened by phone-in voting that let viewers have a say in which singers survived or were eliminated. The show exploited suspense almost to the point of cruelty, leaving...

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