A decade has passed since Kelly Clarkson won American Idol

Exactly 10 years ago tonight, American Idol: The Search for a Superstar concluded on Fox, its first season giving television another shot of reality TV-fueled adrenaline that has lingered to this day.

The show debuted on June 11, 2002, having been preceded by ads featuring Simon Cowell being rude to auditioners, which back then was absolutely shocking. Season one also featured a co-host, Brian Dunkleman, and the return to popular culture for former idol Paula Abdul.

Summarizing everything that Idol has wrought would be impossible, from the copycat shows to its own drama to the careers it launched. That is perhaps the best illustration of its success, power, and impact on the world.

Go back in time 10 years with these clips, which make the first season seem like it happened in a previous century, not decade, from Kelly calling Simon “the British man” at her audition to the nearly juvenile set design at the auditions. How new and fresh and weird it felt back then, compared to how tired it all feels now.

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.