The currency is fame, and it's bigger than money, more desired than power.
Each season American Idol delivers on a promise whose epic scope is unparalleled in the annals of competition: to take an unknown dreamer from the middle of America and turn him or her into a genuine star. It has become not only the biggest show on television, but the biggest force in all of entertainment; its alumni dominate the recording charts and Broadway, win Academy Awards, and sweep up Grammys. In fact, American Idol has reshaped the very idea of celebrity.
But it didn't start out that way. When the little singing contest debuted as a summer replacement on the U.S. airwaves, it was packed between reruns and low-cost filler. The promise that it would find America's next pop star produced a hearty round of guffaws from the country's media critics. Now, some ten years and millions of records later, no one is laughing.
American Idol: The Untold Story chronicles the triumphs and travails, the harrowing backstage drama and the nail-biting onstage battles that built this revolutionary show. In this revealing book, veteran journalist Richard Rushfield goes deeper inside the circus than any reporter ever has. Candid interviews with Idol alumni, including Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell, shed new light on the show that changed the entertainment industry. And because Rushfield had full access to the people who created the show, starred in it, and kept it atop the pop culture pyramid, this book is the first to take Americans behind the curtain and tell what has really been happening on the world's most watched and speculated-about stage.
Rushfield begins with an overview of producer Simon Fuller, whose 2001 U.K. launch of Pop Idol came to the States as American Idol on the Fox network. The show combined several key factors: viewer voting, the "audition from hell" process, and a panel of judges that included the abrasive "dasher of dreams," Simon Cowell, who received much press coverage as "Mr. Nasty." For the American version, Fox insisted on the affable Randy Jackson as a "counterweight" to the caustic Cowell. Amid unknowns, Paula Abdul began as "the show's real star," generating a "love/hate chemistry" with Cowell. Within months, 26 million viewers were tuning in. Going season by season, Rushfield covers top finalists and winners, backstage intrigues, record deals, media coverage, fan fiction, and Web sites, lawsuits, and contractual conflicts, as well as Abdul's antics and departure. Rushfield explores the lives of the finalists after the Idol tours, making for a poignant closing chapter. A former Los Angeles Times columnist, Rushfield spent three years covering the show, and his many interviews with the show's cast and crew provide a genuine "insider" flavor. Diehard fans will appreciate both the deep background material and the behind-the-scenes gossip.