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American Idol says goodbye, but leaves a winner

After 15 seasons, it's the end of the road for the popular reality TV series.

After 15 seasons, the reality TV series comes to an end Thursday

The long-running series was launched in 2002. The show will say goodbye after its last episode Thursday. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

After 15 seasons, it's the end of the road for the popular reality TV series American Idol, but the show went out in style.

"This show caught fire, developed great ratings," said Jeff McCall, professor of media studies at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind.

He says the TV singing competition also influenced a surge of reality television shows in the early 2000s.

Its appeal was in its ability to resonate with the audience.

"The average viewer had a fascination that everyday people could get a shot at being on television," McCall said.

When Simon Cowell decided to leave the show, it signalled the end of the program, says Jeff McCall. (Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press)

He points out that many of the performers were not pitch-perfect but people could sympathize with them, especially when judges like Simon Cowell tore them down with his harsh remarks. 

"He was the bad guy, but then you had other judges like Paula Abdul, who could always find an empathic comment to make," he said. 

While most of the competition's winners didn't gain the same fame as the first champion, Kelly Clarkson, the show did influence pop culture.

"You could go to the water cooler and still know the show existed," McCall said.

Overall, American Idol did have a great run and was in the top spot of national rankings for many of the years it was on the air.

With files from the CBC's The Early Edition

To hear the full story listen to the audio labelled: American Idol says goodbye, but leaves a winner


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