The Evolution of ‘American Idol’

To celebrate the 19th season of American Idol Sunday night, we’re taking a look back at how the show has changed since its original premiere.

American Idol has made its way onto TV screens since 2002. As years go by, the show has adapted to the changing social, digital, and cultural landscape. Here are some of the ways American Idol has reshaped the franchise.

A New Home

The show first appeared on the Fox network from 2002 to 2016. When they decided to revive the show in 2018, it moved to ABC.

So Many Judges

The original three judges included Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul, and Randy Jackson. Over the years, other celebrities like Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj, Keith Urban, Ellen DeGeneres, Harry Connick Jr., and Kara DioGuardi joined the judges’ table. The show has returned to a trio with Katy Perry, Lionel Richie, and Luke Bryan.

A New Set

Another network comes with a new set! In 2018, the show revealed its new set. Along with an added balcony for the audience, the judging table was put more off to the side, unlike being front in center in previous seasons.

No More “Bad Auditions”

The attraction for the reality competition may have come from its funny moments, or in other words, laughable auditions. Showrunner Trish Kinane explained in 2018 the decision behind removing bad auditions. “It doesn’t feel comfortable to put borderline unstable people up on stage and laugh at them,” said Kinane.

Focus on Creating Lasting Stars

While singers like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have made their mark on the music industry, others have faded since their American Idol win. Before revamping the show in 2018, Katy Perry expressed her main goal of finding the next big popstar. “Literally, we are wasting our time if we are not finding another star,” she said. “I take it very seriously, sometimes to my detriment.” While the world has forgotten some of the winners, Luke Bryan stressed that he and the judges would find someone who will be remembered. “Because there are a few years where you don’t remember those contestants, we don’t want it to go that way. We want it to go right back to what it was known for.”

Bobby Bones Becomes A Full-Time Mentor

In 2019, the country radio host earned the title of in-house mentor for contestants. He continues to offer industry expertise and advice to aspiring pop stars.

Showcasing TikTok and Instagram Talent

This season is different from any other due to its inclusion of TikTok and Instagram stars. When talking to Parade, Bobby Bones spoke about the new embrace of these social media stars. Idol acknowledges the real world, meaning it’s aware that people are getting [known from] TikTok and Instagram,” he says, “We’re like, Great, come be exactly who you are, we’re not going to change you—let’s see how far your talent and your voice will take you.”

On Sunday’s premiere, you may have caught TikTok star Claudia Conway, known as the daughter of former Trump campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway. Other TikTok influencers include Benson Boone, Adriel Carrion, and Calista Quinn.

Overall, American Idol has evolved in many ways throughout the years. This season will bring more surprises, fun moments, and of course, the next American Idol.

You can catch American Idol Sundays at 8 pm ET/PT or 7 pm CT.

About the Author

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Natalie Daniels

Natalie Daniels is a Journalism major at Emerson College in Boston and an intern at AfterBuzz TV. With her love of entertainment news and positive storytelling, she is passionate about all things music, TV/ movies, and pop culture.