Pop Idol

Pop Idol

Pop Idol was a British television series which debuted on ITV on October 5 2001; the show was a talent contest to decide the best new young pop singer, or 'pop idol', in the United Kingdom, based on viewer voting and participation. A second series was broadcast in 2003.

The Idol series has become an international franchise, although a legal dispute with the makers of Popstars meant that the word "Pop" had to be excluded from the title. As such, spin offs have included American Idol, Australian Idol, Latin American Idol, Idols (Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, South Africa, Serbia-Montenegro & Macedonia), Canadian Idol, Idols West Africa, Indian Idol, Indonesian Idol, New Zealand Idol, Hay Superstar, Nouvelle Star (France) , American Juniors, Pinoy Idol (Philippines), Idol (Norway), Idol (Poland), Deutschland sucht den Superstar, Singapore Idol, Malaysian Idol, Vietnam Idol, Music Idol (Bulgaria), Ídolos (Brazil & Portugal), Super Idol (Greece), Solo Idol (Solomon Islands) and Super Star (Arab World).

Unusually, the format was created not by TV producers but by music impresario Simon Fuller, in 1998. Having initially seen the project as web-based, the reality TV boom of the late '90s led him to take his format and inject elements of the variety talent shows of the 1970s and Popstars.

Series format

One of the UK's top-earning TV format exports, Pop Idol made extensive use of premium-priced viewer interactivity, with viewers voting by telephone, mobile telephone texting (not used on series one), through the "red button" on digital television sets, or via the official website. The final of the first series of Pop Idol in February 2002 received the highest-ever one-night vote for a UK TV show, making the show one of ITV1's most profitable. The sister show on ITV2, Pop Idol Extra, also made extensive use of mobile phone text messages to raise additional revenue. The first Pop Idol received very high voting figures despite allowing only telephone and Internet voting and not making use of texting or the "red button".

The Saturday night primetime show initially followed the audition process, as hopefuls sang before four judges (record producer and music manager Pete Waterman, music executive Simon Cowell, pop mogul and television personality Nicki Chapman and famous Radio DJ and television personality Neil "Dr" Fox) at various locations around the UK. Besides the successful auditionees, the poorest "singers" were often aired due to their obvious lack of talent or presence. Poor singers often faced harsh criticisms from the judges, especially from Simon Cowell (whose controversial rantings also made him famous on American Idol). The judges' reactions to such performances often ranged from disgust to nearly open laughter, their style of judgement and attitude towards pop-star wannabes having resulted in the controversial opinions of others about the show's set up, including that of Take That manager, Nigel Martin Smith.

Once auditions wrapped up, the series moved to the Criterion Theatre, where further auditions saw the judges decide on a group of 50. Unusually, this was the final point at which the judges had direct control over the contestants' fates, as the remainder of the results would be driven solely from viewer voting.

Stage 3 of the series moved to a conventional TV studio. The 50 contestants were split into five groups of ten, each of whom sang one song for the judges, accompanied only by a piano. Each judge offered their opinion, and at the end of the pre-recorded show phone lines opened for votes. Later the same evening a live show followed in which the voting results were revealed, the top two earning a place in the final ten. In series 2, a wildcard round (an innovation that originated on American Idol) was added, in which the judges selected ten rejected contestants and gave them a second chance. In this special edition, one contestant (Susanne Manning) was selected by the viewer vote, and one (Sam Nixon), chosen by the judges. This meant that the next stage began with twelve contestants, rather than the ten in series 1.

The final stage moved to a more lavish TV set, where all remaining contestants sang on live television, accompanied by either a backing track or live band. Most editions had a theme, with contestants singing songs from a particular genre or artist (no original songs were performed at any stage in the competition). Again, the judges offered comments, but the results were decided by viewer voting. Again, a live results show was broadcast later in the evening, but this time the singer with the lowest votes was eliminated, the rest continuing to the following week, until only the winner remained.

Exceptions to the usual format were limited. In series 1, Darius Danesh was promoted to the live shows when Rik Waller dropped out. Danesh was third in the results for the group where Waller had won his place. Also, the first two live shows of series 2 saw two contestants leave, in order to rebalance the numbers after the addition of the two extra performers from the wildcard show.

Results and legacy

The first series was won by Will Young, with Gareth Gates coming in second. Michelle McManus won the second series. However, after the second series Simon Cowell was contracted to produce the first series of The X Factor for ITV (Cowell's Syco TV owns the rights to The X Factor) and the channel decided to focus on this new show, placing Pop Idol on indefinite hiatus. However, its impact was immense and led 19 Entertainment and Fremantle Media to roll the format out globally; currently there are over 50 versions in 110 countries. ITV's licence to produce Pop Idol has since expired, meaning that other channels could theoretically acquire the series. Despite rumours (see below), no broadcaster has since acquired the rights to the format in the UK.

All of the top three contestants from series 1 had number 1 singles in the UK. Will Young continues to be a credible recording artist. Darius Danesh had two hit albums and has appeared in the West End musicals Chicago, playing the role of Billy Flynn, and Gone With The Wind, originating the role of Rhett Butler, he also appeared in the touring version of Guys and Dolls as Sky Masterson. Gareth Gates initially had great success, which later dried up. However, he released his third album in June 2007 which charted at No. 23. Series 2 contestants enjoyed significantly less chart success, which many believe damaged the credibility of the show, and helped hasten its demise in its home country.

It has been common to suggest that the UK is actually the nation where the alumni of such shows are least successful, as between Popstars, Pop Idol, The X Factor, and the BBC's Fame Academy, only Will Young, Fame Academy's Lemar, Popstars' Girls Aloud, and The X Factor's G4 (who were financially the most successful group to ever come out of a reality show), Leona Lewis and Shayne Ward have gone on to achieve notable success, whereas other nations' contests, most notably American Idol, produced singers who have gone on to much greater success than their UK counterparts.

Immediately after the second series of Pop Idol, the same set was used to host World Idol, in which winners of various Idol series around the world, including original Pop Idol winner Will Young, American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson and Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian, competed in a one-off competition, complete with a large judging panel featuring one judge from each country (Simon Cowell officially representing American Idol, with Pete Waterman the "official" UK judge). Surprise winner was Norway's Kurt Nilsen, who proceeded to minor UK chart success. Cowell was strongly critical of World Idol, and it is highly unlikely to be staged again.

Despite running for only two series, the show's legacy is huge, having spawned Cowell's own similar series The X Factor, and the many adaptions of Pop Idol around the world , notably American Idol, again featuring Cowell as a judge.

After the second series of Pop Idol in 2003, ITV put the show on indefinite haitus. This was because judge music executive Simon Cowell wished to produce his show (The X Factor) which he and his record label (Syco) owned the rights to. Another reason why Pop Idol was put on indefinite haitus was because of Pop Idol's second series winner, Michelle McManus achieving little UK chart success, and ITV wanted a much more refreshed series (with more famous and experienced judges) of a similar format to take over, thus The X Factor being chosen as its replacement. The X Factor judge line-up was originally Simon Cowell, music manager Sharon Osbourne and Popstars: The Rivals judge and music manager Louis Walsh. This line-up was joined by pop singer Dannii Minogue in series 4. Osbourne departed The X Factor at the end of series 4, leaving Cowell, Walsh, Minogue and new judge Cheryl Cole (Osbourne's replacement), who is part of the successful girls group Girls Aloud, created by Popstars: The Rivals. The X Factor has gone on to be one of the most successful reality TV series in UK, with international spin-offs in countries including Spain, Australia, Denmark and Italy.

Main article The X Factor

Series one (2001/02)

Pink indicates eliminated contestant. The winner is highlighted in green. Numbers in brackets indicate number of times in the bottom two/three.

  • according to voting totals released in Pop Idol book

Date Bottom three
15 December Korben Laura Doherty Jessica Garlick
22 December Jessica Garlick (2) Laura Doherty (2) Rosie Ribbons
29 December Aaron Bayley Rosie Ribbons (2) Laura Doherty (3)
5 January Laura Doherty (4) Rosie Ribbons (3) Zoë Birkett
12 January Rosie Ribbons (4) Hayley Evetts Darius Danesh
Date Bottom two
19 January Hayley Evetts (2) Zoë Birkett (2)
26 January Zoë Birkett (3) Darius Danesh (2)
Date Top three
2 February Darius Danesh (3)
9 February Gareth Gates Will Young

Series two (2003)

  • according to voting totals released in Pop Idol book

Note: On a number of occasions, the non eliminated contestants announced to be in danger were not in that position, as shown by the Pop Idol book!

Date Bottom three
25 October Leon McPherson Kirsty Crawford Mark Rhodes
1 November Brian Ormond Marc Dillon Kim Gee
8 November Kim Gee (2) Roxanne Cooper Michelle McManus
15 November Andy Scott-Lee Chris Hide Mark Rhodes (2)
22 November Roxanne Cooper (2) Mark Rhodes (3) Susanne Manning
Date Bottom two
29 November Susanne Manning (2) Chris Hide (2)
6 December Chris Hide (3) Mark Rhodes (4)
Date Top three
13 December Sam Nixon
20 December Mark Rhodes (5) Michelle McManus (2)

Relaunch of Pop Idol

On 1 October 2006, ITV's licence to produce Pop Idol in the UK ran out and its creator Simon Fuller, with co-producers FremantleMedia and 19 Television, began talking to UK broadcasters about reviving the show in a revamped format on a different channel. While Sky1 and Five initially expressed interest in buying the show, no revival has been announced.

Video Games

Pop Idol was released as a video game, where the player creates his/her own singer, then they must sing their way through the auditions, theatre stages, heats, and then the finals. The game increases in difficulty as the player progresses through the competition. With each stage of the finals, one or two players with the least public vote tally are eliminated. The gameplay mainly consists of lining up a moving symbol with a fixed object in the center of the screen and pressing the corresponding symbol on the game's controller. If the player presses it when the symbol is in the middle of the circle, their singer sings a good note. If he or she presses it when it is not in the circle, or mistimes their press, the singer sings a bad note.

Related programmes

The Idol format has been launched in dozens of nations worldwide, and there have been many imitations of the programme.

A World Idol international television special was held in December 2003, featuring national first series Idol contest winners competing against each other; viewers worldwide voted Norwegian Idol's Kurt Nilsen "World Idol".

The similar Popstars format preceded Pop Idol, and was succeeded in Britain by one series of Popstars: The Rivals and four series so far of The X Factor. After Popstars producers threatened legal action, a deal was struck that, among other clauses, does not allow the use of the word "pop" in the title of Pop Idol editions outside of the UK.

See also

External links


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