‘American Idol’: Thanks for the Memories!

by Chris Azzopardi 8:41 AM PDT, May 12, 2015
Photo: FOX

It’s the beginning of the end … and finally?

After 15 seasons and the launch of music career after non-music career after non-music career, American Idol won’t just be Seacrest Out -- the whole shabang is signing off for good.

Are you crying so many Paula Abdul tears right now? Or are you counting down the days till one of TV’s greatest guilty pleasures frees up some much-needed space on your DVR? Whatever you’re feeling, here are some Idol milestones that prove that, even at its worst, some of TV’s best moments were made in front of a mic. 

1. The Original Idol

It’s hard to believe that we even had to vote Kelly Clarkson into the Idol Hall of Fame. Alas, we did, she cried, and then she conquered. But a good Texan gal doesn’t go on to score nearly 100 No. 1s on the Billboard charts and forget her beginnings. And how could we? Here, in 2002, the Idol icon snatches her crown – while giving us the cutest of Cute Cries – during “A Moment Like This,” a song that has thankfully not defined her career. Pass the tissue.

2. Best Flirty Feud

They were often split on who could and couldn’t sing, but judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul agreed on some things. For instance: strawberries! Despite their differences, the two came together to mock their rumored affair in this skit, during which they shared a juicy berry… and an equally-as-juicy lip-lock.

3. Best Not-Fake Feud

In its 12th season, the FOX juggernaut was still a sing-off where young hopefuls vied for the top spot, but you wouldn’t know it with Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj around. Was the drama between the divas a distraction? Yes. Was it hilarious and catty and such good shade you wished it’d never end? Absolutely. And for all that meme-worthy side-eye, we owe you gratitude, girls. #BLESSED 

4. ‘Crying Girl’

It’s still a mystery to this day: Why would anyone cry uncontrollably over Sanjaya Malakar? You know, unless they were in physical pain from hearing the Season 6 finalist mangle another note. “Crying Girl,” aka Ashley Ferl, was not experiencing the earache we all were every time the shaky singer took the stage. 

5. More Crying (Thanks, Paula!)

When Paula Abdul wasn’t slurring her words, she was erupting into a river’s worth of waterworks. Paula is forever our Idol girl if only because she didn’t hold back -- not advice-wise (because, yeah, she was Mother Hen up there), but with her drunken emotions. 

6. J. Lo: Making Dreams Come True One Manolo at a Time

What was American Idol’s style budget anyway? Because whether stunning in a technicolor dress or strutting in Christian Louboutin pumps, Jennifer did not leave the house for “work” without looking like a million bucks.

7. A Rock God Is Born

Glamberts: Imagine your lives without Adam Lambert. You can’t even, RIGHT? For his dear devotees, it was love at first sight, as Season 8 of Idol introduced his glorious range (omg “Mad World”!) and sexy stage presence to the world. Each time Lambert stormed the Idol stage, he pushed limits -- vocally and otherwise -- demonstrating that you don’t have to take top prize to get to the top.

8. Best of the Worst

For every Idol champ, there was a chump. And then there was William Hung, the viral warbler who, uh, “charmed” the judges with an infamously awful rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs.” Thanks to Hung, the benchmark for our favorite part -- the bad auditions -- had been raised. And one contestant was about to rival it…

9. Best Song About Not Wearing Pants

If this clip is any indication, guest judge Mary J. Blige has not gotten over hearing then-62-year-old Larry Platt talk-sing his viral rap ditty, "Pants on the Ground." MJB is just a few laughs away from rolling on the floor as she witnesses Platt take on an anti-pants sagging song. The civil rights activist -- no joke -- at least used the Idol platform for... positive change?

10. The King of ‘Mean’

Dishing out disses like no other, the prickly-yet-lovable Cowell had zero qualms about keepin’ it real when it came time to send contestants back home so they could continue living their delusional lives. The show’s Dream Dasher was never shy with his feelings, telling Season 6’s Haley Scarnato: “Can I tell you the problem? Do you know what I said to Paula halfway through the song? I don’t know your name.” Oh snap!

11. ‘All-American Girl’ Goes Hollywood

She wasn't always Carrie Underwood as we know her now. Seven GRAMMYs. Sixteen Billboard Music Awards. Eleven Academy of Country Music Awards. More than 65 million albums sold worldwide. AND EVEN A GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATION?! But remember: Before the down-home darling tore up a cheatin' lover's ride, she was tearing up your TV. 

12. The Short-Lived Phenomenon of Brian Dunkleman

Apparently Idol could only handle one host with Barry Manilow hair. After the show's 2002 debut season, Ryan Secrest's sidekick, Brian Dunkleman, made a run for it. With the public confused and curious about his departure, he later said he just couldn't stand making kids cry. Now he's a stand-up comedian. Based on this tweet, Dunkleman just might be getting the last laugh.