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Pop Idol

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Pop Idol
Pop Idol logo
Format Talent Show
Created by Simon Fuller
Presented by Ant & Dec
Judges Simon Cowell
Pete Waterman
Nicki Chapman
Neil Fox
Country of origin  United Kingdom
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 46

19 Management
Thames Television

Finalists (With dates of elimination)
Series 1 (2001-2002)
Will Young Winner
Gareth Gates February 9
Darius Danesh February 2
Zoë Birkett January 26
Hayley Evetts January 19
Rosie Ribbons January 12
Laura Doherty January 5
Aaron Bayley December 29
Jessica Garlick December 22
Chris "Korben" Niblett December 15
Series 2 (2003)
Michelle McManus Winner
Mark Rhodes December 20
Sam Nixon December 13
Chris Hide December 6
Susanne Manning November 29
Roxanne Cooper November 22
Andy Scott-Lee November 15
Kim Gee November 8
Marc Dillon November 1
Brian Ormond November 1
Kirsty Crawford October 26
Leon McPherson October 26
Original channel ITV
Picture format 16:9
Original run October 5, 2001 – December 20, 2003

Pop Idol was a British television series which debuted on ITV on 5 October 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.

It was replaced in 2004 with The X Factor on ITV.

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, Belgium, Finland, South Africa, Serbia-Montenegro & Macedonia), Canadian Idol, Idols West Africa, Indian Idol, Indonesian Idol, New Zealand Idol, Hay Superstar (Armenia), Idol stjörnuleit (Iceland), Nouvelle Star (France), American Juniors, Pinoy Idol (Philippines), Idol (Sweden), Idol (Norway), Idol (Poland), Deutschland sucht den Superstar (Germany), Singapore Idol, Malaysian Idol, Vietnam Idol, Music Idol (Bulgaria), Ídolos (Brazil and Portugal), Greek Idol (Greece), SuperStar ( Arab World), Hrvatski Idol (Croatia), Hrvatska traži zvijezdu - relaunched Croatian Idol (Croatia), SuperStar KZ (Kazakhstan), Yeni Ulduz (Azerbaijan) and Eesti otsib superstaari (Estonia)

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 executive Pete Waterman, music executive and music manager Simon Cowell, music promoter and music manager Nicki Chapman and 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 resulted in the controversial opinions of others about the show's setup, including that of Take That manager, Nigel Martin Smith.

The viewing public quickly fell in love with the format though, as viewing figures indicated. Watching middle aged men openly critique hapless teenagers and young adults proved to be popular television as those watching at home experienced a satisfying sense of schadenfreude. The judges' policy of speaking candidly would have to be sanitised in series 2, however, as it received condemnation from MPs.

Once the first round of auditions were completed, 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 by viewer voting.

Stage 3 of the series took place in 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.

For the final stage, the show 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 fewest 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 second. Michelle McManus won the second series. All of the top three contestants from series 1 had number 1 singles in the UK. Will Young continues to be a 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 (though his third album, released in June 2007, charted at No. 23). Finalists ; Rosie Ribbons and Zoe Birkett both scored chart hits, whilst Jessica Garlick represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest 2002. Semi finalist Sarah Whatmore had two chart hits, despite failing to be voted into the top 10. 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.

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). The 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.

After the second series of Pop Idol in 2003, ITV put the show on indefinite hiatus. This was because judge and music executive Simon Cowell wished to produce his own show, The X Factor, which he and his record label ( Syco) held the rights to. In addition, Pop Idol's second series winner, Michelle McManus, achieved little UK chart success, and ITV wanted a refreshed series (with more famous and experienced judges) of a similar format to take over – thus The X Factor was chosen as its replacement. The X Factor judging 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 the UK, with international spin-offs in countries including Spain, Australia, Denmark and Italy. In 2005, Pop Idol creator Simon Fuller filed a lawsuit against The X Factor producers claiming that the format was copied from his own show. The case was eventually settled out of court.

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.

Despite running for only two series, Pop Idol's 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, including, notably, American Idol, again featuring Cowell as a judge.

Series one (2001/02)

Contestant Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9
Will Young Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Winner
(week 9)
Gareth Gates Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Runner-up
(week 9)
Darius Danesh 1 Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Bottom Eliminated
(week 8)
Zoe Birkett Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Bottom Eliminated
(week 7)
Hayley Evetts Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Bottom Eliminated
(week 6)
Rosie Ribbons Safe Bottom three Bottom two Bottom two Bottom Eliminated
(week 5)
Laura Doherty Bottom two Bottom two Bottom three Bottom Eliminated
(week 4)
Aaron Bayley Safe Safe Bottom Eliminated
(week 3)
Jessica Garlick Bottom three Bottom Eliminated
(week 2)
Rik Waller Did not sing, due to illness Withdrew
(week 2)
Korben Bottom Eliminated
(week 1)
  • 1 Had been eliminated in previous rounds, but reinstated following Rik Waller's exit.

Series two (2003)

Contestant Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9
Michelle McManus Safe Safe Bottom three Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Winner
(week 9)
Mark Rhodes Bottom three Safe Safe Bottom three Bottom three Safe Bottom two Safe Runner-up
(week 9)
Sam Nixon Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Bottom Eliminated
(week 8)
Chris Hide Safe Safe Safe Bottom three Safe Bottom three Bottom Eliminated
(week 7)
Susanne Manning Safe Safe Safe Safe Bottom three Bottom Eliminated
(week 6)
Roxanne Cooper Safe Safe Safe Safe Bottom Eliminated
(week 5)
Andy Scott-Lee Safe Safe Safe Bottom Eliminated
(week 4)
Kim Gee Safe Bottom three Bottom Eliminated
(week 3)
Marc Dillon Safe Bottom two Eliminated
(week 2)
Brian Ormond Safe Bottom two
Kirsty Crawford Bottom two Eliminated
(week 1)
Leon McPherson Bottom two
  • Note: Following the completion of the series, the official Pop Idol companion book published percentages of votes for each contestant every week. In some circumstances, the book suggested that the bottom 2 or 3 contestants were not the same as announced by the show hosts. It is not known if the incorrect result was announced, or if the book merely made a typing error. However, the contestant deemed to have had the lowest percentage was always eliminated on that week, meaning the overall result of the show was not changed.

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 developed by Codemasters for the PlayStation 2 on October 30, 2003. 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 centre 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 six 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.

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