Jennifer Lopez appears at the "American Idol" farewell season finale at the Dolby Theatre on Thursday, April 7, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo)
President Barack Obama was the unexpected opening act. In apparently pre-taped remarks, Obama congratulated the show on its long run and noted that it motivated millions of young people to vote for contestants.
Then he made a pitch for Americans to demonstrate that same eagerness at the polls, calling voting the most fundamental and sacred rite of democracy. "I believe it should be almost as easy as voting on 'American Idol.' And we're working on that," Obama said.
Seacrest got the final — if enigmatic — words Thursday. "Good night, America," he said. Then as the screen faded to black, he added, "For now."
'American Idol' debuted in June 2002, during the summer broadcast doldrums, an indication that Fox didn't have high hopes for the imported singing contest based on producer Simon Fuller's hit British series 'Pop Idol.'
But the show proved a revelation. Viewers ate up the contestants' performances and personalities, good, bad or downright ridiculous. They relished the bickering of Cowell and Abdul and, from Jackson, the reassuring familiarity of the trademark "Dawg" that prefaced his critiques.
With Fox carefully protecting 'American Idol' as a once-a-year event, the show's ratings zoomed and its influence did as well.