With American Idol kicking off its 12th season tonight, we’ve decided to take a look back at the decade-plus history that our all-time greatest music reality show has given us: The wacky judges, the over-ambitious contestants, the fan favorites (like these guys!) and oh so much Ryan Seacrest—we’ve got it all here. (Not so coincidentally, it’s TV WEEK! here at Popdust.)
So before Nicki and Mariah put up their dukes for the first time tonight (while Keith Urban flashes covert S.O.S. messages at the camera from the side), take a trip through the ghosts of Hollywoods past with this definitive series recap, broken down by 14 of the show’s quirkiest, most lovable cliches.
THE AWKWARD CONTESTANT-JUDGE FLIRTATIONS
KARA DIOGUARDI & CASEY JAMES (Season 9)
To be sure, the shots of Kara staring adoringly at Casey James every time he appeared on stage were probably just an editing trick. But there’s no faking what went down in James’ audition, where she made him literally take off his shirt before letting him go through to the Hollywood round.
STEVEN TYLER & SHANNON MAGRANE (Season 11)
Steven Tyler was plenty gross around women during his two years on Idol, but never grosser than when telling Shannon Magrane’s dad that his 16-year-old daughter was “beautiful, hot, humid and happenin’.”
SIMON COWELL & CHRISTINA CHRISTIAN (Season 1)
Before his image calcified, S1 Simon Cowell was actually kind of a nice guy! Witness his bashful confession that he’s got a crush on Christina Christian—who let Hugh Grant sit at the judging table that week?
JENNIFER LOPEZ & STEFANO LANGONE (Season 10)
Stefano was at the center of a complicated love rhombus during his season (rumor was, Casey loved Haley who loved Stefano who loved Pia), and things only got spicier when J. Lo entered the mix. Fans may have called out “You’re married!” at her, but hey, she wouldn’t be for long.
PAULA ABDUL & COREY CLARK (Season 2)
Of all the uncomfortable flirting between judges and contestants over the years, this is the only instance that ended in the bedroom—or so Corey Clark would have you believe. An independent counsel later determined there was no evidence the romantic affair detailed in Clark’s e-book They Told Me to Tell the Truth, So…: The Sex, Lies and Paulatics of One of America’s Idols ever happened.
To read on to our favorite “Take Me Seriously As An Artist” Moments, click NEXT!
(Or read our picks for our favorite controversial eliminations, oddball fan favorites, Seacrest moments, diva moments, one-week wonders, Simon moments, breakthrough performances, disaster performances, judge goofs, reinterpretive covers, sob stories or last-ditch performances.)