After fifteen seasons, American Idol sang its final song on Thursday night to an estimated 13 million viewers. What was once the most-watched television show in the country had a tumultuous run in recent years, but the fifteenth season finale brought back memories of what made the show such a success in the first place.
The night started off with former Idol contestants from the last fifteen years, joining together in song. Winners and fan favorites from over the years sang “One Voice” by Barry Manilow, before Host Ryan Seacrest took the stage to introduce the judges. But for the first time in 14 years, he wasn’t alone.
Former host Brian Dunkleman took the stage, joining Ryan Seacrest to introduce the judges. Dunkleman famously left the show after co-hosting the first season with Seacrest, and although their reunion was meant to be a comedic exchange between the two, Dunkleman seemed to play bitter far too well. “Trust me, nobody knows the pain of life without Idol more than me,” he told Seacrest with a passive aggressive smile.
And Dunkleman wasn’t the only ghost from Idol past to return during the two-hour series finale. Memorable season nine audition hopeful General Larry Platt returned to sing a clip of the song that had the whole country talking back in 2010 – “Pants on the Ground.” And of course, the finale would not have been complete without one final rendition of Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs,” performed by the infamous William Hung.
One of the musical highlights of the night was a pre-taped performance of original American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson singing a medley of her greatest hits. Clarkson couldn’t attend the finale in person with the birth of her second child right around the corner, but that did not stop her from pre-recording hits like “Breakaway,” “Because of You,” and “My Life Would Suck Without You.” Clarkson closed her performance with the song that started it all – her winner’s single, “A Moment Like This.”
American Idol powerhouse Carrie Underwood also returned for two separate performances, first with judge Keith Urban, and then to close out the show with her song “Something in the Water.” Other notable Idol alums included Chris Daughtry, Jennifer Hudson, Katharine McPhee, Constantine Maroulis, and Jordin Sparks. But one performance reminded America of the lost Idol gem, season ten’s Pia Toscano. Toscano’s ninth place exit was regarded as one of the most shocking in the show’s history. The singer closed out a medley featuring an otherwise strange grouping of former contestants with a cover of Celine Dion’s “All By Myself.” And it was safe to say she reminded everyone just why her exit from the show was so shocking in the first place.
One of the finale’s sweetest moments came when original judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson returned to reflect on the past fifteen seasons. After a montage of the greatest audition moments played on the screen, Abdul and Jackson presented Seacrest with a giant American Idol sign. Much to their surprise, Cowell, who wasn’t supposed to be attending the night’s festivities, joined his former judges to say goodbye.
At the end of the night, underdog Trent Harmon took home the Idol crown in an upset, beating out favorite La’Porsha Renae. But the real surprise was when Seacrest signed off one last time. “We say to you from Hollywood, goodnight America,” he said as the lights went down. “For now.”
Montclair State | New Jersey