After 15 years, Fox’s groundbreaking reality competition “American Idol” came to an end on Thursday night, crowning 25-year-old Trent Harmon the winner and 22-year-old La’Porsha Renae the runner-up.
Honestly, many viewers probably didn’t care about the current contestants. The finale was a pure nostalgia-fest, as producers invited back former “Idol” alums from all walks of fame to participate in various group medleys. Lots of judges were on hand, from the new (Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban) to the very old (Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul and, of course, Simon Cowell).
Host Ryan Seacrest even felt the emotion of the night, as he got choked up when he bid farewell to viewers for the last time: “The real reason our lives have changed forever is you at home; we know that, we appreciate that,” he said. “And one more time — this is so tough — we say to you from Hollywood: Goodnight, America.”
In typical “Idol” fashion, the two-hour show had a mix of moments that were funny, emotional and just plain weird — here are the top 10 moments, in order of the episode:
Dressed all in white, the current “Idol” contestants gathered on stage at the beginning and sang “One Voice.” Then, a ton of alums slowly streamed on stage to join them. It sounds cheesy, and definitely looked like some sort of cult initiation, but it was actually lovely to see so many people whose lives changed for the better as a result of the show.
Oh, Brian Dunkleman — a cautionary tale about leaving a show too early. Hey, how was he supposed to know “Idol” would become a worldwide phenomenon? A very good sport, Dunkleman made a brief appearance to spar with Seacrest, his former co-host who stayed behind to reap all of the glory and money. “WELL WELL WELL, Seacrest,” Dunkleman boomed, walking out as Seacrest kicked off the show. “Looks like after tonight, you’ll be out of a job. And trust me, nobody knows the pain of life without ‘Idol’ more than me.”
After some good-natured banter, the two shared an adorable hug. You will not make us cry, Brian Dunkleman!
“Pants on the Ground” guy showed up. That’s right, Larry Platt (!) was one of the more famous bad auditions in “Idol” history, except everyone can agree the song is kind of amazing. Even stranger, the song was incorporated into a cover of Meghan Trainor’s “No,” sung by a group of former female contestants including Allison Iraheta, Jordin Sparks, Tamyra Gray and Kimberly Locke. (Scroll to 5:45 in the below video.)
First-ever “American Idol” winner Kelly Clarkson couldn’t attend the finale because of her pregnancy, Seacrest sadly told the crowd. So producers featured a pre-recorded segment of Clarkson singing her greatest hits, from “Since U Been Gone” to “Breakaway” to “My Life Would Suck Without You.” At the end, the music and back-up singers quieted and she sang a few lines of “A Moment Like This,” her coronation song from the first season —before anyone knew just what the show would become.
Former judge Nicki Minaj’s brief, pre-recorded message wishing the show well — well, funny if only just to imagine the thoughts going through Mariah Carey’s mind if she saw that.
— Nicki Minaj News (@NickiReigns) April 8, 2016
Bo Bice has short hair and glasses now!
— Mark Ockerbloom (@ocktalks) April 8, 2016
How satisfying was it to see Jennifer Hudson — who famously finished in seventh place and then went on to win an Oscar — blow the roof off the place with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” with Fantasia Barrino and LaToya London? She segued into her own song, “Remember the Music,” while Fantasia gave everyone chills with her song, “Ugly.”
Unintentionally, the amazingly awkward dancing between singers like Brandon Rodgers, Clark Beckham, George Huff, Danny Gokey and Elliott Yamin as they sang “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg.” We’ll miss you most of all, forced “Idol” choreography.
“Idol” had to pay tribute to its original three judges who helped make the show a sensation back in the days when 30 million people would tune in. After airing a montage of the crazy audition moments (remember the guy who threw water at Simon Cowell?) Seacrest brought Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson on stage. The three bantered for awhile, and just as Seacrest started to say the Evil Judge couldn’t make it — the audience started screaming, and guess who walked out?
— SandyLeeTV (@SandyLeeTV) April 8, 2016
Either Seacrest is a great actor (hmmm) or he truly didn’t know Cowell was behind him. They all had a group hug and Cowell was bleeped nearly immediately as he started talking. In a very un-Cowell-like move, the former judge thanked the fans and then Jackson and Abdul for being his best friends. Just as we started to get a little teary, Cowell himself admitted “I’m feeling quite emotional now.”
… and then William Hung came out and performed “She Bangs.” Moment over.