AceShowbiz - Simon Cowell may not make it to the upcoming "American Idol" live finale, but he's still part of the show's three-night farewell. The British music producer and two other original judges, Randy Jackson and Paula Abdul, were back for a special 90-minute retrospective called "American Dream" which aired on Tuesday, April 5.
In the documentary-style special, Simon recalled he was told a "music show" wouldn't work. Randy admitted he also had a doubt about the show because it sounded "corny." It was revealed that Simon quit the show the week before production began and had to be convinced to return.
It got worse when they witnessed the first awful auditions. Randy's reaction at the time was, "What the hell is going on?!" as Simon thought he was doing a "service" by telling people how bad their singing skills were. Paula even "quit eight times the first day."
At first, the producers struggled to recruit contestants, but Justin Guarini had to stand in line for hours and almost left. Simon thought they were on the path to "disaster" until Kelly Clarkson showed up and sang "At Last". "When Kelly came in, I knew and I think we all knew we got a winner," Randy said.
Simon's harsh comments quickly became one of the show's trademarks, but they were balanced by Paula's optimism. Simon defended his attitude, saying that to be successful in the industry he at times needed to be brutally honest. Kelly agreed with him, saying, "If you can't handle Simon Cowell, you can't make it in this industry."
The special also recounted the controversial situation in season 3 in which "three divas" Jennifer Hudson, Fantasia Barrino and LaToya London landed in the bottom three. Jennifer was sent packing that night and finished seventh, but she eventually became of the most successful "Idol" alums and won an Oscar.
The special additionally noted how the show underwent a major change ever since Paula exited. "When you start dismantling the winning team, all bets are off," Randy said of Paula's departure. Simon then followed suit because he felt that it "stopped being fun." Host Ryan Seacrest said, "When Simon decided to go, all of us weren't quite sure what the meant for the show."
Simon told New York Daily News, "To be honest I think it changed more significantly once Paula left. At least for me, the show was never the same because she and I had such a connection and such a shorthand together." He added, "Paula was the right leg and I was the left leg. And with both legs gone, it wasn't the same show."
But then Jennifer Lopez joined the show and creator Simon Fuller claimed, "Simon left and our ratings barely changed." The show didn't forget to name some other judges, including Ellen Degeneres, Mariah Carey, Nicki Minaj and Steven Tyler.
Talking about the behind-the-scenes drama during Mariah and Nicki's time on the show, executive producer Nigel Lythgoe admitted, "Working with Nicki and Mariah was exceptionally challenging." The show has since shifted toward judging that is more nice, with current judges J.Lo, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. all being friendly to each other.
Of the importance of "Idol", Harry said, "It is a trendsetter." Paula said the show represented the "hope of the American dream, and the dream is still alive, because we've been able to witness it over and over again."
At the end of the special, Nigel teased a possibility of bringing "Idol" back with a new format. He said FOX was interested in another season of the reality series but in a more cost-effective format.