Watch American Idol

The reality television show American Idol chronicles an annual singing competition from the initial auditions to the final selection of each seasons chosen winner. The show premiered in 2002 on the Fox network and has remained popular ever since. Winners get a recording contract. Some winners, like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, have become major stars after their wins.

Each season of American Idol begins with three weeks of auditions in various cities across the United States. Thousands of hopeful contestants come to these initial casting calls. Talent scouts and producers select those who will audition onscreen before the program's three celebrity judges, producer Randy Jackson, rock and roll icon Steven Tyler and actress and singer Jennifer Lopez.

The judges award golden tickets to worthy contestants who then progress to the next stage of the competition in Hollywood. In Hollywood, the contestants must sing in groups as well as individually. Over the course of several weeks, the judges eliminate contestants until they whittle the number down to 24 semi-finalists.

From this point on, the celebrity judges do not choose which contestants to eliminate. The public votes by calling a toll-free number, texting or going online. Millions of viewers select their favorites each week, and the 24 semi-finalists get reduced to 12 finalists. The 12 finalists then get reduced to two finalists and, after that, a single winner is chosen.

Themed weekly shows require the contestants to sing songs from a certain era, or perform the tunes of a certain pop star or singing group. Previous winners and guest stars make appearances also.

From the amusing auditions of some of the less talented contestants at the beginning of the season to the inspiring performances of the finalists, American Idol provides endless entertainment. It has become an American tradition and has jumpstarted the careers of numerous talented performers.

Sundays & Mondays at 8:00 PM et/pt on ABC
17 Seasons, 612 Episodes
January 8, 2009
Music, Reality
Cast: Ryan Seacrest, Mark Thompson, Randy Jackson, Simon Cowell
Watch Episodes
Clips & Extras

American Idol Full Episode Guide

  • Hopefuls audition in Los Angeles, Nashville, New Orleans, and New York City. They include a teacher from Michigan, a construction worker from Alabama, and a goat farmer from Oklahoma.

  • Hopefuls audition in Los Angeles, Nashville, New York City, and Savannah. They include a cattle farmer from Texas, twin teenagers from Southern California, and a furniture salesman from Illinois.

  • In episode two of auditions, Idol hopefuls, including a shoe salesman from Washington D.C., a construction worker from Southern California and a student from Louisiana, sing their hearts out for the judges to see if they have what it takes to earn a ticket to Hollywood.

  • Hopefuls audition in New York, Los Angeles, and Nashville, Tenn before judges Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie.

  • In the second part of the series finale, the final winner is crowned.

  • In the first part of the series finale, the final three contestants perform in front of a live audience and hope to impress America and the judges.

  • Find out who must say goodbye and who has advanced to the Top 3.

  • Who will be eliminated following America's vote? Plus, the 4 remaining singers perform.

  • Find out who will move on and who has reached the end of the road. The Top 5 perform. Also, a special performance by Adam Lambert.

  • Find out who will move on and who has reached the end of the road. The Top 6 perform.

  • America has voted. Who will advance in the competition? The Top 8 perform.

  • In the first live show of the season, host Ryan Seacrest reveals the final two semi-finalists joining the Top 10. Then, the Top 10 singers will perform for America's vote.

  • Who will fill the final spots in this farewell season's Top 10?

  • IDOL fan favorites are back to mentor and perform, as the judges decide which five contestants will be going home.

  • The remaining 12 of the Top 24 perform hoping to impress the judges.

  • The second half of the Top 24 perform, hoping to impress America and the judges.

  • The first half of the Top 24 perform hoping to impress the judges and advance to the next round of the competition.

  • Watch who has survived Hollywood week and will advance to the Top 24.

  • The judges search for the Top 12 Male and Top 12 Female singers.

  • It's Hollywood Week! With hundreds of contestants, the judges do their best to file down the contestants.

  • It's Hollywood Week! With hundreds of contestants, the judges do their best to file down the contestants.

  • The auditions continue as the judges search for the next big superstar.

  • The auditions continue as the judges search for the next big superstar.

  • The auditions continue as the judges search for the next big superstar.

  • The auditions continue in Philadelphia.

  • The auditions continue in Little Rock, Arkansas and San Francisco, California.

  • In the final season premiere, judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr., join Ryan Seacrest as they hold auditions in Detroit and Atlanta.

  • As the show is about to come to an end, Ryan Seacrest hosts this 90-minute retrospective of American Idol - the cultural phenomenon - with former judges and contestants. Plus, some of the best Idol memories.

Watch American Idol Online - Watch online anytime anywhere: Stream, Download

American Idol is currently available to watch free on Hulu, ABC and stream on ABC. You can also stream, download American Idol on demand at DIRECTV NOW, Hulu online.

American Idol News

Did Katy Perry Sexually Harass 'American Idol' Contestant?

The 'Idol' judge had trouble keeping her lips to herself on the show's premiere.

'The Voice' Beats 'American Idol' Premiere

The return of 'Idol" was not the hit that ABC had been hoping for.

Ryan Seacrest Shunned by Best Actress Nominees on Oscar Red Carpet

The sexual misconduct allegations against Seacrest might have had something to do with it.

Will Ryan Seacrest Be Pulled from Oscars Coverage?

E! News is worried that allegations of sexual misconduct are going to sabotage its red-carpet coverage.

Will Stars Shun Ryan Seacrest at the Oscars?

Accusations of sexual harassment may make Seacrest unpopular on the red carpet.

Ryan Seacrest Accused of Sexual Abuse

Seacrest denies the claims by his former stylist.

Is Carrie Underwood's Marriage in Trouble?

Rumors of a pending divorce have begun to circulate.

Carrie Underwood Unveils New Post-Injury Song

In the new song, Underwood declares that she's "invincible."

How Bad Are Carrie Underwood's Facial Injuries?

The 'American Idol' alum alarmed fans this week with a cryptic warning about her appearance.

Carrie Underwood Injured in Fall, Concerned That She Will 'Look Different' After Recovery

The 'American Idol' alum suffered significant injuries to her face.

Is John Mayer Stalking Katy Perry?

The musician admits that he's still got an interest in his ex-girlfriend.

Katy Perry Banned from China

The 'American Idol' judge won't be allowed to perform in the country.

Nicki Minaj Tries to Break the Internet with NSFW Magazine Cover

The former 'American Idol' judge is doing everything she can to shock you.

'American Idol' Reboot Finally Gets a Premiere Date

Now we know how long we'll have to wait for the revived series to hit the air.

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American Idol Video Clips & Extras

Clean Up on American Idol Clip (00:01)