With Fox's American Idol's fifth season already proving to be the most successful, it's no wonder record producer and Idol judge Randy Jackson sees no end to what he calls "the best talent show ever." And with the U.S. version of the British hit show recently extended through 2011, Idol has become a mainstay. Though still in its early stages (the initial auditions showcasing the best and worst a city has to offer), this season is capturing the largest number of viewers in the show's history: 40 million. Also lending credence to Idol's staying power is the fact that this year, with the 48th Annual Grammy Awards just days away, two alumni -- Kelly Clarkson and Fantasia Barrino -- are in the running for Best Album in their respective categories.
How do you feel about the success of American Idol?
Really happy, really elated just knowing that we're so blessed. Season Five, to have ratings like this. I think part of the thing for me is that I think none of us thought it would be this big . . . I don't want to read into it, buy into it, whatever. I just want it to be.
Because it's kind of this addictive thing that you become emotionally invested in. And it's the Rocky story in it. Ruben didn't look like anyone any record company had signed; Fantasia wasn't like anyone they had signed; Kelly doesn't look like any girl any record company's gonna rush out and sign like that. So these are for the underdogs. You're basically cheering yourself on, you know? We're not out to find the poster kids and say, "Let's sign them." We're out to find the best undiscovered [talent] and really herald that. And I must say, with all the problems during the season, every year America still gets it right in the end.
How grueling is it to sift through all that talent -- or lack
It's hard because the days are long -- but, I mean, how hard is it really? The days definitely get a little long in the tooth, and you see us dragging and we're like, "Where's the jump-off from this, dawg?" It gets a little old. You see the makeup, and you see us eventually looking beat down and tired.
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