Surprise Hits: 'American Idol' turns viewers into critics

The success of American Idol didn't exactly come out of nowhere; after all, Pop Idol, on which the vocal talent-search series was modeled, was already a hit in the U.K. before its creator, Simon Fuller, transported it across the Atlantic.

But hardly anything in the history of U.S. reality TV prior to Idol's June 2002 debut pointed to the scale of dominance it would achieve. It's been the top-rated show on TV in each of its nine seasons; NBC Universal chairman Jeff Zucker has called it "the most impactful show in the history of television."