12 'American Idol' secrets: Courting Simon Cowell, house party disasters and the right name


Over 15 seasons, Fox's "American Idol" became a cultural phenomenon, launching the careers of music superstars like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, as well as judge Simon Cowell and host Ryan Seacrest.

But not all of the drama occurred on stage as wannabes competed for the spotlight, said Sandy Grushow, the former Chairman of the Fox Television Entertainment Group who presided over both the broadcast network and the production studio from 1999 to 2004.

Behind the scenes, Grushow revealed that the network had to tackle issues like time-zone troubles, a reluctant Simon Cowell, a hovering Rupert Murdoch and a disastrous party at the Santa Monica home of NewsCorp president and COO Peter Chernin.

"There were so many talented people involved with this franchise at the very beginning and over the ensuing years," Grushow told TheWrap in a wide-ranging interview on the eve of the series' finale in April 2016. "It took 50 villages to build 'American Idol.'"

Here are some of the never-before-heard details of how "American Idol" went from off-season pitch to ratings sensation.

Where are the contestants from Season 4 of "American Idol" now?

26 PHOTOS
'American Idol' Season 4: Then and Now
See Gallery
'American Idol' Season 4: Then and Now
The 'American Idol' cast gets wild at the Season 4 Top 12 Finalists Party. Some really puzzling fashion choices here -- even for 2005!

Carrie Underwood: THEN

Carrie Underwood: NOW

More than ten years after taking the 'Idol' crown, she's the bonafide queen of country music.

Jessica Sierra: THEN

Jessica Sierra: NOW

After long-fought battles with drug and alcohol abuse, Jessica was eventually sentenced to a year in rehab. She now has a child of her own and speaks to kids about the dangers of substance abuse.

Anwar Robinson: THEN

Anwar Robinson: NOW

The dreads are gone! He's a music educator and creative arts advocate.

Mikalah Gordon: THEN

Mikalah Gordon: NOW

She has a standing gig every night singing at Las Vegas' Cosmopolitan Hotel. A new web series based on her life premieres this year.

Constantine Maroulis: THEN

Constantine Maroulis: NOW

He's snagged a number of leading Broadway roles, including the title role in "Jekyll and Hyde."

Lindsey Cardinale: THEN

Lindsey Cardinale: NOW

She still makes and performs new music.

Anthony Fedorov: THEN

Anthony Fedorov: NOW

How's that for a makeover? He still makes music and is a proud father. 

Nadia Turner: THEN

Nadia Turner: NOW

Gorgeous!

Bo Bice: THEN

Bo Bice: NOW

Pretty crazy transformation! The rocker continues to make music and recently had a string of shows in Hawaii.

Vonzell Solomon: THEN

Vonzell Solomon: NOW

More like va-va-Vonzell!

Scott Savol: THEN

Scott Savol: NOW

He's mostly kept a low profile since the show.

Nikko Smith: THEN

Nikko Smith: NOW

Still killing the stage!

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1. A Self-Sustaining Summer Replacement
In 2002, Grushow and his team were on the hunt for summer programming and met with then-president of Fox Broadcasting Gail Berman and unscripted programming EVP Mike Darnell.

"They came to me to discuss a music competition series that CAA was out pitching as a summer replacement," Grushow told TheWrap. "The network was coming off of a very difficult year, from ratings and financial standpoints. There were a few success the prior fall, including '24,' but we had spent all of our original programming budget."

The show was pitched as an American version of "Pop Idol," a new reality competition series from producer Simon Fuller that had successfully launched in October 2001 on the U.K.'s ITV network

"The most interesting aspect of [the pitch] was CAA said the show would be underwritten by three brands — Ford, Coca Cola and AT&T. It was not the first time that's been done, but it was uncommon." That aspect of the pitch had special appeal for Grushow seeking a summer series: "We had no money left in our budget to buy original programming."

2. Rupert Murdoch: "Don't talk. Buy."
Given the state of Fox's budget for original programming, the series was moving forward at the network under the presumption that the three brands were underwriting the production in its entirety. Suddenly this wasn't the case.

"In the blink of an eye, Gail and Mike came back to me and said, 'Change of plans.' Those three brands were not going to underwrite the entire cost of the show. They were simply willing to be sponsors, which was a whole different ball game. I had to go back to Peter and he drew the line, that we were not prepared to go that far over budget. So everything stopped."

At an impasse, it was Grushow who mentioned the project at a staff meeting with Murdoch and got the project back on track — and fully funded.

"We had a meeting set with Rupert Murdoch regarding our summer plans. Gail started to talk about [the plan] and at some point during the course of the meeting. I looked at Rupert and said, "Plus, we're also talking to CAA about a singing competition series from the U.K. called 'Pop Idol.' And I could see Rupert's wheels start to spin and suddenly he blurted out, "That's the show that Liz was talking to me about."

Liz was Liz Murdoch, Rupert's daughter and a television executive residing in the U.K. when the original series exploded.

"Rupert then proceeded to take his fist, slam it on the conference room table and looked at me and said 'Don't talk, buy.' And that was essentially the end of the meeting."

3. Importing Simon Cowell
Darnell provided Grushow with clips of the U.K. series, and it became immediately clear one key element of the original would have to journey across the pond.

"I had seen precious little of the U.K. version. Mike Darnell gave me a tape that was of a horrible quality, you could barely make out faces. What I could tell immediately was that Simon Cowell was the linchpin of the show," Grushow said. "He was extremely compelling to watch and clearly the driving force. I remember saying to Ira [Kurgan, then head of business affairs], 'We need to make him of the essence,' meaning he would have to come to America to be a part of the show if we were to order it. It was a bit of bluff, but I wanted to make sure he was going to be a part of it."

4. Enter Brian Dunkleman
One of the biggest legends in "American Idol" history is one that never was — Ryan Seacrest's Season 1 co-host, Brian Dunkleman. In assembling onscreen talent, Grushow did not recall any casting sessions for Paula Abdul, Randy Jackson or Ryan Seacrest. But he remembered Dunkleman's audition.

"I do remember one casting session, and that was where we met Brian Dunkleman," he said. "And Brian, as I recall, was reading some sides that had been written for him. At the end, I remember looking at Gail, and we both kind of shrugged our shoulders and we were like, 'OK.' The producers felt strongly about it so we signed off on it."

Dunkleman, who was booted after his awkward first season, would take punches from late night hosts for years to come.

See photos of Brian Dunkleman:

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Brian Dunkleman
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Brian Dunkleman
Ryan Starr (left) and Tamyra Gray (right) with hosts Brian Dunkleman and Ryan Seacrest (rear) at the live broadcast of FOX-TV's 'American Idol' in Los Angeles, Ca. Wednesday, June 19, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect/FOX*** Please Call For Usage ***
Brian Dunkleman, Paula Abdul and Ryan Seacrest at the Fox Network's TCA Summer Tour Party at The Mondrian Hotel in West Hollywood, Ca. Monday, July 22, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect.
Brian Dunkleman, host, 'American Idol' during Fox Broadcasting Summer 2002 Press Tour - Day 2 at Ritz Carlton Hotel in Pasadena, California, United States. (Photo by Jean-Paul Aussenard/WireImage)
Ryan Seacrest, Brian Dunkleman and Nikki McKibbin at FOX-TV's 'American Idol' in Los Angeles, Ca. Tuesday, August 27, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect/FOX.*** Please Call For Usage ***
Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman at FOX-TV's 'American Idol' finals at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Ca. Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images.
Ryan Seacrest, Kelly Clarkson, Justin Guarini and Brian Dunkleman at FOX-TV's 'American Idol' finals at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Ca. Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/ImageDirect.
Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman at FOX-TV's 'American Idol' finale at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Ca. Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images
Hosts Ryan Seacrest and Brian Dunkleman with Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini before the announcement of the winner of American Idol at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, Ca., Sept. 4, 2002. (photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Ryan Seacrest, Brian Dunkleman & 'American Idol' Kelly Clarkson (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Brian Dunkleman (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)
Brian Dunkleman & guest during 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' Premiere - Los Angeles - Arrivals at Mann Village Theatre in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Brian Dunkleman and guest during Beaches Resorts Celebrity Golf Classic to Benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital - Pairings Reception at Royal Plantation Golf and Spa Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)
Brian Dunkleman during Beaches Resorts Celebrity Golf Classic to Benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital at Royal Plantation Golf Resort and Spa - Beaches Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)
Pat O'Brien and Brian Dunkleman during Beaches Resorts Celebrity Golf Classic to Benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital - After-Party at Royal Plantation Golf Resort and Spa - Beaches Resort in Ocho Rios, Jamaica. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage)
Brian Dunkleman (Photo by Jim Smeal/WireImage)
Brian Dunkleman and Christina Walkinshaw during Comedian Brian Dunkleman Performs at The Ice House - October 6, 2004 at The Ice House in Pasadena, California, United States. (Photo by Michael Schwartz/WireImage)
Brian Dunkleman during Comedian Brian Dunkleman Performs at The Ice House - October 6, 2004 at The Ice House in Pasadena, California, United States. (Photo by Michael Schwartz/WireImage)
Brian Dunkleman (Photo by Michael Schwartz/WireImage)
LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 6: Actor Brian Dunkleman arrives at Ladies Home Journal's 'Funny Ladies We Love' at the Cabana Club on February 6, 2006 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 19: Host Brian Dunkleman attends the 6th Annual Toscar Awards at the Egyptian Theatre on February 19, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Allen Berezovsky/WireImage)
PASADENA, CA - MAY 23: Comedian Brian Dunkleman performs during his appearance at The Ice House Comedy Club on May 23, 2013 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Michael Schwartz/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: Host Ryan Seacrest (L) and Brian Dunkleman speak onstage during FOX's 'American Idol' Finale For The Farewell Season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: Host Ryan Seacrest (L) and Brian Dunkleman speak onstage during FOX's 'American Idol' Finale For The Farewell Season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: Host Ryan Seacrest (L) and Brian Dunkleman speak onstage during FOX's 'American Idol' Finale For The Farewell Season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: TV personality Brian Dunkleman speaks onstage during FOX's 'American Idol' Finale For The Farewell Season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: Brian Dunkleman poses in the pressromm at FOX's 'American Idol' Finale For The Farewell Season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California.at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: Brian Dunkleman poses in the press room at FOX's 'American Idol' finale for the farewell season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 07: Brian Dunkleman poses in the press room at FOX's 'American Idol' finale for the farewell season at Dolby Theatre on April 7, 2016 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
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5. Cowell Refused to Sign a Multi-Year Deal
"As hard as we tried to make a multi-year deal with Simon Cowell, his people, led by Alan Berger at CAA and Sam Fischer, his lawyer at Ziffren-Brittenham, he absolutely refused to go beyond one year," Grushow said.

"As it turns out, it was a brilliant maneuver on their part. Heaven knows Ira and I tried absolutely everything. We went to the edge of the cliff, but at a certain point in time we had a TV show to make. I just thought, 'If the show is successful it's a high class problem to have.'"

6. Fox's "Idol" Time Problem
The show's interactive portion, where viewers voted contestants through to the next round, created logistical issues — the most obvious being a matter of time. "The first issue was the different time zones in the America," Grushow said. "In the U.K., they could announce the results at the end of the evening but we couldn't do that. Preston Beckman, one of the all time great TV minds, working with Mike and Gail had hatched this idea for a results show," Grushow said.

The results show aired the evening after contestants performed, revealing who would live to fight another week. "It was the only workaround and it turned out to be a brilliant one," he said.

7. The Name Game
There are a few accounts of how "Pop Idol" came to be renamed "American Idol." Reports over the years have suggested it was an early priority for Fox to differentiate the shows as it rolled out in other countries, while others suggested Americans needed a patriotic title less than a year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

But Grushow said he simply wanted to avoid comparison to another music competition series that was already on the air — and tanking.

"At the time all of this was happening, there was a show on the WB called 'Popstars' that was failing miserably," he said. "As a marketer, I was concerned about title confusion. The title 'American Idol' came up and I don't remember exactly who came up with it, but as soon as I heard it, I loved it."

Not everyone was sold on the title change initially. "We had a meeting with Rupert about the show, and I told him I was concerned about the title and that I wanted to change it. I remember him giving me this look of disdain and saying, 'What is it with you Hollywood executives? Why do you always need to fix something that isn't broken?'" he said. "I've read stories about the fact that we did it because it was post-9/11 and it was patriotic, but I didn't think for a second about that — it was big, it was clean and didn't have the word 'pop' in it."

8. The High Point: Kelly's "Moment"
It comes as no surprise that Grushow's favorite moment from launching the series is one shared by many "Idol" fans — watching a trembling Kelly Clarkson claim the first-ever title and sing the competition's first original song, "A Moment Like This."

"The feeling I got when Kelly was singing, with tears flowing and confetti falling, I can honestly say that the hairs were standing up on the back of my neck," he said. "It's one of the only times I can remember being not just a television executive, but a fan."

See photos of Kelly Clarkson:

44 PHOTOS
Kelly Clarkson through the years
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Kelly Clarkson through the years
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 03: Kelly Clarkson attends Citizen Watch Company's New York Corporate Offices Grand Opening at Citizen Watch Company Corporate Offices on November 3, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD, CA - APRIL 1: Singer Kelly Clarkson performs onstage at FOX's 'American Idol XIV' Top 8 Revealed on April 1, 2015 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Michael Becker/FOX via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 03: Kelly Clarkson arriving for an appearance at Good Morning America on March 03, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by MPI02/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
Kelly Clarkson during filming of the Graham Norton Show at the London Studios, in central London.
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 05: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Singer Kelly Clarkson visits the SiriusXM Studios on March 5, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 02: Kelly Clarkson gives an exclusive performance at iHeartRadio Theater on March 2, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for iHeart Radio)
NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 03: Kelly Clarkson performs on SiriusXM Hits 1 at SiriusXM Studio on March 3, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Robin Marchant/Getty Images for SiriusXM)
NEW YORK, NY - FEBRUARY 28: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) (L-R) Carly Hughes as'Velma Kelly', Kelly Clarkson and Jennifer Nettles as 'Roxie Hart' pose backstage at 'Chicago' on Broadway at The Ambassador Theater on February 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic)
THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 0221 -- Pictured: (l-r) Host Jimmy Fallon and singer Kelly Clarkson during the 'History of Duets' bit on March 2, 2015 -- (Photo by: Douglas Gorenstein/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 19: Kelly Clarkson seen arriving at the Capital FM Studios on February 19, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Neil Mockford/Alex Huckle/GC Images)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - FEBRUARY 17: Kelly Clarkson seen arriving at the BBC Radio 1 Studios on February 17, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Neil Mockford/Alex Huckle/GC Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 20: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Kelly Clarkson performs during Kelly Clarkson Miracle On Broadway - A Benefit Concert at Bridgestone Arena on December 20, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Justin McIntosh/Getty Images for Starstruck Entertainment)
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 20: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Kelly Clarkson performs during Kelly Clarkson Miracle On Broadway - A Benefit Concert at Bridgestone Arena on December 20, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Justin McIntosh/Getty Images for Starstruck Entertainment)
NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 15: Miranda Lambert, Reba McEntire, and Kelly Clarkson perform at the 2014 American Country Countdown Awards at Music City Center on December 15, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images for dcp)
ORLANDO, FL - FEBRUARY 21: Kelly Clarkson performs during Mardi Gras celebration at Universal Orlando on February 21, 2015 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Gerardo Mora/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 19: Kelly Clarkson performs with young fans at Citizen Watch Company Global Flagship Store Opening at Citizen Watch Company Global Flagship Store on November 19, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Kelly Clarkson speaks onstage at Musicians On Call Celebrates Its 15th Anniversary Honoring Kelly Clarkson and EVP of Republic Records, Charlie Walk on November 18, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/Getty Images for Musicians On Call)
NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 18: Kelly Clarkson and Executive Vice President Of Republic Records, Charlie Walk attend Musicians On Call Celebrates Its 15th Anniversary Honoring Kelly Clarkson and EVP of Republic Records, Charlie Walk on November 18, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images for Musicians On Call)
NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 09: Kelly Clarkson performs at the 8th Annual ACM Honors at the Ryman Auditorium on September 9, 2014 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jason Davis/Getty Images for ACM)
LATE NIGHT WITH JIMMY FALLON -- Episode 943 -- Pictured: Musical guest Kelly Clarkson sings 'Underneath the Tree' on Thursday, December 12, 2013 -- (Photo by: Lloyd Bishop/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)..
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Kelly Clarkson performs for the 'People Like Us' Fair Trade Concert at Highline Ballroom on October 10, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Kelly Clarkson performs for the 'People Like Us' Fair Trade Concert at Highline Ballroom on October 10, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 10: Musicians Kelly Clarkson (L) and will.i.am speak onstage at the 2013 American Music Awards Nominations Press Conference at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill on October 10, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Neilson Barnard/FilmMagic)
THE VIEW - (10.9.13) Today's guest co-host is Bobby Flay. Guests include Kelly Clarkson: Sophie Lowe and Michael Socha (ABC's 'Once Upon A Time in Wonderland') today on ABC's 'The View.' 'The View' airs Monday-Friday (11:00 am-12:00 noon, ET) on the ABC Television Network. (Photo by Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty Images) KELLY CLARKSON, SHERRI SHEPHERD
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 08: Singer Kelly Clarkson visits the SiriusXM Studios on October 8, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 07: Singer Kelly Clarkson performs onstage during the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 7, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Kevin Winter/ACMA2013/Getty Images for ACM)
LAS VEGAS, NV - APRIL 07: Singer Kelly Clarkson attends the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on April 7, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/ACMA2013/Getty Images for ACM)
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 10: Singer Kelly Clarkson accepts Best Pop Vocal Album award for 'Stronger' onstage at the 55th Annual GRAMMY Awards at Staples Center on February 10, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
NEW ORLEANS, LA - FEBRUARY 09: Mardi Gras reigning celebrity grand marshal Kelly Clarkson performs on stage before the 2013 Krewe Of Endymion Parade on February 9, 2013 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Skip Bolen/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 16: Singer Kelly Clarkson performs onstage during 'VH1 Divas' 2012 at The Shrine Auditorium on December 16, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18: Singer Kelly Clarkson performs onstage during the 40th American Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on November 18, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/AMA2012/Getty Images for AMA)
HOLMDEL, NJ - AUGUST 26: Singer Kelly Clarkson performs at the PNC Bank Arts Center on August 26, 2012 in Holmdel, New Jersey. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images)
CONCORD, CA - JULY 25: Kelly Clarkson performs in support of her Stronger release at Sleep Train Pavilion on July 25, 2012 in Sacramento, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images)
DUETS - 'The Finale' - The votes have been tallied and a winner was revealed in the very special, live finale episode of 'Duets.' But before America's votes were announced, the Superstars and their partners took to the stage and performed together one last time. Hosted by Quddus, the series is a one-of a kind singing competition that takes the Superstars out from behind the judges' panel and onto the stage. The winner of the competition will receive a recording contract with Hollywood Records. The Season Finale of 'Duets' airs THURSDAY, JULY 19 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the ABC Television Network. Photo by Kelsey Mcneal /ABC via Getty Images KELLY CLARKSON
DUETS - 'After Party: Duets' - 'Duets' aired live this THURSDAY, JUNE 28 (8:00-9:00 p.m, ET), and the party did not end when the show signed off for the night! Fans could go to ABC.com/Duets immediately following the show to see a special live streaming 'After Party: Duets' event hosted by Quddus from a fully wired, custom built music lounge. (Photo by Kelsey McNeal/ABC via Getty images) ROBIN THICKE, KELLY CLARKSON
US singer Kelly Clarkson performs during the Pop Music Festival 2012 at Arena Anhembi in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on June 23, 2012. AFP PHOTO/Yasuyoshi CHIBA (Photo credit should read YASUYOSHI CHIBA/AFP/GettyImages)
TORONTO, ON - JUNE 17: Kelly Clarkson perfoms at the 2012 MuchMusic Video Awards at MuchMusic HQ on June 17, 2012 in Toronto, Canada. (Photo by George Pimentel/WireImage)
LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 20: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) Singer Kelly Clarkson performs onstage at the 2012 Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on May 20, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
'American Idol' Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson performing 'Never Again' (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)
LONDON - FEBRUARY 22: American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson plays the London stop of her first UK tour at the Carling Apollo Hammersmith on February 22, 2006 in London, England. (Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)
HOLLYWOOD - MAY 26: Singer Kelly Clarkson poses backstage at the American Idol Season Three Grand Finale at the Kodak Theatre May 26, 2004 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Robert Bertoia/Getty Images)
Kelly Clarkson during 'American Idol' Season 3 Finale - Results Show at Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
UNSPECIFIED - SEPTEMBER 10: HUIZEN Photo of Kelly CLARKSON, Posed portrait of American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson (Photo by Rob Verhorst/Redferns)
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9. The Low Point: A Disastrous House Party
Everyone involved in production was riding high by the time season one's Top 12 finalists were named in midsummer 2002, and Grushow persuaded Peter Chernin, then the president and COO of Fox owner NewsCorp., to host a party for producers, judges, hosts, finalists, the CAA agents and the Fox executives.

There was a hitch: The party fell just as the major players were seeking a more lucrative deal with the network reflecting the show's sudden popularity. "In the Hollywood tradition of renegotiating, Simon Fuller was, through CAA, putting a tremendous amount of pressure on us to renew the deal," he said. "He felt, and not wrongly, that the deal that was made did not remotely compensate him for the value of what was being created. But we had a contract. Part of this party was to keep the good feelings going through what was a little bit of a bump in the road.

"The event was scheduled for the evening of a show taping, and we sent a series of limousines to shuttle talent from the set to his house," Grushow said. "So now we're all there, waiting for all of the talent to show up when I get word that Simon Fuller has instructed all the limousine drivers to turn the cars around. He decided that he didn't want any of his people attending the party given the fact that he was not happy with the deal. We were used to brass-knuckle tacticsm but Chernin, the No. 2 guy at NewsCorp, was not pleased."

Upset by the slight, Chernin asked Grushow to approach the CAA agents and ask them all to leave his home — it was they, after all, who were in the process of negotiating a new deal. "I had to go outside and approach Lee Gabler [then a CAA partner and co-chair of the TV department] and tell him that he and the rest of his people needed to leave. Lee was always a good guy, and we were very cordial, but the top of his head came off," Grushow said.

The men were near a physical confrontation when Chernin intervened and the agents left, Grushow recalled. "The night was a complete disaster."

10. Learning From "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?"
Naturally, "American Idol" season two was a high priority for the network, but Murdoch wanted it on the fall 2002 schedule, despite the fact that the first season finale aired September 4, 2002.

"As a practical matter, it was impossible to do," Grushow said. There was no time to prep a new season, and the network had rights to the World Series that fall. "But even more importantly, we had all seen what had happened with ABC and 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?' where they over-relied on the show. I felt very strongly that 'Idol' should be a once-a-year-affair. I was pushing back hard against Rupert's desire to turn it around and run it again," Grushow said.

Grushow won, and the second season returned in January 2003. But Murdoch was not done tinkering. "He also wanted to move the show when it came back. A little over a decade earlier, I had been at Fox overseeing marketing when Rupert had convinced Barry Diller to move 'The Simpsons' to Thursday night up against 'The Cosby Show,' the biggest show on TV," he said. "It's not enough to be successful, he wanted to crush the competition."

See photos if Simon Cowell:

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Simon Cowell through the years
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Simon Cowell through the years
Simon Cowell during Record of the Year 2001 at Hard Rock Cafe in London, United Kingdom. (Photo by Fred Duval/FilmMagic)
The Brit Awards 2002', Earls Court, London, Britain - 20 Feb 2002, Zoe Ball With Simon Cowell (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)
(Left to right) FOX's American Idol judges Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson pse peaceably at the FOX 2002 SummerTCA Tour at the Huntington Ritz Carlton Hotel in Pasadena, CA on Monday, July 22, 2002. Photo credit: Kevin Winter/ImageDirect
Simon Cowell with a Wilson's leather bag during The 2002 Teen Choice Awards - Backstage Creations Talent Retreat - Day 1 at Universal Amphitheatre in Universal City, California, United States. (Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage)
Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson at 'The Teen Choice Awards 2002' at the Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles, Ca. Sunday, August 4, 2002. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images/FOX.
Simon Cowell during Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, and Christina Christian of American Idol Leave MTV's TRL - August 18, 2002 at Times Square in New York City, New York, United States. ***Exclusive*** (Photo by James Devaney/WireImage)
Randy Jackson & Simon Cowell during 'American Idol' Season 1 Finale - Results Show - Press Room at Kodak Theatre in Hollywood, California, United States. (Photo by Gregg DeGuire/WireImage)
Paris Hilton and Simon Cowell during Scary Movie 3 Los Angeles Premiere - After Party at The W Hotel in Westwood, California, United States. (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)
Simon Cowell during Simon Cowell Signs Copies of His New Book, 'I Don't Mean To Be Rude But...' at Barnes And Noble, Rockefeller Center in New York City, New York, United States. (Photo by Debra L Rothenberg/FilmMagic)
BURBANK, CA - JANUARY 19: 'American Idols' judge Simon Cowell (left) appears on 'The Tonight Show with Jay Leno' on January 19, 2004 at the NBC Studios, in Burbank, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
Matt Rogers and Simon Cowell during 'American Idol' Season 3 - Top 12 Finalists Party - Inside at Pearl in Los Angeles, California, United States. (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Simon Cowell during 102.7 KIIS-FM's 'Wango Tango On-Air' Concert 2004 at Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, United States. (Photo by J. Shearer/WireImage)
Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
HOLLYWOOD - APRIL 20: Television host Ryan Seacrest poses with American Idol judges (L-R) Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and Randy Jackson, after receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on April 20, 2005 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)
Simon Fuller, creator of 'American Idol', Carrie Underwood, winner of 'American Idol' Season 4 and Simon Cowell (Photo by Ray Mickshaw/WireImage)
'American Idol' judge Simon Cowell and Terri Seymour (Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)
Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 3313 -- Pictured: (l-r) 'American Idol' judge Randy Jackson, host Ryan Seacrest and judge Simon Cowell during an interview on February 19, 2007 (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Air Date 1/21/08 -- Episode 3480 -- Pictured: Television personality Simon Cowell during an interview on January 21, 2008 (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 22: Executive producer and TV personality Simon Cowell displays his Founders award in the press room during the 38th International Emmy Awards at the New York Hilton and Towers on November 22, 2010 in New York City. (Photo by George Napolitano/FilmMagic)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 09: (L-R) Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson, Harry Styles, Zane Malik and Niall Horan of 'One Direction' together with Simon Cowell (c) attend a photocall during the X Factor press conference at the Connaught Hotel on December 9, 2010 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images)
THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO -- Episode 4000 -- Pictured: (l-r) TV personality Simon Cowell during an interview with host Jay Leno on March 2, 2011 (Photo by Paul Drinkwater/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Simon Cowell attends 'The X Factor' auditions at Bank United Center on June 14, 2011 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Vallery Jean/FilmMagic)
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE - 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' airs every weeknight, (12:00 - 1:06 a.m., ET), following 'Nightline,' featuring a diverse lineup of guests that include celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 20 included Simon Cowell ('The X Factor') Ron Artest and Peta Murgatroyd ('Dancing with the Stars' cast off) and musical guest Gavin DeGraw. (Photo by Carin Baer/Disney XD via Getty Images)SIMON COWELL, JIMMY KIMMEL
LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 19: Simon Cowell and Melanie Amaro attends 'The X Factor' press conference at CBS Television City on December 19, 2011 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeffrey Mayer/WireImage)
LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 11: Alesha Dixon, Simon Cowell and Amanda Holden attend the press launch for the new series of 'Britain's Got Talent' at ICA on April 11, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 04: Simon Cowell arrives at 'The X Factor' finalists party held at SLS Hotel on November 4, 2013 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic)
MIAMI BEACH, FL - FEBRUARY 24: Simon Cowell and Eric Cowell are sighted on the beach in Miami Florida. on February 24, 2014 in Miami Beach, Florida. (Photo by Dave Lee/GC Images)
MIAMI, FL - MARCH 03: Simon Cowell is seen as he gets on a Vespa for a scooter ride on March 03, 2014 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Radcliffe/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 26: Lauren Silverman and Simon Cowell attend the press night of 'I Can't Sing! The X Factor Musical' at London Palladium on March 26, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Karwai Tang/WireImage)
LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 24: Simon Cowell with his Outstanding Contribution to Entertainment award and Lauren Silverman during the Elle Style Awards 2015 at Sky Garden @ The Walkie Talkie Tower on February 24, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 21: Simon Cowell arrives at The X Factor Auditions at Wembley on July 21, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by SAV/GC Images)
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11. Renewing Cowell
As Grushow predicted, Simon Cowell proved to be a key element of the show's success, bringing it an unusual edginess. But striking a new deal with the Brit was making Murdoch increasingly anxious. At one point, he walked into Grushow's office unannounced to discuss how to hold the line on Cowell's salary demands.

"I finally said to him, 'You've got a $100 million dollar asset on your hands. Does it make that big of a difference if we have to pay Simon Cowell, the linchpin, $5 million a year?'" Grushow said. "He didn't respond, and that sort of ended the discussion. What's ironic is that I referred to it as a $100 million asset, and now its a multi-billion dollar asset."

12. The Legend of William Hung
One of the biggest indicators that "Idol" had longevity was the 2004 discovery of William Hung, an early-round contestant who performed Ricky Martin's "She Bangs" so poorly he became a punchline, hero, and early Internet obsession all at once.

"I had a very clear picture in my head as to what the essence of our marketing message needed to be on air," Grushow said. "It was basically to show somebody who was horrifically bad, in a hysterical fashion, and juxtapose that with an amazing singer. The on-air promo department came up to my office to show me their first spot for season three, and I was dissatisfied because I didn't think the bad performance they were showing was sufficiently terrible or funny," he said.

He and his staff scanned hours of tape until, he said, "finally the clouds parted, and the angels began to sing, or at least someone began to sing 'She Bangs.'"

Needless to say, the third season was a huge success.

Read original story 12 'American Idol' Secrets: Courting Simon Cowell, House Party Disasters and the Right Name At TheWrap

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