Pop Idol

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Pop Idol
Pop Idol logo.png
Genre Reality
Format Talent show
Created by Simon Fuller
Presented by Ant & Dec (ITV)
Kate Thornton (ITV2)
Judges Nicki Chapman
Simon Cowell
Neil Fox
Pete Waterman
Composer(s) Cathy Dennis
Julian Gingell
Barry Stone
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 2
No. of episodes 46
Location(s) Various cities (auditions)
Criterion Theatre (theatre rounds)
Teddington Studios (heats)
The Fountain Studios (live finals)
Running time 60-165mins (inc. adverts)
Production company(s) Thames Television
19 Entertainment
Distributor FremantleMedia
Original channel ITV
Picture format 16:9
Original run 6 October 2001 (2001-10-06) – 20 December 2003 (2003-12-20)
External links

Pop Idol is a British television music competition which ran on ITV from 2001 to 2003. The aim of the show was to decide the best new young pop singer (or "pop idol") in the UK based on viewer voting and participation. Two series were broadcast—one in 2001–2002 and a second in 2003. Pop Idol was subsequently put on an indefinite hiatus after "Idol" judge Simon Cowell announced the launch of the The X Factor in the UK in April 2004.[1]

The show has become an international TV franchise since, spawning multiples of Idol series worldwide. In the mean time a legal dispute arose with the makers of Popstars, which eventually led to the word "Pop" being excluded from the titles of all the spin-offs, such as American Idol, Australian Idol, Indonesian Idol, New Zealand Idol, Latin American Idol, and Idols (South Africa).


One of the UK's top-earning TV format exports, Pop Idol made extensive use of premium-priced viewer interactivity, with viewers voting by telephone, mobile telephone texting (not used on series one), through the "red button" on digital television sets, or via the official website. The final of the first series of Pop Idol in February 2002 received the highest-ever one-night vote for a UK TV show, making the show one of ITV's most profitable. The sister show on ITV2, Pop Idol Extra, hosted by Kate Thornton also made extensive use of mobile phone text messages to raise additional revenue. The first Pop Idol received very high voting figures despite allowing only telephone and Internet voting and not making use of texting or the "red button".

The Saturday night primetime show initially followed the audition process, as hopefuls sang before four judges (record producer and music executive Pete Waterman, music executive and music manager Simon Cowell, music promoter and music manager Nicki Chapman and Radio DJ and television personality Neil "Dr" Fox) at various locations around the UK. Besides the successful auditionees, the poorest "singers" were often aired due to their obvious lack of talent or presence. Poor singers often faced harsh criticisms from the judges, especially from Simon Cowell (whose controversial rantings also made him famous on American Idol). The judges' reactions to such performances often ranged from disgust to nearly open laughter; their style of judgement and attitude towards pop-star wannabes resulted in the controversial opinions of others about the show's setup, including that of Take That manager, Nigel Martin Smith.[2]

The viewing public quickly fell in love with the format though, as viewing figures indicated. The judges' policy of speaking candidly would have to be sanitised in series 2, however, as it received condemnation from MPs.[3]

Once the first round of auditions were completed, the series moved to the Criterion Theatre, where further auditions saw the judges decide on a group of 50. Unusually, this was the final point at which the judges had direct control over the contestants' fates, as the remainder of the results would be driven solely by viewer voting.

Stage 3 of the series took place in a conventional TV studio. The 50 contestants were split into five groups of ten, each of whom sang one song for the judges, accompanied only by a piano. Each judge offered their opinion, and at the end of the pre-recorded show phone lines opened for votes. Later the same evening a live show followed in which the voting results were revealed, the top two earning a place in the final ten. In series 2, a wildcard round (an innovation that originated on American Idol) was added, in which the judges selected ten rejected contestants and gave them a second chance. In this special edition, one contestant (Susanne Manning) was selected by the viewer vote, and one (Sam Nixon), chosen by the judges. This meant that the next stage began with twelve contestants, rather than the ten in series 1.

For the final stage, the show moved to a more lavish TV set, where all remaining contestants sang on live television, accompanied by either a backing track or live band. Most editions had a theme, with contestants singing songs from a particular genre or artist (no original songs were performed at any stage in the competition). Again, the judges offered comments, but the results were decided by viewer voting. Again, a live results show was broadcast later in the evening, but this time the singer with the fewest votes was eliminated, the rest continuing to the following week, until only the winner remained.

Exceptions to the usual format were limited. In series 1, Darius Danesh was promoted to the live shows when Rik Waller dropped out. Danesh was third in the results for the group where Waller had won his place. Also, the first two live shows of series 2 saw two contestants leave, in order to rebalance the numbers after the addition of the two extra performers from the wildcard show.

Results and legacy[edit]

The first series was won by Will Young, with Gareth Gates coming second. Michelle McManus won the second series. All of the top three contestants from series 1 had number-one singles in the UK. Young continues to be a recording artist. Gates initially had great success as a recording artist, releasing three studio albums and seven top 5 singles. He has since moved on to a successful career in musical theatre appearing as lead in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, as Marius in Les Miserables, on tour and in the West End and as Claude in Hair. In 2013, he became a member of the supergroup 5th Story. Darius Danesh had two hit albums and has appeared in the West End musicals Chicago, playing the role of Billy Flynn, and Gone with the Wind, originating the role of Rhett Butler. He also appeared in the touring version of Guys and Dolls as Sky Masterson. Finalists Rosie Ribbons and Zoe Birkett have both scored chart hits, Birkett also moving on to a career in musical theatre whilst Jessica Garlick represented the UK in the Eurovision Song Contest 2002. Semi-finalist Sarah Whatmore had two chart hits, despite failing to be voted into the top 10. Series 2 contestants enjoyed significantly less chart success, which many believe damaged the credibility of the show and helped hasten its demise in its home country.

Immediately after the second series of Pop Idol, the same set was used to host World Idol, in which winners of various Idol series around the world, including original Pop Idol winner Will Young, American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson and Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian, competed in a one-off competition, complete with a large judging panel featuring one judge from each country (Simon Cowell officially representing American Idol, with Pete Waterman the "official" UK judge). The surprise winner was Norway's Kurt Nilsen, who proceeded to minor UK chart success. Cowell was strongly critical of World Idol, and it is highly unlikely to be staged again.

After the second series of Pop Idol, ITV put the show on indefinite hiatus when in April 2004 judge and music executive Simon Cowell announced the launch of his own show, The X Factor, which he and his record label (Syco) held the rights to.[1] In September 2004, Pop Idol creator Simon Fuller filed a lawsuit against The X Factor producers claiming that the format was copied from his own show.[4] The case was eventually settled out of court in November 2005, and as part of the settlement, Simon Fuller was made a joint partner in the X Factor show, and Simon Cowell was obliged to stay on as a judge on American Idol for a further five years.[5]

ITV's licence to produce Pop Idol has since expired, meaning that other channels could theoretically acquire the series. Despite rumours (see below), no broadcaster has since acquired the rights to the format in the UK.

Despite running for only two series, Pop Idol's impact was immense and led 19 Entertainment and FremantleMedia to roll the format out globally; currently there are over 50 versions in 110 countries, including, notably, American Idol, on which Cowell as a judge until 2010, before launching The X Factor USA in 2011.

Series 1 (2001/02)[edit]

Contestant Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9
Will Young Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Winner
(week 9)
Gareth Gates Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Runner Up
(week 9)
Darius Campbell 1 Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Eliminated Eliminated
(week 8)
Zoe Birkett Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Eliminated Eliminated
(week 7)
Hayley Evetts Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Eliminated Eliminated
(week 6)
Rosie Ribbons Safe Bottom three Bottom two Bottom two Eliminated Eliminated
(week 5)
Laura Doherty Bottom two Bottom two Bottom three Eliminated Eliminated
(week 4)
Aaron Bayley Safe Safe Eliminated Eliminated
(week 3)
Jessica Garlick Bottom three Eliminated Eliminated
(week 2)
Rik Waller Did not sing, due to illness Withdrew
(week 2)
Korben Eliminated Eliminated
(week 1)
  • 1 Had been eliminated in previous rounds, but reinstated following Rik Waller's exit.

Series 2 (2003)[edit]

Following the completion of the series, the official Pop Idol companion book published percentages of votes for each contestant every week. In some circumstances, the book suggested that the bottom 2 or 3 contestants were not the same as announced by the show hosts. It is not known if the incorrect result was announced, or if the book merely made a typing error. However, the contestant deemed to have had the lowest percentage was always eliminated on that week, meaning the overall result of the show was not changed.

Contestant Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Week 5 Week 6 Week 7 Week 8 Week 9
Michelle McManus Safe Safe Bottom three Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Winner
(week 9)
Mark Rhodes Bottom three Safe Safe Bottom three Bottom three Safe Bottom two Safe Runner-up
(week 9)
Sam Nixon Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Safe Bottom Eliminated
(week 8)
Chris Hide Safe Safe Safe Bottom three Safe Bottom three Bottom Eliminated
(week 7)
Susanne Manning Safe Safe Safe Safe Bottom three Bottom Eliminated
(week 6)
Roxanne Cooper Safe Safe Bottom two Safe Bottom Eliminated
(week 5)
Andy Scott-Lee Safe Safe Safe Bottom Eliminated
(week 4)
Kim Gee Safe Bottom three Bottom Eliminated
(week 3)
Marc Dillon Safe Bottom two Eliminated
(week 2)
Brian Ormond Safe Bottom two Eliminated
(week 2)
Kirsty Crawford Bottom two Eliminated
(week 1)
Leon McPherson Bottom two Eliminated
(week 1)

Video games[edit]

Pop Idol was released as a video game developed by Codemasters for the PlayStation 2 on 30 October 2003. The player creates his/her own singer, then they must sing their way through the auditions, theatre stages, heats, and then the finals. The game increases in difficulty as the player progresses through the competition. With each stage of the finals, one or two players with the least public vote tally are eliminated. The gameplay mainly consists of lining up a moving symbol with a fixed object in the centre of the screen and pressing the corresponding symbol on the game's controller. If the player presses it when the symbol is in the middle of the circle, their singer sings a good note. If he or she presses it when it is not in the circle, or mistimes their press, the singer sings a bad note.

Related programmes[edit]

The Idol format has been launched in dozens of nations worldwide, and there have been many imitations of the programme.

A World Idol international television special was held in December 2003, featuring national first series Idol contest winners competing against each other; viewers worldwide voted Norwegian Idol's Kurt Nilsen "World Idol".

The similar Popstars format preceded Pop Idol, and was succeeded in Britain by one series of Popstars: The Rivals and nine series of The X Factor as of 2012.[6] After Popstars producers threatened legal action, a deal was struck that, among other clauses, does not allow the use of the word "pop" in the title of Pop Idol editions outside of the UK.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Cowell reveals new talent search". BBC. 23 April 2004. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  2. ^ http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/tv_and_radio/1602510.stm
  3. ^ Pop Idol judges criticised by MPs
  4. ^ "Pop Idol mogul sues Simon Cowell". BBC. 10 September 2004. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  5. ^ "X Factor copyright case settled". BBC. 29 November 2005. Retrieved 27 February 2013. 
  6. ^ xfactor.itv.com

External links[edit]