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American Idol: The Untold Story Hardcover – January 18, 2011

3.8 out of 5 stars 29 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Rushfield begins with an overview of producer Simon Fuller, whose 2001 U.K. launch of Pop Idol came to the States as American Idol on the Fox network. The show combined several key factors: viewer voting, the "audition from hell" process, and a panel of judges that included the abrasive "dasher of dreams," Simon Cowell, who received much press coverage as "Mr. Nasty." For the American version, Fox insisted on the affable Randy Jackson as a "counterweight" to the caustic Cowell. Amid unknowns, Paula Abdul began as "the show's real star," generating a "love/hate chemistry" with Cowell. Within months, 26 million viewers were tuning in. Going season by season, Rushfield covers top finalists and winners, backstage intrigues, record deals, media coverage, fan fiction, and Web sites, lawsuits, and contractual conflicts, as well as Abdul's antics and departure. Rushfield explores the lives of the finalists after the Idol tours, making for a poignant closing chapter. A former Los Angeles Times columnist, Rushfield spent three years covering the show, and his many interviews with the show's cast and crew provide a genuine "insider" flavor. Diehard fans will appreciate both the deep background material and the behind-the-scenes gossip. (Feb.)
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From Booklist

The subtitle is not entirely accurate. A lot of this story has been told before, and devout fans of the popular television series might occasionally find themselves in familiar territory; for instance, the scandal surrounding the elimination of future Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson and the conspiracy theory that sprang up after Ryan Seacrest accidentally misstated the vote margin between a winner and a runner-up. But Rushfield, an entertainment reporter who’s covered the show since its inception, does spend time on some of the darker and less-publicized elements of the show, such as the way “spontaneous” remarks are sometimes scripted, how “candid” exchanges are reshot to alter dialogue, and the way the judges, by their on-air comments, can influence how viewers will vote. Ultimately, Rushfield presents American Idol pretty fairly, as a show that can be about genuine talent but can also be about audience manipulation and manufactured scandal. Should draw readers from among both fans and critics of the show. --David Pitt
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Hachette Books (January 18, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1401324126
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401324124
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,329,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Richard Rushfield's "American Idol: The Untold Story" is just OK as a general compendium of "American Idol's" first nine seasons for the casual fan. But most of the information contained within is easily found on Wikipedia or gone into more detail on dedicated "American Idol" websites, and will be familiar to true "Idol" die-hards. Apart from the frequently awkward syntax and occasional typos, the book relies far too much on interviews with the same few "American Idol" runners-up (RJ Helton, Nikki McKibbin, Brooke White, Kimberley Locke, Ace Young) who are quoted over and over again, without any interviews with the "Idol" alums who have gone on to the biggest success. (As far as the judges, the author does get an interview with Simon, but not Paula, Randy, Ellen, or Kara.) The photos are fairly boring, and nothing that can't be found easily online.

Plus the book is badly in need of a competent fact-checker! Fantasia was not in the original cast of "The Color Purple" on Broadway -- she replaced original star LaChanze, which rendered Fantasia ineligible for a Tony despite her rave reviews. Tamyra Gray guest starred on "Boston Public," not "Boston Legal." The name of the song is "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," not "You're Gonna Love Me." And Nigel Lythgoe is quoted saying about Kelly Clarkson, "Then she did some stuff like that there, a big band number, a Bette Midler big band number, and her personality shined," without the editors realizing "Stuff Like That There" is the actual name of the song.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Note: this review is based on a Kindle version of the book which contains all the same info as the other. I was able to purchase and read it before the book hit our local bookstore.

"American Idol: The Untold Story is a very detailed look at the genesis and success of American Idol (some might say too detailed with 20 very dense but well-written chapters). The early sections of the book focus strongly on background info about Simon Fuller, Simon Cowell and how they started American Idol type projects overseas before coming to America.

Listed below is a look at some of the various chapters and some info about what each chapter covers. I've intentionally describing only some of the bare bones info so readers will still be eager to learn more - and there is certainly much, much more described in the book! I couldn't cover all chapters or this review would end up being a book in itself!

Readers should find the writing style very appealing, with far more information, contestant quotes, revelations from Simon Cowell and more.. This isn't a light and easy read so potential buyers should be aware of that. It IS engaging but there is so much info in each chapter!. Also, American Idol and its first contestants aren't really described until Chapter 5.

Until then, readers learn about the background of the show, the personalities at play and background info about both Simon Fuller and Simon Cowell (who connected before American Idol came to America). Depending on your interest in an extensive chronology of the years before American Idol, you may get impatient to get to the heart of the book - American Idol, the contestants, controversies, successes, etc. So here is a look at some of the info contained in some chapters.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I enjoyed much of the book. There are some interesting behind the scenes tidbits from a few contestants the author interviewed, particularly Nikki McKibbin. Not sure I believe everything she had to say, but she was a great interview and is an interesting if sad story. But there aren't that many interviews with an array of contestants across several seasons which was disappointing to me. He talked to Nikki, Ace Young, AJ Helton and a few others, but obviously only a few cooperated.

There is less about the actual individual season contests than I expected, and more about the producers history and relationships. He also focused what I felt was an inordinate amount of time on Brian Dunkelman who is really a bit of a blip on the show's radar having only cohosted for one season. He's got a somewhat interesting story I suppose, but

The book was obviously rushed to market without a good editor vetting it. There are words that were out of place or used wrong, seasons incorrectly identified, whole paragraphs repeated verbatim in different parts of the book, and a basic disorganization in structure where the author would start on a subject, get sidetracked into another subject, and then return to the first one after the reader had long since moved on.

The book is mostly about Simon Cowell it seemed to me. He is an interesting subject, but I expected more about the contestants so I was somewhat unsatisfied when I finished it.

It's worth reading if you're a fan of the show, particularly if you watched since its inception. Season 1 is covered pretty thoroughly although the others are referenced much more perfunctorily.
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