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Wednesday, 23 January, 2002, 07:13 GMT
Pop Idol: What's all the fuss about?
Pop Idol's judges
The judges: Waterman, Fox, Chapman and Cowell
Pop Idol was the TV show aiming to propel a singer from obscurity to superstardom, whittling 10,000 hopefuls down to just one.

BBC News Online's Helen Bushby looks at the show which hooked more than 10 million viewers.

Pop Idol first hit our screens back in October, providing an irresistible mixture of voyeurism and hilarity.

Darius Danesh
Darius Danesh was a Popstars reject
Thousands of wannabe singers lined up to audition - but the majority of them did not have even the remotest makings of a pop idol, as the judges were quick to tell them.

Presenters Ant and Dec were so overcome with laughter that they were ordered out of the audition room. But that did not stop them peeking through the keyhole.

Viewers were hooked. As well as becoming armchair judges, they were able to watch the nail-biting ordeal in all its glory, as more and more singers were sent home and told to abandon their dreams.

Producer Pete Waterman, record executive Simon Cowell, DJ Neil Fox and Nicki Chapman, who also decided the fate of the Popstars, did not hide how they felt.

Gareth
Gareth is the bookmakers' favourite
From Cowell's caustic comments to Waterman being moved to tears by finalist Rosie Ribbons, the judges have become almost more memorable than the singers.

But that is not to say that all the contestants have been bland - far from it.

Rik Waller, whose considerable weight caused concern among the judges, pulled out from the finals at the last minute due to throat problems.

He was replaced by Darius Danesh, a Popstars reject - Popstars was the TV show which saw the chart-topping band Hear'Say put together in a similar fashion by a panel of judges.

Hear'Say
Hear'Say won the Popstars final
Darius was famous for his much-ridiculed version of Britney Spears' Hit Me Baby One More Time - aped to perfection by Ant and Dec.

The last 10 finalists performed every Saturday night in a particular pop style - from Abba to Burt Bacharach. And each week one was voted off by the public.

The last edition of the show pulled in more than 10 million viewers, with BBC One's Generation Game lagging behind in the ratings.

Zoe
ZoŽ Birkett is the only woman left in the final four
But it is not just the judges and the hapless finalists who lure in viewers.

Ant and Dec, who already have a solid fanbase, have sided firmly with the finalists and often ridicule the judges, taking umbrage at their tough comments.

The tabloids, who have followed the show since it began, pushed Gareth Gates as the one to win, championing his efforts to overcome his stammer.

Rik Waller
Rik Waller [L] dropped out of the final
But Gareth and his co-finalists were not the only ones to have hit headlines.

Cowell has been photographed on a beach on holiday, while various women have come forward with kiss-and-tell tales about him.

But the head of A&R at record company RCA remained unabashed.

He recently told the Guardian he "couldn't care less" about being too tough on the singers.

"If it makes the show a better programme because there's more harshness than normal, fantastic," he said.

William Young
William Young is proving popular
He added: "As long as it means people are watching the programme and the winner actually means something, which is quite rare for a talent show like this."

It has all been good publicity for the show and its winner, who needs as much as he can get.

But so far, at least, winner Gareth Gates, signed up to Cowell's record company, is living up to his reputation as an idol in the fickle world of pop.

See also:

23 Mar 01 | TV and Radio
TV hunt to find solo star
16 Oct 01 | TV and Radio
Take That manager attacks Pop Idol
06 Feb 01 | Entertainment
So you wanna be a pop star?
18 Mar 01 | Music
Hear'Say hit number one
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