Photo by Jenn Murphy

American Idol,” the long-running talent competition responsible for making Ryan Seacrest a household name, will begin its 15th and final season on Wednesday, January 6. As someone who at the age of 8 dressed up as Kelly Clarkson for Halloween (true story), this means a lot to me. While I (along with most of America) haven’t paid as much attention to the more recent seasons, “Idol” played a huge part in my upbringing. I remember spending hours after an episode dialing and re-dialing the voting numbers of my favorite contestants, truly believing that I was doing my civic duty by making sure that they would live to sing another week. The “Idols Live!” concert tours became a staple of my summers, and everyone at my middle school knew exactly who ask about what day “Idol” would return for a new season. Basically, I was a hardcore “Idol” fangirl, and extremely proud of it.



Because of all of this, I have very high expectations for this final season. It’s a real opportunity to show viewers why this show survived for as long as it did and to remind them that without the early success of “Idol,” shows like “The Voice” might not exist today. So here is what I, a longtime viewer with a lot of strong opinions, am hoping to see on “American Idol’s” farewell season.



5) Winner Check-Ins

Currently, there are 14 people in the world who can say with all sincerity that they are an “American Idol.” Some of them we all know very well, like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, and others…well, not so much. This season would be a great opportunity to catch up with all of the former winners (I’m looking at you, Taylor Hicks and Lee DeWyze) and see what exactly they’ve been up to since they were crowned the “American Idol.” And heck, while we’re at it, why not bring them back for a performance. It’ll give the winners who have perhaps faded into obscurity a chance to get their face out there again, and it will give old school fans like myself the blast from the past that we so rightfully deserve.



4) A Fully Reunited Judges Panel

“Idol” has had its fair share of judges over the last 14 seasons, and now would be the perfect time to bring them all back for the judges panel to end all judges panels. There have already been some rumblings that a full judges reunion is in the works, so this seems like a definite possibility. How great would it be to see the original trifecta of Simon Cowell, Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson rubbing elbows with the current three, Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick, Jr.? The answer is so great. It needs to happen.



3) Recreations of Memorable Performances

Remember when Kelly Clarkson hit that absurdly high note on “Natural Woman” during the first season of “Idol,” cementing her status as a serious contender? I do. It was fantastic, and it needs to be done again. In addition to bringing back all of the previous winners, this season would be an excellent opportunity to bask in the glow of what “Idol” once was by recreating some of the performances that had people talking around the water cooler, back when that was a thing. This would also be an excellent opportunity to bring back some memorable “Idol” contestants who didn’t win but had insane careers post-“Idol,” like Jennifer Hudson and Adam Lambert. They could even incorporate some memorable-but-not-necessarily-good performances, like when the infamous Sanjaya Malakar from season six legit made a girl cry. That’s definitely something that people need to be reminded of.



2) The Ultimate Finale

“American Idol” finales have always been pretty memorable, but this one needs to knock all of the others out of the water. My dream “Idol” finale involves all of the former winners and judges reuniting on stage with the final winner to sing “We’re Brothers Forever,” the classic song written and sung in a season seven audition by Renaldo Lapuz. It could easily become the “We Are the World” for a new generation and I’m only partially kidding.



1) The Return of Brian Dunkleman

Long before Ryan Seacrest became the host extraordinaire that we all know him to be now, he spent the first season if “American Idol” as a co-host with actor and comedian Brian Dunkleman. But by the time the second season premiered, “Idol” had gone from two hosts to one, and Dunkleman was no more. Dunkleman has continued to work post-“Idol,” but reportedly regrets leaving “Idol” after that first season. He seems to now have a somewhat good sense of humor regarding his time on the show, having tweeted this after hearing of “Idol’s” cancellation. Bringing Dunkleman back in some capacity would be the ultimate full-circle moment for “Idol,” and a great way to close out the memorable series.



So those are my hopes for “American Idol’s” final season. What do you think? Do you plan on tuning in? Have any hopes of your own? What about memorable performances or contestants you’d like to see make an appearance? Share your thoughts in the comments. And, of course…


Stay classy.