80 Years of The Hollywood Reporter
American Idol hit the ground running. After its June 11, 2002, debut, The Hollywood Reporter called the show's ratings (9.9 million viewers and a 4.8 rating in 18-49) "a solid start," and "if the numbers keep building, the reality series about the search for a new pop star will be a huge hit for Fox, which desperately needs one." The network got one. It was the highest-rated show on TV within three years -- and six years later, it still is. But it did it without Season 1 co-host Brian Dunkleman. He was cast first (3,000 applicants were considered), then Ryan Seacrest was signed because producers wanted someone with broadcast experience. Seacrest was immediately re-signed for Season 2, and there were negotiations with Dunkleman, but he suddenly announced he was exiting. "I didn't want to be a part of it anymore," he says today. "From what I saw, those contestants were being emotionally and mentally abused. It made me develop a severe self-hatred." Since then, he has been working as a stand-up comedian and doing some acting, including pilots for Fox. "Everybody makes choices in life they can go back and second-guess," Dunkleman says. "I got in this business to make people laugh, and I was watching kids be brought to tears. Leaving Idol was big, but I don't regret it -- except maybe the paychecks."