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11 Reasons We're Eternally Grateful For 'American Idol'

We'll never forget you, Brian Dunkleman.

Once upon a time, before DVRs, binge-watching and Hulu, "American Idol" was appointment television. It was the Death Star of network TV.

More than 38 million Americans tuned in -- myself and my family included -- to watch Ruben Studdard narrowly defeat Clay Aiken in the season two finale. I can remember the smug self-importance I felt when I turned to my mom, a bonafide Claymate, and rubbed it in her face. She vowed to never watch "American Idol" again (she didn't), and I continued watching faithfully for seven more seasons.

Now, "American Idol" is nothing more than a ghost of its former self. So it's not that surprising that Fox has decided to pull the plug on it after its 15th season.

"American Idol" not only launched a bevy of reality competition shows -- token "mean" British judges included -- but it also gave us a number of pop stars, Grammy winners, country icons, TV stars and even an Oscar winner. So without further ado, click play on the video below, and read our list of 11 reasons we're eternally grateful for "American Idol," despite its faults.

  1. Kelly Clarkson
    FOX

    Inaugural "American Idol" winner Kelly Clarkson has given us some of the greatest pop hits of the 21st century -- "Since U Been Gone," "Because of You" and "Catch My Breath" are inarguably amazing -- and an incredibly timeless holiday album. It's crazy to think that without "American Idol," we might never have discovered Clarkson. Our lives would definitely suck without you, Kelly.

  2. Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj's infamous beef

    Part publicity stunt, part actual beef, Carey and Minaj's very public feud was the most entertaining part of the show's 12th season. At the start of production, rumors swirled that Carey wasn't pleased with Minaj joining the show, and later, video emerged of the two divas in a heated backstage argument. "American Idol" cameras even captured the visible tension throughout the season. Honestly, we can't even tell you who won this season -- oh wait, it was Mariah Carey's career.

  3. Adam Lambert's rendition of "Mad World"

    Adam Lambert's chilling cover of Tears for Fears' "Mad World" is regarded as one of the best performances in the show's 14-year history. It even earned Lambert a rare standing ovation from Simon Cowell. We're getting ~ chills ~ just thinking about it.

  4. Mariah Carey #blessed us with a glitter bomb

    Okay, so maybe we *do* remember who won season 12: Candice Glover. Glover had the voice of an angel, and more importantly, it was Mariah Carey-approved. After Glover's performance of "Lovesong" on "American Idol," Carey straight up dusted her with glitter. We're pretty sure that's what it feels like to be kissed by a unicorn.

  5. Oscar winner Jennifer Hudson

    Who said "American Idol" winners were the only success stories? Despite blowing us away in season three, J.Hud incredulously came in seventh place. Hudson, however, had the last laugh when she won a freakin' Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 2007 for her memorable performance, opposite Beyoncé, in "Dreamgirls."

  6. Paula Abdul and Simon Cowell's insane chemistry

    When "American Idol" was good, it was SO GOOD. Part of its initial success was due to the chemistry between OG judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul. We never quite knew if Abdul was going to smack him or kiss him -- and that was all part of the fun.

  7. "Smash"

    Fade in on a girl... named Katharine McPhee. One could argue that the success of "American Idol" inspired Ryan Murphy's FOX comedy "Glee," which as a result, inspired NBC's ill-fated answer to "Glee" -- "Smash." Starring "American Idol" alum Katharine McPhee, "Smash" was a hot-mess from start to finish, but the trainwreck was oh-so-much-fun to watch.

  8. Ryan Seacrest

    "American Idol" launched Ryan Seacrest's career. Back in 2002, Seacrest was pretty much an unknown. Now, after 14 seasons of "American Idol" and a multi-million dollar deal with E!, he's a household name with a broadcasting empire. His production company, Ryan Seacrest Productions, is responsible for bringing "Keeping Up With the Kardashians" into the world. (We're not going to assume the Kardashians wouldn't be a thing without Seacrest's involvement because TBH Kris Kardashian would have found a way to make millions regardless.)

  9. Kris Allen's "Heartless"

    "American Idol" has staged some pretty incredible performances over the years, and season eight winner Kris Allen's reinterpretation of Kanye West's "Heartless" was one of its best. Yes, Allen's win came at time when "Idol" was plagued by WGWG ("white guys with guitars"), but this performance proved that he could be something more.

  10. Simon Cowell, fashion icon
    Getty Images

    We have "American Idol" to thank for the influx of cranky British judges on reality TV. But none of them were ever as fly as Cowell, whose deep v-neck game was on point for eight seasons.

  11. Brian Dunkleman

    We know what you're thinking: quit trying to make Brian Dunkleman happen. But the truth is the season one co-host had his moments. Yes, we're Dunkleman enthusiasts. This is a safe space, OK?!