Even if you don’t watch the show, all it takes is a general awareness of pop culture to know that the eighth season of the hit TV series “American Idol” comes to a close this week. Finalists Adam Lambert and Kris Allen sang their parting shots last night, leading into tonight’s results show in which the votes are tallied and the winner, announced.
Of course, neither Lambert nor Allen will be free after the credits roll tomorrow night. There’s the usual post-season tour to think about of course, and the inevitable recording deals. There will also be offers to act, in movies, TV shows, shorts, commercials… pretty much anything you can think of. It’s the nature of that beast we know as “American Idol”: win or lose, you’ve got a shot at moving on to great things. Or at least just things.
Which brings me to the purpose of today’s feature. Whatever Allen, Lambert or any of those who fell before them end up doing in showbusiness, they won’t be blazing any trails. There’s a long history – relatively speaking, considering the show launched in 2002 – of past Idols moving on to do some time Hollywood. Sometimes with good results. Other times… well, you be the judge.
Kelly Clarkson was the very first “American Idol” winner, from the 2002 season. She actually has an acting credit from that same year, in the movie “Issues 101.” Unfortunately for Clarkson, her most high-profile acting gig in her post-“Idol” days is the stunningly awful “From Justin to Kelly.” The less said about it, the happier everyone will be. “From Justin to Kelly” was essentially a marketing tie-in for Clarkson and her “Idol” runner-up Justin Guarini. Pregnant women and people who are prone to seizures should avoid it at all costs.
The good thing about Justin Guarini’s time served in Hollywood is the fact that “From Justin to Kelly” was his first screen performance. Things can only get better from there, right? Guarini has appeared in a couple of movies since then, including director Brian Cavallaro’s “Frankie the Squirrel” (2007) and director Daniel Zirilli’s “Fast Girl” (2008). He may not have had the most successful post-“Idol” film career, but at least he managed to top “From Justin to Kelly.”
Second season runner-up Ruben Studdard hasn’t done a great deal outside of the music scene since his run on “Idol.” Other than a couple of TV appearances, his biggest splash in Hollywood was a contribution to the soundtrack of “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed” -- a cover of Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star” -- and a live performance of the song in the same.
Second season winner Clay Aiken’s work in front of the camera has been limited to television. Technically this feature is supposed to highlight any movie work that past “Idol” contestants have done, but I couldn’t help myself in this case. Aiken appeared in an episode of “Scrubs” shortly after his “Idol” win, but he stepped into the spotlight once again last week with a cameo appearance – one of many that night – on NBC’s “30 Rock.” Aiken’s cameo happened to stand out from the rest because it was revealed that, in the show’s fiction, he is the cousin of lovable NBC page Kenneth Parcell (Jack McBrayer).
Katherine McPhee has landed a few acting gigs since her fifth season “Idol” loss to Taylor Hicks. She had an appearance on “CSI: NY” and a bit part in director Rick Bieber’s indie flick “Crazy.” More recently, McPhee landed a high-profile role in director Fred Wolf’s “The House Bunny.” McPhee played pregnant sorority sister Harmony in the movie, and her cover of “I Know What Boys Like” was featured on the soundtrack.
Jennifer Hudson didn’t even breach the top five during her season three “Idol” appearance, but she’s also the sole former contestant to have actually done something worthwhile with her post-show acting career. Hudson co-starred in “Dreamgirls” as Effie White, a role which earned her an Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. Hudson’s beautiful singing voice is featured throughout the film, which was itself adapted from a Broadway show. Hudson has kept fairly busy with the acting since winning her golden statue in 2006, appearing in both the “Sex and the City” movie and "The Secret Life of Bees."