American Idol is at the top of the ladder when it comes to singing competition shows in the United States.
While it does not get as high of ratings as it once did, and it has fewer seasons than other shows, like The Voice, it is still the granddaddy of all the singing reality shows in this country, on the air for 20 years, without ever relying on multiple seasons a year.
What many fans might not remember is that the only person still on the show today – host Ryan Seacrest – wasn’t the only host on the show at the start.
Ryan was not a known name at the time, and he was getting his big break with American Idol. Because FOX didn’t think he was big enough to carry it alone, he worked with a co-host named Brian Dunkleman.
It is similar to how Dancing with the Stars had two hosts for years. Seacrest and Dunkleman shared the load for that first season.
Then Brian quit, and it has been Ryan’s job ever since.
In a new interview, Brian said quitting the show almost led to him taking his own life.
American Idol struggled in its first season
Anyone who has followed American Idol from the start knows that the show is nothing now like it was in the beginning.
At the start, the three judges sat at a basic table in a plane room, and people lined up to audition. In those days, the show had to seek out people to audition because no one knew what this new show was all about.
The production values were horribly low, and it was lucky to survive that first season. They got lucky that Kelly Clarkson was one of the contestants, and when she won and became a star, American Idol never looked back.
Here is an interview with the three original judges, who talk about the uncertainty of the show.
That made Bruan Dunkleman’s decision to quit American Idol after one season not seem like a career risk.
American Idol’s former host struggled after quitting the show
Brian told TMZ that when he quit the show and then watched it become hugely successful, he slipped into a great depression.
Brian said that he was “suicide adjacent” when he left the show, and it hit it big without him. Brian said he had no contract after leaving the first season, and he ended up slipping into addiction issues with drugs and alcohol.
He said that he left American Idol to pursue an acting career, and it never materialized. As American Idol grew to great heights, he said his decision “haunted him,” and things like when Howard Stern said it was like Pete Best leaving the Beatles before they hit it big.
Ironically, it was running into a former American Idol boss and learning the show wasn’t planning on bringing him back that brought him out of the funk. He said that lifted a weight from his shoulders since he spent over a decade thinking he sabotaged his own career.
Now, Brian Dunkleman is back and in control of his own career with a new documentary on Amazon Prime Video called Dunkleman.
American Idol airs on Sunday nights at 8/7c on ABC.