Farewell American Idol: Bay Area finalist says show helped young people realize dreams

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After 15 seasons, Fox Television aired its very last episode Thursday night of the once-phenomenally popular show, ‘American Idol’. 

KTVU spoke with a Bay Area Idol finalist from last year and a pop culture expert about how this show impacted and in some cases changed lives.

In Daly City, for the Anoa'i family, watching American Idol has been a weekly ritual. 17-year-old Reno Anoa'i made it to the top 40 last year.

This season's grand finale was something he didn't want to miss.

"It's definitely sad to say goodbye to American Idol. It's almost like a part of us is missing says Reno.
"I do think it's a pop-culture phenomenon," says Gina Arnold, professor of popular culture at University of San Francisco, "American Idol changed the way people thought about television."

Arnold says Idol was great family entertainment and part of its appeal is how it engaged the audience in a new way.

"American Idol was one of the first shows to allow the audience to determine anything that was on it. It became a two-way communication by being able to vote, being able to text."

Arnold says its demise was due in part to the changing times; people don't watch television the same way.

After 15 years, the show just ran its course— a lifespan longer than many other successful television series.

For Reno and other contestants, Idol will have a lasting impact.

"Performing a song is more than just singing it and it's telling a story and I wouldn't have learned that without American Idol," says Reno.

The senior at Serra High School in San Mateo says he's looking forward to college where
he plans to study music and business, using his idol experience to help him achieve his goal of becoming a professional musician.

"Idol has definitely molded us into stage ready performers. It taught me so much about the game learning how to perform and being a full package musician. My big thing is to change lives and inspire people with my music," says Reno.

He says Idol also helped him to develop a strong work ethic.

Reno hopes there will be a new show to give opportunities to other young people to help them realize their dreams.