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TV offers a chance for everyday folks



Published: Sun, February 16, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Frank Sinatra was discovered on a 1937 radio show that offered stardom to amateurs.

By DAVE MASON

SCRIPPS HOWARD

Many young singers today want to be the next Britney Spears, whose career was helped by the original "Star Search."

But the amateurs competing on "American Idol," the new "Star Search" and recent shows such as "Pop Stars" also have something in common with Frank Sinatra.

Sinatra was discovered in 1937 on "Major Bowes' Amateur Hour," a radio show that gave amateurs a chance to be a star. Nothing is older in the history of television than giving everyday people the chance to become stars.

In the 1950s, getting into the movies was an impossible dream for most people, but that new medium of TV, which was craving for content, seemed accessible to Joe Not-A-Millionaire.

Between "Candid Camera," the new game shows and amateur programs, the everyday person had a chance for fame.

Fifty years before "American Idol" host Ryan Seacrest, there was Ted Mack. He started as an assistant on "Major Bowles' Amateur Hour."

Mack went on to host "The Original Amateur Hour," which premiered in 1948 on the old DuMont TV network. It lasted 22 years, floating back and forth between NBC, CBS and ABC.

The TV discoveries also included an 18-year-old college sophomore named Pat Boone, according to "The Complete Directory of Prime Time Network TV Shows, 1946-Present" by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh.

Earlier format

Today's "American Idol" owes a lot to "Star Search." The original "Star Search" (1983-95), hosted by "Tonight Show" sidekick Ed McMahon, launched the careers of such stars as Ray Romano and Christina Aguilera.

The success of turning everyday people into instant pop hits has been seen recently with The WB's "Pop Stars." But Eden's Crush, the band from the first "Pop Stars," had a short flight to the top of the charts. The test of fame is how long it lasts.

Not even Ed McMahon can guarantee a lifetime of closeups.

XDave Mason is television editor of the Ventura County Star in California.




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