05/19/2011 12:45 pm ET Updated Jul 19, 2011

'American Idol' Secrets: Behind The Incredible Comeback

When the house lights came up at L.A. Live's Nokia Theatre on May 26, 2010, the night of the Season 9 finale, there was a widely held belief in the entertainment world that American Idol was on its way down. Gone was the show's star judge, Simon Cowell, who had announced his departure four months earlier; its experiment with a four-person panel, which included daytime host Ellen DeGeneres and songwriter Kara DioGuardi, had ostensibly failed (both would exit the show within the next three months); and viewers less than enthused with the year's crop of contestants had started tuning out. With ratings tumbling 18 percent on finale night and giant question marks looming on the horizon, the members of the Idol brain trust -- which include creator Simon Fuller, FremantleMedia North America CEO Cecile Frot-Coutaz, Fox president of alternative programming Mike Darnell and executive producers Nigel Lythgoe (brought back after a two-season leave) and Ken Warwick, along with judge Randy Jackson and host Ryan Seacrest -- had their work cut out for them.

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