Paula, Simon, Randy and Ryan talk about the continued success of their show

When the panel from American Idol got together recently to discuss their top ranking show, they stressed the fact that it is a show that families watch together. They all feel that the wide appeal, to young and old, is what makes the show so popular. "It appeals to all demographics," says Paula Abdul.

"We get into trouble for this sometimes, but I generally think it is a real reality show," comments Simon Cowell. "I mean we're not handing out weird roses or talking about journeys. It's just -- it's a fly-on-the-wall reality show which hopefully doesn't take itself too seriously, which seems to appeal to normal people, thank God. And it's funny. It normally has a happy ending. I'd watch it."

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Randy Jackson agrees. "Simon's right. It's a real reality show. Nobody's eating any weird bugs in any weird jungle that none of us will never be in."

Jackson adds that the songs themselves help give the show a wide appeal. "And I think it's what happens with every artist. You hear a song on the radio. You're driving down the road and you go, 'God, how did they know I needed to hear those lyrics right now? They're thinking what I was thinking.' I think there's a bit of vicarious living that people do with these contestants. You see people that may have reminded you of who you were in high school or whatever. And I hear this all the time. 'I would never get up there. I know that I'm terrible.' But secretly, inside, maybe they actually would have gotten up there." Anyone who faithfully watches the show knows that all it takes is a little nerve to get up in front of the panel and belt out - or try to belt out - a song.

"I think - I've got three kids - [and] I think what happens is that you can tie it in with the whole family," Jackson says with pride. "I think the music does that. The genres do that. You listen to music from the '50s and '60s that kids don't even know, but they can sit there and enjoy it with their parents, I think, which is really, really cool. Because it's kind of the Rocky story set to music, if you will. You're pulling for that underdog. You know Clay [Aiken] can change his appearance and win."

According to Abdul, it's the finality of the show that helps in its appeal. "Also, the fact that the outcome - they are real -- we change people's lives for the rest of their lives and real superstars come out of that." The show has produced several commercially viable singers. Jennifer Hudson, a loser on the show, has gone on to fame and to an Academy Award nomination. Not too shabby for not coming in first place.

"And it's got credibility, obviously, because of the success of those who have made it on the show, and people in any small town or big city in America can see that they can also do it if they have the dream and they have the talent." says Ryan Seacrest.

Abdul is happy about the widespread appeal of the show and loves the fact that viewers often schedule their lives around the TV schedule, or make sure they tape the episodes. "I don't know any other TV show that has appointment television where, for girls in college, it's their Monday Night Football," she says. "It's like [in] every restaurant bar, they have American Idol on now."

Seacrest confesses, "I've talked to fathers, parents, dads that say that they couldn't figure out a way to connect necessarily with some of their kids, and they've actually found connection with their families, their kids through the time that they sit together to watch."

The week of February 5 -11, American Idol ranked number one in the ratings.

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