The show that has been possibly the biggest success for FOX is caught in what looks like a free fall in the ratings.  Hard to be disappointed in any TV show that has 19.5 million viewers, but that number from Wednesday night's Aspen auditions for American Idol is down over 20% from last year.  This season is still yet to be determined, so let's look back into the past of Idol and try to determine the best the show has had to offer over the last 10 years.

Success for any singer is knowing how may people have bought your music or attended your concerts.  Kelly Clarkson truly set quite a bar in this avenue after winning the very first American Idol.  The numbers don't lie: A pair of #1 singles among her ten Billboard Top-10 hits, 2 Country hits (duets with Reba McEntire and Jason Aldean), her Breakaway CD selling around 15 Million worldwide, and over 12 Million in album sales here in the USA for her career.

Carrie Underwood comes close to matching Clarkson's success.  The Season 4 winner of Idol has become a superstar in Country music with 10 #1 Country hits (3 more reached #2), all 3 of her CD releases reached the Top-2 in sales on the Billboard Album Chart (two reaching #1), and over 13 Million copies sold in America of those releases.

The argument of whose better between these two will always be a battle, but nobody from the competition has matched this success in music.  Only 3 other former Idol contestants share something with Kelly and Carrie: Reuben Studdard, Clay Aiken and Chris Daughtry have also had a #1 album on the Billboard chart.

Chris and his band Daughtry may not have elite numbers after Idol, but he hold his head high with 7 hit singles, over 7 Million copies sold of his 3 CD releases, and 2 killer covers that have shown his depth of talent (his version of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" has had over 25 Million hits on YouTube, and his work with Carlos Santana on Def Leppard's "Photograph" has to be a must for your iPod).  Chris may have one of the more memorable performances during Idol when he sang "Hemorrhage" by Fuel, and then was approached by the band to be their new lead singer.

Fantasia Barrino has not has the sales of Kelly and Carrie, but she has carved a niche in the world of R&B.  The Season 3 winner has had 7 Top-15 R&B charting hits, a #1 Pop hit with "I Believe", a Grammy win among her 7 career nominations (which is more nominations than Clarkson), and success in television.

Hard to judge whether Fantasia playing herself in a TV movie is truly acting, but the Lifetime release of Life Is Not A Fairytale is the 2nd most viewed original movie in the network's history, and she is out to prove her acting chops later this year in Mahalia playing the legendary singer Mahalia Jackson - could there be some Oscar buzz in her future?

Oscar has come to Idol when Jennifer Hudson, who Barrino defeated in Season 3, literally upstaged Beyonce in Dreamgirls and in 2007 won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress.  Hudson has followed up well with success in Sex And The City and The Secret Life Of Bees, 2 CD releases that has produced 3 Top-10 R&B hits, and one of the most talked about weight loss campaigns on TV today.

Acting has found many former Idol contestants on Broadway - 18 former Idol finalists have found their way to NYC with most having some success.  Barrino received raves for her work in The Color Purple, but the biggest star on Broadway has to be Constantine Maroulis.

The Season 4 combatant found a home with Rock Of Ages, earning a Tony Award nominations for Lead Actor playing Drew Bowie.  He has parlayed this into a role on the movie version of this play due out by summer, and his side gig on TV has made him a "Soap Star" (Constantine Parros on The Bold and The Beautiful).

The Soap Opera world also has seen Diana DeGarmo (Season 3 runner-up) doing well with her role as Angelina on The Young & The Restless.  She is also bound for the big screen with a significant supporting role opposite Val Kilmer and Trace Adkins in Wyatt Earp's Revenge (due out in March).

The big screen will also be seeing Season 6 winner Jordin Sparks later this year with Sparkle.  This film is a remake of a 1976 Cult Classic that featured Irene Cara (before she starred as Coco in Fame), and this will also be the vehicle (hopefully) to bring Whitney Houston back from the dead.  Sparks is hoping to adjust her career - after having 5 Top-15 Billboard hits and about 4 Million worldwide sales of her debut CD, her follow-up release did not even sell 200,000.

Sparks is not the only one trying to redefine their career:

Katharine McPhee was the Season 5 runner-up, 2 top selling singles that both peaked in the Top-20, and then shifted to acting.  The House Bunny gave her a break playing Harmony, but now she hopes to become the first Idol contestant to be ion a hit TV series.  NBC is promoting Smash a huge amount, and are hoping McPhee will be a breakout star.

Tamyra Gray has been in the same position as McPhee.  Season 1 saw her in the Top-4, then came Boston Public on FOX where she shined in 2003.  Gray failed to follw up on TV, but adjusted well to Broadway in Rent.

Clay Aiken may have been the runner-up in Season 2, but his debut CD sold around 4 Million worldwide, followed by a holiday CD that sold 2 Million (outselling that season winner Reuben Studdard).  Reality TV has Aiken about to lock horns in Celebrity Apprentice, and I'm betting on him going far.

Kevin Covais (Season 5 finalist) can be found on ABC Family on the new Raven-Symone comedy The Great State of Georgia (which is averaging about 1.5 Million viewers - respectable for a cable show) and comes to the big screen in what could be the biggest grossing films an Idol contestant has even been in - Men In Black III.

American Idol has given talent a leg up, many have taken advantage of their 15 Minutes of Fame.  Not every Idol success story has been named, but this list gives you an idea of the best the 10 years of Idol has had to offer - so far!