'American Idol' Viral Stars: A Salute to William Hung, Sanjaya & More

William Hung
Debra L Rothenberg/FilmMagic

William Hung performs on the IMX Show at the FUSE Studios at FUSE Studios in New York City, New York, United States. 

When our great-grandchildren look back at early 2000s-era television, they'll be talking about American Idol. While the show certainly lost steam over the years, for a while it was the watercooler TV show, something you could easily talk about with your parents or your kids.

But while there were plenty of great musical moments over the years, from Kelly Clarkson's career to McPheever, it will also be remembered for its viral moments -- one of the first shows where people were eager to check out specific segments online the next day to forward to their friends. 

'American Idol' Ending With Season 15

In honor of the announcement Monday (May 11) that the next season of the show -- its 15th -- would be its last, we rounded up some of the more infamous viral moments from the pop-culture juggernaut. No matter when you stopped watching Idol -- or even if you never started -- we bet some of the below cringe-y Idol segments are buried deep in your brain. 

5. Ian Benardo
One of Idol's biggest fame-seekers was the foul-mouthed Ian Benardo, who thought nothing of cussing out Simon Cowell as he was escorted out the door -- not to mention dubbing Cowell a dodo bird. What really puts him on the all-time list, however, was his awful audition's post-life. After multiple attempts, he may not have made it to Hollywood week, but he managed to later crash a Simon Cowell tribute. (Was it any surprise that someone tailor-made for reality television also managed to show up on So You Think You Can Dance?)

4. Bikini Girl
Even when something is this desperate to be an Internet moment doesn't mean we didn't all forward it along. "Bikini Girl" -- who, yes, performed her original, not-very-good audition in a two-piece -- became even more infamous when she was invited back for the finale to perform once again (alongside Kara DioGuardi, also in a bikini). A low point for us all.

3. "Pants on the Ground"
American Idol producers thanked their lucky stars when General Larry Platt showed up for his audition with an original song. No, the song wasn't objectively "good," but there was a week there when it seemed like everyone had it in their heads. Welcome to the power of Idol

2. Sanjaya
A strong Idol backlash seriously took shape when Sanjaya Malakar -- a fine enough singer who made it much much further than he should have -- kept getting through each round as better singers went home. Never underestimate the power of teen girls in a still-Bieberless world. We are all Crying Girl (1:35), hoping for a better tomorrow. 

1. William Hung
Celebrate or blame Mr. Hung: He was the first to show that you didn't need to win the show -- or even be able to sing -- to get something out of the Idol machine. His season 2 audition made us all cringe, but we couldn't look away -- which was good news for Mr. Hung, who parlayed his viral moment into an actual record deal, releasing three albums (as well as making a memorable cameo on Arrested Development, among other shows).

What is your favorite infamous moment? 


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