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American Idol’s final show airs Thursday night

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When Ryan Seacrest signs off “American Idol” tonight with his signature “Seacrest out!” he will mean it literally.

The show is ending after 15 seasons, juggernaut ratings (which fell off in recent years), thousands of aspiring superstars and way too many covers of Whitney Houston songs.

On Wednesday night, La’Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon were named as the final contestants for the title of “American Idol.”

Today’s send-off is, without a doubt, a historic moment for television.

“Idol” was a shining star, more popular than any other regularly scheduled American TV series since the turn of the century.

It smothered the competition. It changed the Fox network’s fortunes and spawned countless competitors and ripoffs around the world. In TV, that’s magic.

Even today, “Idol” is a force to be reckoned with. Part one of the finale on Wednesday averaged 10 million viewers, impressive by 2016 standards but still a reminder of how far it’s fallen. A decade ago, “Idol” drew 20 million, 30 million, even 40 million viewers.

So tonight, Fox will try to recapture some of the magic by bringing back the two biggest stars in the show’s history, Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, along with several dozen other contestants.

The broadcast will take place at the same Hollywood theater where Clarkson was crowned the winner at the end of season 1, in the summer of 2002.

Originally hosted by Brian Dunkleman and Seacrest, “Idol” went on to become a part of the pop culture zeitgeist. It was a celeb-making machine for many of those connected to it, including Seacrest, who was made the solo host after the first season.

Kieran Healy, the show’s lighting director since the very beginning, said he’s been dreading the finale.

“When Ryan says ‘Dim the lights’ for the last time, I’ll probably be quite choked up,” Healy said.

And he won’t be alone.

Fans around the world took to social media to mourn the end of the “Idol” era.

So why is “Idol” ending now? Because it kept getting more and more expensive to produce while reaching fewer and fewer people. Fox has wagered that retiring the brand makes more sense than trying to keep it going.

People associated with the show admit that the time feels right for a series finale.

And yet some of them are confident this is just a break.

The show’s creator, Simon Fuller, is already plotting a comeback, telling The Hollywood Reporter that the next iteration will feel more “interactive” and have a “youthful glow.”

” ‘Idol’ will certainly be coming back, for sure,” he said.