Image: Clay Aiken
Joe Cavaretta  /  AP File
Reuben Studdard won "American Idol" during season two, but it was runner-up Clay Aiken who saw his first album open at number one on the Billboard charts.
updated 9/21/2004 9:23:32 AM ET 2004-09-21T13:23:32

Last weekend, the producers of "American Idol" saw thousands of hopefuls turn out for a casting call in Las Vegas. That's understandable, since most people assume that a stint on a popular network reality show paves the way to B-list stardom, at the very least.

Not so says Ken Warwick, executive producer of "Idol," which airs on News Corp's Fox Entertainment Group network. "That's a common misconception," he says. "People also think that the top 10 finalists on our show all go on to be stars, but that's not really the case either." Even winning doesn't guarantee the biggest success. Warwick points out that although Reuben Studdard won in season two, it was runner-up Clay Aiken who saw his first album open at number one on the Billboard charts.

To audition for reality shows like "The Bachelor," which airs on The Walt Disney Co.'s ABC network, or "Survivor," which has its season premier onViacom's CBS on Sept. 16, people can send in a tape of themselves or to go to the huge casting calls that these shows hold in cities all over the country.

"In some ways the tapes are almost better," says Rob LaPlante, the casting director for "The Apprentice," which airs on NBC, a unit of General Electric. "You're more in control of your own audition. Those casting calls can get pretty overwhelming."

Although the odds against the applicants are steep, the public nevertheless perseveres. Ken Warwick's best advice: "Just make sure that you're equipped to do the job at hand, or you will be humiliated."

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