Jennifer Wren
July 21, 2008 12:00 PM

They sang their hearts out, told their sharpest jokes, flashed their best smiles. And even if no one had heard of them yet, some of the biggest names in entertainment got their start on Star Search. During its run from 1983 to 1995, the show counted Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera and Beyoncé among its contestants, as well as Rosie O’Donnell, Sharon Stone, Ray Romano, Drew Carey and Alanis Morissette. “I can’t pick up the trade [papers] and not find something about Star Search alumni,” says the original show’s host, Ed McMahon (the program was briefly resurrected in 2003 with host Arsenio Hall). The syndicated talent competition proved to be particularly adept at spotlighting singers and comedians; Everybody Loves Raymond‘s Brad Garrett took home the first $100,000 grand prize. And while it didn’t have Paula, Simon or Randy, the show did provide a useful catchphrase for McMahon: “If I’m leaving the airplane, I’ll say to [the pilot], ‘Four stars on the landing!’ And it still registers.”

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