By Stephen M. Silverman
Updated May 19, 2003 03:28 PM

A Texas man, claiming that he thought up the idea for “American Idol,” is suing the show’s judge Simon Cowell, its producer and distributor Simon Fuller and FOX’s Houston affiliate, the Associated Press reports.

Harry T. Keane Jr. of Irving, Texas, filed his suit Wednesday in Houston, claiming the title and concept of the FOX talent hunt was his. Keane, who describes himself as an entertainment producer, is seeking unspecified damages and to recover all original tapes, films and recordings of the show (which first became a hit in Britain as “Pop Idol”) and its spin-offs.

Keane’s attorney suggests to the Houston Chronicle that $300 million from FOX may put an end to the lawsuit. In the meantime, Keane wants a restraining order preventing the top-rated show – whose season finale is due to air Wednesday — from continuing.

FOX spokesman Scott Grogin dismissed Keane’s claims as ridiculous.

News of the suit comes as “American Idol” (featured on this week’s cover of PEOPLE) heads into its May 21 season finale, during which either Ruben Studdard, 25, or Clay Aiken, 24, will win a $1 million recording contract.

Last fall, Kelly Clarkson won the first talent search and scored a No. 1 single, “A Moment Like This.” Her new album, “Thankful,” recently debuted atop the album charts. She also will soon be seen in her beach-party big-screen debut, opposite runner-up Justin Guarini in “From Justin to Kelly,” finally due to open June 13.

Monday’s New York Post, meanwhile, quotes the beanpole-shaped Aiken as saying he and his rotund pal Studdard “both would really like to do a movie like Justin and Kelly did. Maybe some kind of Laurel-and-Hardy type of thing.”