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'American Idol'' finale: 7 ways it was sweet, smart and left us wanting more

Thursday night marked the end "American Idol's" era, as confetti fell for the final time during the show's series finale.
/ Source: TODAY

Confetti fell for the final time on Thursday night as Trent Harmon was crowned the 15th — and final — "American Idol."

Ryan Seacrest, La'Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon on "American Idol's" final show.Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

The show finale marked the end of one of the most successful reality TV shows of all time, and many singers from the show's past stopped by to help sing "Idol's" swan song. Two two-hour live spectacle included surprise guest stars and star-studded performances, and was a throwback to the show's heyday.

Here are 7 moments that left us crying "Encore!"

1. Brian Dunkleman got the final laugh

Many fans had forgotten that Ryan Seacrest once shared hosting duties with Brian Dunkleman, who left the show after the first season. That exit may have made him the butt of many jokes, but he got some much-needed redemption when he surprised Seacrest at the beginning of the show to offer him some insight on what life is like being unemployed after "Idol."

MORE: 'American Idol' ends, Ryan Seacrest looks to the future with his No. 1 lady

2. The gang was all there

Jordin Sparks was back to light up the stage on the "Idol" finale.Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

An impressive number of former contestants — at least 45 by our count — returned to the "Idol" stage on Thursday. For the show's opening number, the former contestants lined the stage to sing together. Later, previous winners including Jordin Sparks and Phillip Phillips sang alongside other contestants in a variety of pop, country and rock performances.

3. Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson reminded us how electric they are

Carrie Underwood had a song to sing for "Idol's" last show.Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

The show's two most successful winners — Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson — both paid tribute to the show that launched their incredible careers. A pregnant Clarkson was unable to attend the live show, but instead performed a medley of her hits in a pretaped segment. Underwood, meanwhile, rocked the stage in a short skirt and skin-baring top — a very different look compared to the simple country girl clothing from her "Idol" days.

4. Joke acts came back in force

William Hung banged it out.Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

"Idol" made several people famous from their terrible auditions, and a few of the most famous novelty acts from the show's past returned for the finale, including Sanjaya (who's still trying to make that ponytail Mohawk work, apparently), Larry "Pants on the Ground" Platt and William Hung, who treated us to one more rendition of "She Bangs" for the road.

5. Surprise! It's Simon Cowell!

Original judges Randy Jackson, Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell and host Ryan Seacrest gathered one last time.Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Original judge Simon Cowell was supposed to be a no-show, so when he strode out on stage to stand with fellow original judges Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson, Seacrest seemed genuinely shocked. Cowell congratulated the current judging panel on a job well done.

6. The underdog won

Ryan Seacrest reads out "Idol's" final winner as La'Porsha Renae and Trent Harmon wait anxiously.Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Even the judges seemed shocked when Seacrest announced that Trent Harmon had beat out favorite La'Porsha Renae to become the show's final winner. Jennifer Lopez's mouth fell open, while Harry Connick Jr. could be seen mouthing "wow" on camera. Harmon was so surprised that he dropped to the ground after his name was announced.

MORE: End of an era! 5 reasons we'll miss 'American Idol'

7. Seacrest's last-minute bombshell

Though visibly choked up as he closed the show for the final time, Seacrest left us with a fantastic tease for a possible future.

"One more time — this is so tough — we say to you from Hollywood, 'Good night, America!'" he said, then added this cliffhanger: "For now ..."

Wait, what? Stay tuned!