Not how I recall it. I remember it being massively hyped as a cross between Big Brother & Pop Idol. If anything, its problem was that expectations were too high.
Yes, it was a proper juggernaut in the schedules, and everything had to get out of the way - there was a series of My Family running on Fridays which was booted mid-run to Thursdays. As mentioned, the format had run successfully in other countries and I think the Beeb thought it was a suitably BBC take on the format because it emphasised songwriting and musicianship as much as it did singing (the first series, anyway, the second series didn't). I think the countries it had been successful in were those which hadn't yet been colonised by Pop Idol, though - a bit like how So You Think You Can Dance was a big hit in America but by the time it arrived in the UK it looked a bit old hat.
When the second series of Fame Academy was on Saturday nights directly opposite Pop Idol, the Beeb span some ridiculous cock and bull story about how that was the only slot it could possibly go in, because it couldn't go on Fridays like the first series did because Friday was officially comedy night and it couldn't go any later on Saturdays because of Casualty. Despite the fact a) Friday was comedy night before they shoved the first series there, b) they were just showing repeats in that slot at that time and c) Casualty was on its summer break. Such an embarrassment for everyone concerned.
It always seemed bizarre how it came back for Comic Relief in both 2005 and 2007, long after the original series was dead and buried. For all its credibility and relevance in 2007 they may as well have done Comic Relief Does Celebrity Wrestling.
I think Richard Park was never comfortable being the headmaster on Fame Academy whereas Cowell embraced the 'nasty' persona on Idol and later The X Factor although I think he has mellowed in recent times.
Pop Idol also spurned many TV careers, Nicki Chapman went from being a judge to hosting various TV programmes on the BBC like Escape to the Country while Sam and Mark carved a successful career in presenting shows for CBBC.
Nicki Chapman originally on Popstars, of course. When Pop Idol started, it was actually Sir Peter Waterman who was promoted as the big judge to watch, rather than Cowell.