After a lackluster, largely buzz-less season, "American Idol" is tweaking its formula, lowering the minimum age requirement from 16 to 15. Cecile Frot-Coutaz, an executive producer for the show, told USA Today that the move will let the show tap into the "young, talented" pool of artists "seeking careers and representation before they turn 16" — which some commentators interpreted as a naked bid for "the next Justin Bieber." While barely pubescent talent may be hot right now, is "American Idol" losing its way?

"Idol" is setting kids up for failure: Fifteen is too young, says Gloria Goodale at the Christian Science Monitor. If adults have a tough time enduring harsh criticism, kids are even less prepared for it. And the show will be particularly tough on young boys, whose voices change as they mature. Like child actors before them, the new child-stars of "Idol" will become "sacrifices on our entertainment altar."
"'American Idol' lowers age limit: what is too young for TV?"

This could take "Idol" back to its (appealingly) awkward roots: While at no point during "Idol"'s downward ratings-slide did I ever think, "What this show needs is more ninth-graders," says Marc Hirsh at NPR's Monkey See blog, the producers might be right on the money. By reviving "the old-fangled amateur-contest vibe" of the first seasons, "Idol" can take advantage of "aspiring teen idols" whose artistic visions and ideals are "moldable as clay." The show may benefit, even at the expense of the kids.
"'American Idol' lowers age requirement; Industry analysts suspect Bieber fever"

The broader concept needs refreshing: Discovering more "pop stars who look like zygotes" isn't necessarily the answer, says Jim Cantiello at MTV. The entire show is stale. Let's face it: Justin Bieber nailed YouTube fame doing contemporary pop and R&B hits, not "crooning 'Mandy' by Barry Manilow." For the show to "become relevant again, [Idol's producers] might do better by making the song choices and theme weeks younger, rather than the talent pool."
"Why the 'American Idol' age limit change is a bad idea"