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'American Idol' producer considering raising age limit from 28 to 30

By Christopher Rocchio, 02/14/2007 

Given American Idol's eligibility rules state that contestants can't be older than 28 shortly before each season of reality competition's audtions begin, the gray hair that appeared atop Taylor Hicks' head on the show's fifth season was a rare sight for fans of the Fox mega-hit.  However that may change.

"I wouldn't mind extending it even further next year, to be honest," Idol executive producer Nigel Lythgoe told reporters during a conference call last week.  "I'll have to discuss it with everybody else, but I don't know why 28.  I really don't know why 30."

The reason Hicks was eligible last season -- he made the cut by only two months -- was because the rules were changed in 2004, when the age cutoff was increased from 26 to 28.  "[That decision] brought us some more maturity and a little more professionalism in certain areas," Lythgoe told reporters.  "We're happy about that."

Lythgoe explained that younger contestants are "exceptionally resilient," something that lends itself well to a competition like Idol

"You can't knock a kid down really. I think you get tired and a little more jaded when you get older, and you feel as though it's your last chance. That can be very emotional and affect you greatly in this competition," he told reporters. "When you're a bit older it's just where someone knocks you, you just say, 'Oh my God, that's it, I'm never going to make it now.'  It's a bit heart rendering."

While having some older Idol auditioners may make for better television, Lythgoe said he's just not sure if the judges and production crew could handle all those extra hopefuls.

"I guess we're just about managing to cope with the hundreds and thousands that we're getting at the moment," he told reporters.  "Opening up any more and I'm frightened to death how many people we'll get."

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