04/07/2011 01:05 pm ET | Updated Jun 07, 2011

American Idol Lite: Is it a Contest or a Concert Tour Promo?

After Wednesday's episode of American Idol, the audience must be left wondering why the judges seem afraid to offer even a scant hint of constructive criticism to the contestants.

Jennifer Lopez came close to judging once when she advised Pia Toscano -- a contestant with a good voice, but generic performances -- to study the masters of their craft like Michael Jackson studied the likes of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. However, Lopez's barely there criticism was offered so apologetically by interjecting heaps of her own generic praise i.e. "spectacular" etc., it came off as if she was saying something profane because she was actually critiquing. Later, Lopez jumped on Randy Jackson for saying something lukewarm about Stefano Langone's performance. It's no longer cool to judge on Idol.

In Idol's seasons past, some of the judges and judging came under fire for being too cruel -- like popular kids making fun of outcasts. This was an ugly undercurrent of Idol that did seem to be addressed and mostly thrown away, particularly in seasons 9 and 10. So we got some really spot-on judging. Simon Cowell's critiques were unabashed, incisive, and what everyone waited to hear.

But now the judges seem literally afraid to say anything but "amazing", "beautiful", "otherworldly", or "magical" to each of the contestants. And even the most petite critique must be accompanied by one of these words.

It leads to speculation: were the judges issued a gag order to keep it positive? After disappointing Idol concert tour sales last year, is the show trying to promote it's own greatness to boost tour ticket sales this year? Whatever the reason, the lack of judging on Idol this season diminishes the real talent on the show because everybody is created equal -- yet is equal what the audience wants out of a contest?