Kid Nation gets PANNED!

Anthem for ‘Nation’: All hype, no entertainment
By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY

Leave it to CBS to create a better fuss than a show.

Last year, the network stoked a free-publicity controversy with Survivor‘s racial divide; this year, it’s child labor and kiddie exploitation for Kid Nation. And once again, the show turned out to be far more tepid than its pre-show heat would have led you to believe. Whatever dangers the kids on Nation may have faced, the only risk posed to viewers by last night’s premiere was death by boredom.

It was like watching some other family’s incredibly dull home movies — assuming in your home movies, the kids make speeches and 15-year-old boys get to hit 11-year-olds without an adult intervening. But then, what would you expect? They’re kids, exhibiting the kind of behaviors, good and bad, that kids do in real life.

That’s not awful or particularly surprising — but it’s also not even remotely entertaining.

The nation-building involves 40 kids, ages 8 to 15, sent to turn a ghost town into “a town that works.” Last night, that meant learning how to cook, milk goats, use an outhouse and deal with the class divide.

For anyone who was expecting originality — well, you have to admit that was awfully childlike of you. There are a few new twists: No one gets booted off, the council can hand out $20,000 gold stars. But otherwise, it’s bits and pieces of every reality show you’ve ever seen, from the trumped-up conflicts to the talk-to-the-camera complaints.

As for concerns over the children’s welfare, odds are the dangers are, in the mysterious way of TV, both fake and real. Fake because there were always adults off-camera; real because they weren’t close enough to prevent some unexpected injury.

For TV, the issue isn’t so much what happened to the children in New Mexico; it’s what’s about to happen to them now. Nation took a group of children who have no clear idea what image they project in person, let alone on TV, and labeled them forever as “the brat,” “the cry-baby,” “the nerd” “the full-of-herself know-it-all” and “the bully,” all for purposes of profit. And what’s worse, anyone who has ever watched a reality show knows these children were cynically, crassly cast to play these roles.

It doesn’t help Nation to claim that you can find equally horrific examples of kid behavior on shows like the Saturday morning Survivor rip-off Endurance— and not just because “Johnny does it, too” has never been much of a defense. The crime is exposure, and however bad it may be to act
foolishly on Saturday morning TV, it is much worse to be humiliated on the top-rated network in prime time. Which is why we fuss more over CBS.

The network should take that as a compliment. And then begin acting like it deserves one.

Anthem for ‘Nation’: All hype, no entertainment –


Okay, so I promise, this is the last time I’ll cover “Kid Nation” — I just thought it might be intersting to pass along a scathing critique. Wow.  Hate radiates off it, right?

The funny thing is– where I see positives, this article clearly saw boredom and reality-show-reruns. Perhaps it’s just because I’m a pro-kid experience person (from a kid perspective), who really wants all youth to beat the system and show others how great you can be when you just TRY.  I’ve been on the sideline, lucky enough to have seen tater tots do AMAZING things in life… and I only wish others have too.  From camp to the classroom to the soccer field to online community interactions, kids can be inspirational and strong.

Success is different to different people.

I do agree, however, that the stereotyping is inappropriate. I didn’t remember seeing that happen… I guess in actions, it was pretty obvious. But you know what? Spend some time on a playground. Kids sort each other out in groups, they sort themselves into groups. And although it’s WAY wrong… it’s the social pattern. Sometimes you have to be in some sort of box before you can break out of it.  Kids are learning. They’re exploring. They’re going the simplest/obvious route and trying to find themselves from there.

I agree “Primetime” is a bit of an “interesting” spot.  And I do fear the reprecussions on the kids themselves.  Will they have their tv personas follow them from this experience?  Or can they shake various “stereotype” behavior before the seasons end?  Hmm. Dunno.  On the other hand– what’s wrong with showing adults how amazing kids can be? They’re reflections of us, no matter HOW many times we try to say they aren’t.

You have NO idea how many adults I hear pigeonhole kids into things so far beneath what they can do. Staged or no– it’s nice to see strong kids making it work… even if they WERE hand picked to do such a thing.

So… again, you may disagree with me to the fullest extent. And I may be the only person out there– but on behalf of the kid-like audience, I enjoyed the show simply for the fact that kids –at heart– want to do amazing things. And even though we can’t let thousands of kids run off into the desert “Holes” style… they can have role models on television who are TRYING to make a difference OTHER than those silly young actors who are constantly turning into train-wrecks.

Anyway… wrong or right– thats my take, and that’s what I’m walking away with.

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  1. mom
    September 21, 2007 at 1:52 am

    I actually really enjoyed it and sepcifically commented on my own blog about the way that this show has the potential to offer a far less stereotyped image of kids than most programs offer! In case you’re curious:

  2. September 21, 2007 at 6:45 pm

    You have a GREAT blog!! I hope you don’t mind– I’m sticking it in my links (and RSS aggregator 😉 )

  1. September 27, 2007 at 11:03 am

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