WARNING: This post will include jokes made at the expense of children. While conventionally frowned upon, I’ve justified the mocking thusly: It is OK to make fun of people who have more than you. This is why celebrities are always fair game, because the gift bags they receive at awards shows cost more than I make in month. Of course, these kids don’t have more than me right now (I have a job and a girlfriend and a blog), but relatively speaking (i.e., when I was a ten-year old non-TV star) these kids are celebrities. All I wanted when I was young was to live in the wild west. To live in the wild west and own a microwave. And my mom said no on both accounts. So, I apologize in advance, Josh, but you were asking for it.
Brooke and I couldn’t have been more excited for “Kid Nation,” the new CBS reality show that put 40 kids ages 8 to 15 in an abandoned New Mexico
sound stage town with no adults to supervise them. Their goal? To make
To me, this idea is ripe with possibility. When I first heard about “Kid Nation,” I was angry that I hadn’t thought of it myself. Part “Survivor,” part “Kids Say The Darndest Things,” part Latin American child labor laws. How could this go wrong?
We were giddy when it came time to watch. We had TiVo’d the first half so we could watch the whole episode commercial free. Armed with bowls of Frosted Flakes, we plopped down on the couch and took it all in.
And it sucked.
Well, I won’t go that far. For unintentional comedy, you can’t do much better than one kid waking up late and finding that there’s no breakfast left. (WELCOME TO POVERTY, KID.) But for what it could be if the concept was executed to perfection, this product is a disappointment. It was like “The Real World” if you neutered the cast and kept the house sober – just a bunch of yelling and crying and confusion. And what it lacked, it lacked in spades: Reality.
I’m a veteran enough TV viewer to understand that reality shows aren’t actually “real.” They are scripted and edited just like any other program. But if any reality show had the promise to succeed in a true reality format, this would be it. Why? Because it’s not a contest. It’s a sociological experiment that asks the question, “Can these kids not die in the next 40 days?” And, honestly, I’m intrigued by the answer. I want to know if one of these kids will accidentally drink bleach. (Fact Check Time! Indeed, four kids did accidentally drink bleach during their stay. None died.)
The bottom line is, the show, so far, isn’t living up to its promise. It needs help, and I am the person to help it. Here are a list of my suggestions to improve the show, which I have emailed to the executives at CBS. Hopefully something good will come of this and within a few weeks we’ll all witness for the first time on television two young children engage in a five round bare-knuckle fight over a live chicken. That’s how you get ratings.
Problem #1: Adult influence.
As in, there’s way too much of it. Starting with the cameramen. How can you call the kids isolated from adult supervision when there are constantly 40-year old cameramen ten feet away? That’s a built-in safety blanket. You can’t honestly tell me that even though the cameramen are instructed to not interact with the kids that if a kid fell down in the wilderness and broke his leg that this would happen:
Pioneer Kid: “Camera guy! Help me! Please! I think my leg is broken!”
Camera guy: (looks casually off into the distance, pretending he hears nothing)
Pioneer Kid: (crying hysterically now) “It hurts so much! Please, help me!”
Camera guy: (to colleague on radio) “I’m losing light here, I’ll meet you back at the trailer.”
Of course not. He would do what any respectable human being would do. He would help him.
I want a reality show where that kid finds his way back to town on his own. Where the rest of the town forms a search party for him with flaming torches, and when they finally find him some kid lays his torch down to help and accidentally sets the forest on fire. I want a town wired with closed circuit, motion sensored cameras. I want kids looking directly into camera like The Blair Witch Project saying, “Please, send adults. It’s terrifying. Please.” I want the truth.
Problem #2. Too much crying.
I’m not going to say that I never cried when I was young (I did lose a turtle, after all), but you’re in the wild west. There’s no crying in the wild west. These kids need to toughen up. In the real wild west no one cried. Hookers would get beat up and even they wouldn’t cry. They would just shoot the guy. Which brings me to my next problem.
Problem #3: Crime / Violence.
Any time you strip civilization of any hierarchical structure of governance, crime and violence are the foremost result. But these kids, under the supervision of producers, are at a disadvantage. According to Kid Nation’s participant agreement the kids have basically given up every right to privacy in order to be on the show. This includes giving the producers the right to search their belongings and their person at any given time, even granting producers permission to use an x-ray machine.
This makes it impossible to capture the true grittiness of the wild west. No guns? No knives? No drugs in your rectum? BORING. As it stands now, the single best development the show could make would be to add a law enforcement unit (made up of kids, of course) and build a jail cell. Then let the kids write the laws. Would they become liberal or conservative? Would the sheriff rule with an iron fist? WOULD SOMEONE GET MURDERED? I need to own a television station, STAT.
Problem #4: Racial profiling.
Is it just me or are the black kids just there for show? I don’t remember one interview with a black kid (of which there are six). And the “Town Council Members”? Hello, white bread! The only ethnic council member is Anjay, and – I’m not one to make judgments – but . . . well:
All I’m saying is, we all saw the color cheese he made.
Problem #5: Real world problems.
So far, the most boring aspect of the show is that the kids don’t have to do much. They cook breakfast in the morning, presumably they cook dinner at night, and then they fool around during the day. Again, the problem is that there is too much adult interference. How much free time would you have on your hands if a powerful storm ripped the roof off one of your houses? Now all of a sudden you’re 11 years old and you need to build a roof. What are you going to do about it? Someone falls off the roof during construction and breaks their leg. What are you going to do about it? (I have an unhealthy fixation with one of the kids breaking their leg.) One of the boys wants to hang out with one of the girls, but everyone is making fun of them. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?
(Side note: If you read the participant agreement, you’ll also notice a section about how the producers aren’t responsible for any pregnancies or STD’s which may occur on the show. That’s right, Greg, they’re talking to you. Incidentally, a portion of Greg’s Q&A from the CBS website:
Q: If you could put into place one law that pertains to kids in our country, what would it be?
Q: If you were in charge of education, would art class be as important as math?
Q: Do you belong to any organizations or clubs?
Go get ‘em, Greg.
Problem #6: The leaders.
And by the leaders, I mean the kid with the glasses. Ya burnt!