I teach in a 4th -8th grade middle school. So our kids are pretty much within the same age range as those in the new CBS reality show Kid Nation. For those who do not follow this sort of thing, Kid Nation is the latest Survivor-style reality show — with kids instead of grown-ups. 40 of them, aged 8-15, put into an old-west-style town and told to make a community. If Lord of the Flies comes immediately comes to mind, that was indeed the original pitch. However, as controversy regarding child exploitation erupted, the buzz was reworked to more benevolent sort of stuff of the community-building ilk.
Well, I saw the first episode last night. Now I get a kick out of a lot of the reality shows. Used to watch Survivor. I confess I am a fan of those historical shows like The 1900 House and Manor House. But these are families, there are adults involved from the start. Kid Nation is something else. I found the camera close-ups on the predictable homesick 8-year-old disgusting. I could only think the kid was probably cast from the start to play that “role.” That of the cute little homesick kid who bailed at the end of the first episode. Absolutely yuck. It was the way the kids were being manipulated that bothered me so much. Setting up the punks, the homesick tyke, the cute little Poindexter, the Boy Scout, and so forth. One thing to manipulate adults as they do in “Survivor,” Quite another to do it with middle schoolers. So far I’m very underwhelmed.
Tom Shales of the Washington Post recommends that CBS grow up.
Julie Hinds of the Detroit Free Press calls it “The Mini-Me of Survivor minus the fun.”
Matthew Gilbert of the Boston Globe expressed my feelings perfectly. “There is just something grotesque and creepy about seeing children being deployed on reality TV, a genre that we all know thrives on conflict, tears, humiliation, and exhibitionism.” Read the rest of his review here.