'Kid Nation': Childsploitation or fine family viewing?

Yesterday, when CBS announced its fall schedule would include a reality show called Kid Nation — where 40 kids, ages 8 to 15, form an adult-less society in ghost town Bonanza City, New Mexico for 40 days — a debate ignited in the EW TV department. Watch a preview of the show here, then weigh in yourself. Highlights of our e-mail chain:

Alynda Wheat: [Jennifer] Armstrong and I are already obsessed! Obsessed!
Tim Stack: Kids are boring (no offense to people who have or like children).
Wheat: We’re disowning you.
Kristen Baldwin: Oh my God — I think it looks horrifying! All those poor stressed out kids forced onto TV by their evil parents and crying every episode? No thanks!
Wheat: Perhaps Jennifer and I love it because we view the young as accessories.

Our TV mavens briefly discussed whether CBS’s schedule looks boring in general before returning to the question of what prizes the Kid Nation kids would earn for playing.

Baldwin: Each week one kid wins a real gold star (e.g. real gold) worth $20k.
Dalton Ross: I know someone who worked on the show. Everyonewas surprised by what good stuff they got out of this, which explainsCBS’ decision to skip summer and put it on in the fall — a very riskymove.
Wheat: I’m telling you, it looked really, really good. Not just exploitative good. Actual quality.
Baldwin: If you like to watch little kids cry, that is.
Abby West: OMG. This IS kind of horrifying. That said, I am sogoing to watch it every week. And my 8-year-old will love it andprobably lobby me to get to be on it.

I myself am on Team Wheat/Armstrong. While it’s painful to see anychild cry (especially the one in the cowboy hat), it’s inspiring to seethem all chant the name of the one, Michael, who steps up to end ascreaming match: "You guys do realize you’re not just representingyourselves," he says. "This is to prove that kids of all age groups canactually get stuff organized and actually create a society where peopleactually share without greed." Each week, the children compete in a"showdown" that detemines what role they’ll have in their society:laborer, cook, merchant, or upper-class. No child is run out of town.Every three days, there’s a town meeting where any of them can chooseto go home. They can also air grievances against their four-kidgovernment. "Stop punishing us, Taylor," one boy says. "This is ademocracy. You’re not allowed to punish us. That is not what a leaderdoes. At all." Again, inspiring… except for maybe the parents ofTaylor, who looks like she’s about to burst into tears.

Which side are you on?


Comments (521 total) Add your comment
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  • Juan

    They bumped T-H-E A-M-A-Z-I-N-G R-A-C-E for this garbage. that’s all I’m sayin’ as to why I won’t watch…

  • Ceballos

    I’m there.

  • Dominique L.

    I’m (surprisingly) not completely horrified…

  • Wade

    OMG! i watched the preview 3 TIMES already. lol i’m definitely tuning in. So the bigger question is….who on the EW staff with write the TV Watch????

  • Coleen

    So what, exactly, did happen to Amazing Race? Does anybody know when it’s supposed to be back?

  • Coleen

    Also, this show does look like it might be pretty interesting.

  • Cassie

    I already shed a few tears courtesy of the little boy who wanted to go home because he missed his brother who’s in a wheelchair. I became a mess once I realized how much he was trying not to cry! I’ll definitely be watching this show. Root beer for a nickel? I’m in.

  • Crystal

    There with bells on. It looks fascinating.

  • Christy

    Wow! Tears for the preview! I’ll be watching! Though I love reality TV shows this one looks deep! Being a teacher this is great stuff to talk to the kids about this fall and maybe even get some lessons out of!

  • Trevor

    They replaced Jericho with this? What a horrible move. Jericho was the best show they had, and they screwed it up. I hope this show bombs, Jericho was the BEST SHOW ON TV!

  • sam

    I guess you’re only letting the positive comments through. I think this show is horribly misguided and expoitative. However, that is what Americans want to watch. Mindless drivel where absolutely NO thinking is required and we can make fun of people. Even better if it is children. Can’t wait for Rosie to sound off on this one. Oh, wait, she won’t be on in Sept. NUTS!!! Bring back Jericho CBS, you hacks.

  • Monique

    I will not even look at this show unless Jericho comes back!

  • hotboudain

    They pushed Amazing Race back to midseason to make it more of an “event”.

  • Michael

    TOTALLY HOOKED!

  • Anonymous

    Jericho – good serial drama that was sacrificed for Kid Nation, which appears to be, well, exploitative garbage mostly. Save a show and some kids, send more NUTS to CBS…

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