Last night was the season premier of the new controversial reality showKid Nation on CBS where 40 kids ages 8 to 15 live in a ghost town in New Mexico for 40 days alone (no adults) attempting to accomplish what former pioneers had failed to do: create a living, breathing and working society.
The program last night was actually pretty… cute… for lack of a better word. The kids on the show are absolutely adorable, very well spoken and they seem to possess a certain maturity that I know most kids these days rarely display. Then again, they are kids and the show had its share of crying, fighting, petty arguments, and did I mention crying? Yes, there were more waterworks on this show then America’s Next Top Model, but in this case I think the tears that these kids shed were a bit more appropriate.
As adorable as these kids are and how hard they are working I have to ask myself, are we really witnessing what it would be like if children had the opportunity to run heir own little world? Yes, these kids have to cook their own food, do their own laundry and make their own “rules”, but they actually aren’t doing it all on their own. They get plenty of help from the adults, For instance on the second day the Town Council, which consists of 4 kids previously picked before the show Mike, 11, Taylor, 11, Anjay, 12 and Laurel, 12, received a book on how to structure their town, which was divided into 4 different colored groups, (Mike’s red group, Taylor’s yellow group, Anjay’s Blue group and Laurel’s green group) who then competed later for 4 different social classes.
For television purposes this was a good idea because on the first day everything was complete chaos, but in terms of a total social experiment I thought it was a bit of a cop-out. Then again I read “Lord of the Flies” and I know how that story turned out.
With the development of their new social classes the kids make money for doing their jobs, the kids that work the hardest, laborers, get 10 cents, the cooks get 25 cents; the merchants get 50 cents and the upper class receive a dollar for doing their jobs. (Wow! I’m so glad that the kids got to structure a completely new type of society.) But these social groups as well as the town council are not carved in stone, so any week anything can change.
Now that the kids have money and jobs they have the opportunity to buy things at the stores run by the merchants. One particular thing that I thought was fantastic was when 14 year old Sophia went into the “general store” and decided she wanted this bicycle that was hanging on the wall. The thing cost three dollars and because she was part of the labor class she didn’t have a lot of money. So being the little entrepreneur that she is, she danced in the middle of town with a jar to collect hand-outs and sure enough she made enough money off of the other kids' generosity to buy the bicycle. Even though I thought that was pretty cute I couldn’t help but think that later in life this dancing for money could go in any direction (I hope her parents pay her a lot of attention… but not too much).
Now that the kids are nicely structured and making money, they seem to be rolling along a bit better. Of course there were plenty of bumps in the road, big kids picking on little kids (Mike, 11 vs Greg, 15), people not wanting to do their chores (Taylor) and not surprising vandalism (Greg, 15). But what the majority of these kids didn’t know was that there was a special prize to be given to the one kid who seemed exceptional in eyes of the council.
During the course of the episode the council was trying to decide if they were going to give it to Sophia who had been working really hard or Michael who gave an inspirational speech at the first town meeting when everything was in disarray. In the end Sophia took the prize (which was well deserved) and was given a two pound gold star, which is worth 20,000 dollars. If you didn’t see the faces on these kids when they found out the news, pray to mother earth that they play it again, I seriously thought the show would have been cancelled to eyes popping out of heads. It was also a bit emotional (I am a bit of a sap) when Sophia got to go and call her mom on the only working phone in Bonanza City. The special 20,000 dollar prize will be given to one lucky and hardworking kid at the end of every episode.
I think the gold star incentive program is really great. But I have a feeling in future episodes it is going to cause some problems. I think the first kid who received the star got it on genuine heart and hard work, but now I think some of the kids are going to start some kind of scam, manipulative campaign or are going to fake it and that is just going to make them into little evil adults (see what money does!). In any event it shall be interesting.
I was glad to see that they weren’t going to vote each other off like all the other reality shows, but the kids have the option to leave if they really want to at the weekly Town Council meeting. Imagine being a kid and leaving the security of your family for 40 days, I’m not even sure if I could do it at my age. Well, this week, two extra cute members of Kid Nation just couldn’t handle being in the desert because they missed there families. Jimmy, 8 kept on saying “I think I’m just too young for this” and the other homesick kid was Taylor, who also happens to be on the Town Council.
In the end Taylor decided to tough it out and stay and Jimmy despite major attempts from the other kids to get him to stay, decided that he wanted to go home (at least we know he doesn’t buckle under peer pressure). I was a little sad myself when Jimmy decided to go home because he was by far my favorite kid (I’m sure we are going to see him on a Where Are They Now episode in 10 years).
The show is really interesting so far and I’m excited to see how things are going to go as the season progresses. If you want to catchKid Nation check it out Wednesday nights at 8pm on CBS.
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