Kid Nation: Will You Watch?

I spent way too much time watching TV this weekend (and not just the Emmys, somehow I sat glued to Richard Simmons scolding a 500-pound man for falling off the wagon, too). In other words, thank goodness the new Fall shows start soon. I made room on my ReplayTV for Heroes and Grey's, and added Bionic Woman and Back to You. One show I left off my list: Kid Nation. And not for any high-minded intellectual reasons, sadly, it just looks like a lousy TV program (and since CBS isn't sending screeners to the critics, there might be something to that assessment... still, hype plus controversy often equals ratings, at least initially). The show has definitely hit some people's gag reflex. Hyped as: "40 Kids for 40 days with no grown-ups. Can they do it?" It's Lord of the Flies meets reality TV. Parents reportedly signed lengthy contracts promising not to sue (there were news stories that some of the kids got minor injuries), in return for the chance to win cash prizes. Meghan Daum had an interesting take on this over the weekend in the Los Angeles Times.

All this makes for a fascinating case study in the way "having big plans" for your kids may be changing. A few decades ago, these same folks might have been pushing their kids to win a science fair. But now that the culture of celebrity worship spans several generations, and because it's a biological imperative for parents to want for their children what they couldn't attain themselves, it makes perfect sense that some may want to see their kids on reality shows more than they want them becoming doctors.

Success, we're told these days, is not just about achievement but public (preferably televised) achievement. Parents who buy into this might be foolish, but they're also fiercely protecting their kids from the fate we've come to fear most: invisibility.

What do you make of this show, and the parents who agreed to let their children take part... Is it a unique opportunity for kids, or a disaster waiting to happen? And of course, the big question: Will you watch?

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