Kid Nation TV show provokes ethical and quality criticisms
Entertainment and lifestyle sections help newspaper readers pick shows, films, music, books and live events of interest. Invite students to tell how they use the paper to learn about pop culture, and to talk about a review or article they like.
Articles about "Kid Nation" are by adults. Assign students who see the Wednesday night show to write what they think about it for a class "newspaper" or bulletin board display.
Audience members don't always agree with professional critics, and some papers welcome viewer comments at the end of reviews or in website forums. Let students look for interactive exchanges about "Kid Nation" on the paper's site, where they can join the discussion with supervision or through teacher-posted comments.
A reality series about children supposedly left to fend for themselves in a made-for-TV "ghost town" called Bonanza began last week amid legal and ethical outcries. The groundbreaking CBS show -- "Kid Nation" -- focuses on 40 theoretically unsupervised children aged 8-15 who try to build a functioning society without adults on a ranch near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Participants receive $5,000 each, with one earning a weekly gold star worth $20,000.
Interest -- or curiosity, at least -- was fueled by state efforts to look into claims that children had been required to work 14-hour days during taping. Entertainment industry unions charged during the summer that kids were exploited and that unsafe conditions endangered cast and crew. CBS rebuffed an attempt to investigate compliance with child labor laws, saying the youngsters were in "an environment similar to that of a sleep-away camp" and that a producer acted "much like a summer camp counselor."
Most reviewers disliked the first episode intensely. An entertainment industry daily newspaper, Variety, called it "a mess," "creepy" and "a crime against television." To the Washington Post, it was "an appalling monstrosity." USA Today's critic sniped: "It was like watching some other family's incredibly dull home movies -- assuming in your home movies, the kids make speeches." The show continues on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. for 12 more weeks.
Writer says: "Would the creators of 'Kid Nation' please go to their room for a time-out and come up with something more original" -- Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press pop culture writer
Network says: "These kids were in good hands and were under good care, with procedures and safety structures that arguably rival or surpass any school or camp in the country." -- Tom Forman, executive producer
Admirer says: "Its cast of teenagers and pre-teens were sometimes mean, frustrating or annoying, but they also proved themselves to be remarkably self-sufficient, smart, articulate, and funny. In short, they were real, and rather entertaining. . . . It's heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time." -- Andy Dehnart, MSNBC commentator
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