|Directed by||Jack Cannon|
|Presented by||Jonathan Karsh|
|Starring||See Participants below|
|Composer(s)||Jeff Lippencott and Mark T. Williams, Ah2 Music|
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||13 (List of episodes)|
|Executive producer(s)||Tom Forman|
|Location(s)||Bonanza City, New Mexico|
|Running time||60 minutes|
|Original run||September 19 – December 12, 2007|
Kid Nation was an American reality television show hosted by Jonathan Karsh that premiered on the CBS network on September 19, 2007 created by Tom Forman Productions and Endemol USA and aired on Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m. ET. The program was originally scheduled to air in the summer of 2007.
In the show, the children try to create a functioning society in the town, including setting up a government system with minimal adult help and supervision.
On May 14, 2008, CBS officially canceled the series.
The show, featuring 40 children aged 8 to 15, was filmed on location at the Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch, a privately owned town built on the ruins of Bonanza City, New Mexico, eight miles south of Santa Fe, with production beginning on April 1, 2007.
The show stresses the difficulty in creating a viable society. While each child received $5,000 for their involvement, Gold Stars valued at $20,000 and $50,000 were awarded to select outstanding participants as decided by the elected Town Council.
Speaking before an audience of television reviewers, producer Tom Forman acknowledged that Kid Nation would inevitably share some elements with William Golding's novel Lord of the Flies, which depicted planewrecked children without adult supervision. But adults were present off-camera during the Kid Nation production, including cameramen, producers, a medic, and a child psychologist, although all interacted with the children as little as possible. Participants also missed a month of school, but Forman suggested that such real-world tasks as preparing a group breakfast, doing physical chores like fetching water, and making group decisions constituted an educational experience in its own right. Foreman said that all participants were cleared by a team of psychologists, any child could choose to go home at any time, and some did.
|No.||Episode Title||Days||Airdate||Upper-Class||Merchants||Cooks||Laborers||Town Bonus||Gold Star||Exits|
|1||"I'm Trying to be a Leader Here!"||1–4||September 19||Red||Blue||Yellow||Green||Seven Outhouses||Sophia||Jimmy|
|2||"To Kill or Not to Kill"||5–7||September 26||Blue||Red||Yellow||Green||None (Task Failed)||Michael||None|
|3||"Deal With It!"||8–10||October 3||Yellow||Blue||Green||Red||Microwave & Cocoa||Mallory||None|
|4||"Bless Us and Keep Us Safe"||11–13||October 10||Blue||Red||Yellow||Green||Religious Books||Morgan||Cody|
|5||"Viva La Revolución!"||14–16||October 17||Yellow||Green||Red||Blue||Oral Hygiene Products||Greg||None|
|6||"Bonanza is Disgusting"||17–19||October 24||Red||Green||Yellow||Blue||Fruits & Vegetables||DK||None|
|7||"The Root Of All Evil"||20–22||October 31||Blue||Yellow||Green||Red||New Clothes & Free Laundry||Nathan||None|
|8||"Starved for Entertainment"||23–25||November 7||Green||Blue||Red||Yellow||None (Task Failed)||Kennedy||None|
|9||"Not Even Close to Fair"||26–28||November 14||Blue||Yellow||Green||Red||None (Task Failed)||Blaine||Randi|
|10||"Let Me Talk!"||29–31||November 21||Blue||Green||Yellow||Red||Letters From Home||Laurel||None|
|11||"I Just Like The Recess Part"||32–34||November 28||Green||Blue||Yellow||Red||Town Arcade||Hunter||None|
|12||"Where's Bonanza, Dude?"||35–37||December 5||Green||Red||Blue||Yellow||Hot Air Balloon Ride||Alex||None|
|13||"We've All Decided to Go Mad!"||38–40||December 12||No District Assignments||Three $50,000 Gold Stars||Zach
|None (final episode)|
- ^A These gold stars were worth $50,000 and were awarded at the final town hall meeting.
The participants of Kid Nation consist of 40 kids, whose ages range from 8 to 15. The following table lists each child's district color (including change if applicable), age at the onset of the show, home state, the terms they held in Town Council, the day they received a gold star, when they left Bonanza City and any applicable notes.
|1||2||Name||Age||State||Town Council||Gold Star||Exit||Note(s)|
|B||B||Anjay||12||Texas||Day 1 - Day 29|
|B||Y||Blaine||14||Florida||Day 29 - Day 40||Day 28||Changed districts in episode 9|
|R||R||DK||14||Illinois||Day 29 - Day 40||Day 19|
|R||B||Emilie||9||Nevada||Changed districts in episode 9|
|B||B||Greg||15||Nevada||Day 29 - Day 40||Day 16||Oldest participant|
|R||R||Guylan||11||Massachusetts||Day 16 - Day 29|
|G||Z||Jimmy||8||New Hampshire||Day 4||Youngest participant|
|G||G||Laurel||12||Massachusetts||Day 1 - Day 29||Day 31|
|B||B||Mallory||8||Indiana||Day 10||9th birthday during episode 3
|G||G||Michael||14||Washington||Day 29 - Day 40||Day 7||15th birthday during episode 11|
|R||R||Mike||11||Washington||Day 1 - Day 16|
|B||R||Nathan||11||Illinois||Day 22||Changed districts in episode 9|
|Appointed town sheriff in episode 11|
|Y||Y||Taylor||10||Georgia||Day 1 - Day 16||11th birthday during episode 7|
|Y||Y||Zach||10||Florida||Day 16 - Day 29||Day 39|
- ^1 Original district
- ^2 Final district color or black if participant left the show
- ^3 These gold stars were worth $50,000 and were awarded at the final town hall meeting.
Ahead of its premiere, the show proved to be the most controversial of the upcoming fall 2007 season, even though the only actual footage seen was a four-minute promo running on television and the Web. In previewing the series, CBS eschewed television critics, instead holding screenings at schools in at least seven large cities. Variety columnist Brian Lowry wrote that "Kid Nation is only the latest program to use kids as fodder for fun and profit, which doesn't make the trend any less disturbing." William Coleman, a professor of pediatrics at the University of North Carolina, argued that the younger children, ages 8 to 12, might not be able to deal with the stress, yet could be enticed to participate by the potential fame or be pressured to do so by a parent.
Los Angeles Times reporter Maria Elena Fernandez interviewed four of the children, who told her they had worked harder than they ever had in their lives but would willingly repeat the experience. They said the most challenging aspect was getting used to being filmed constantly.
After the show's premiere, many television critics wrote negative reviews, with Los Angeles Times critic Robert Lloyd a notable exception. Reviewing the first episode, Washington Post columnist Tom Shales suggested that the show is "not so much an exercise in socialization as the indoctrination of children into a consumer culture". Shales pointed out that the kids' decisions included buying root beer at the saloon with "real money", but not hiring or being hired - as their money was "parceled out to them according to their predetermined stations in life."
By the third show, some advertisers that had shied away from Kid Nation due to its initial controversy had begun to purchase time.
Reflecting back near the end of the season, Los Angeles Times writer Maria Elena Fernandez, who had reported extensively on Kid Nation, wrote that neither the show's pre-premiere promises or controversies ever quite congealed: the children were never as autonomous or self-reliant as the publicity indicated and the threatened legal investigations by the state of New Mexico never took off. As the series concluded, low ratings had cast doubt on whether CBS would renew the show. Brad Adgate, an analyst with Horizon Media, said the chances were not good unless a writers' strike, ongoing at the time of the season finale, increased demand for more reality shows.
U.S. Nielsen Ratings
|No.||Episode||Viewers (millions)||Households||Adults 18-49|
|1||"I'm Trying to Be a Leader Here!"||9.07||5.8/10||3.0/9|
|2||"To Kill or Not to Kill"||7.6||4.8/8||2.8/8|
|3||"Deal With It!"||7.51||4.7/8||2.4/7|
|4||"Bless Us and Keep Us Safe"||7.01||4.3/7||2.0/6|
|5||"Viva La Revolucion!"||7.41||4.7/8||2.4/7|
|6||"Bonanza is Disgusting"||8.03||5.1/8||2.5/7|
|7||"The Root of All Evil"||6.89||4.4/8||2.0/7|
|8||"Starved for Entertainment"||7.16||4.5/7||2.1/6|
|9||"Not Even Close to Fair"||7.53||4.7/8||2.4/7|
|10||"Let Me Talk!"||6.88||4.3/7||2.0/6|
|11||"I Just Like the Recess Part"||7.29||4.5/7||2.1/6|
|12||"Where's Bonanza, Dude?"||7.2||4.5/7||2.2/6|
|13||"We've All Decided to Go Mad!"||7.35||4.5/7||2.2/6|
Broader legal implications
The Kid Nation production raised questions about whether reality show participants are more like subjects in a documentary or working actors. The latter are covered by union rules that govern everything from working hours to compensation. This debate over participant status could be seen in an American Federation of Television and Radio Artists investigation over whether its AFTRA National Code of Fair Practices for Network Television Broadcasting was violated. The investigation went forward even though on reality shows, the Network Code generally covers professional performers, but not the participants. Some parents on hand for the final day of filming accused the producers of feeding children lines, re-casting dialog and repeating scenes, all of which suggested that the children functioned as actors. Producer Tom Forman said that the parents were observing routine "pickups" for scenes that might have been missed because of technical difficulties.
Kid Nation also raised questions about the appropriate minimum age of participants in reality shows. The production took place before New Mexico tightened its regulations governing the number and span of hours a child actor can work. The producers had declared the set a summer camp rather than a place of employment, but that loophole has since been closed. After 11-year-old Divad Miles was burned when grease splattered onto her face while cooking a meal, her mother, Janis Miles, filed a complaint in June calling for an investigation into "abusive acts to minors and possible violations of child labor laws." The claim was investigated by Santa Fe County Sheriff's Office, which found no criminal wrongdoing on the part of the production company. Other investigative efforts by the state of New Mexico into the Kid Nation production were later dropped. The state's Attorney General's Office cited the lack of formal complaint or request for inquiry from any state agency. The state's Department of Workforce Solutions dropped its charge that the producers had denied inspectors access to the set and said it had no plans to investigate.
CBS defended the production's conduct as both legal and ethical, including the response to minor injuries on the set. The network characterized some early allegations as irresponsible, exaggerated or false. In late November 2007 after 10 episodes had aired, Forman accused some newspaper critics of engaging in a feeding frenzy in which they used loaded terms like "child abuse" before actually seeing the show and without interviewing anyone involved with the production.
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