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Published: Thursday, 5/17/2007

Kid, Is That Your Parent or Your Agent?

THURSDAY

10:30AM

I think it s true what they say: TV is crack.

As one of those kids whose nose was always buried in a book while growing up, to this day I loathe television.

In principle.

In practice, I can hardly keep my eyes off it.

This is compounded by an increasing inclination toward insomnia. Oh, honey, you just wouldn't believe the crap I will sit and watch at 3 am

Reality shows have their own special place in the TV universe. They both repel and attract me, depending.

Can t stand: Survivor (please, I have a job so I already get my recommended daily RDA of office politics), The Bachelor (too much like the worst of real-world dating: Oooh! I ll turn myself inside out for a rich guy! ), Celebrity Fit Club (look, I gained 20 lbs. last year, I don t need anyone else s pain), The Apprentice (I would pay NOT to work for that cretin), Hogan Knows Best (he can try all he wants, he ll never be Ozzie).

Can t resist: Wife Swap (you d be amazed at the interpersonal growth crammed into this cheez-fest ), My Super Sweet Sixteen (you have never seen a train wreck like this before; it s full-out child abuse, is what it is), The Real Housewives of Orange County (I like to think of this as the kind of hothouse environment that nurtures the seedlings that grow into the foot-stamping brats who end up on MTV s Super Sweet Sixteen ), Top Chef (hey, there s food, what else do I need to say?).

But my limit was be tested this fall. Your limit, too.

Sound the trumpets: CBS announced yesterday that it s going all Lord of the Flies this fall. They re calling the show Kid Nation.

This bloomberg.com account says the new show places kids in a mock town to build their own community.

As part of CBS's announcement, Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves said the new schedule would attract the younger viewers that CBS has been chasing.

Those of you who accuse CBS of being too conservative: I think we will surprise you, Moonves said

Gee. Sounds like just another way of saying: You ll be surprised how low our standards can go...

We turn again to Bloomberg (with my parenthetical translations added):

The reality show, Kid Nation, proved so intriguing (horrifying) in development that it was placed on the September schedule, rather than held as a midseason replacement, as originally planned (thar s gold in them thar kiddies!)

The program showcases (exploits) 40 children between the ages of 8 and 15 left to their own (where s a child-welfare caseworker when you need one?) skills and cunning (developmentally age-appropriate treachery) in a former New Mexico mining town to create a community (anarchic nightmare) in 40 days. Adults remain off camera as medical and psychological safeguards, said Ghen Maynard, an executive vice president for alternative programming.

Question: If anyone is really concerned with ensuring the children s psychological safeguards, why are they doing this at all? Put another way: What parent would think it was such a great idea to pimp out their kids to such a situation? Don t the children of these people need to be whisked away to the relative safety and sanity of, say, foster care? Oh, and should we prosecute the CBS programmers who came up with this?

(I am being only marginally snarky when I say all this. A part of me is asking these questions quite literally...)

Vowed one TV exec: You will watch them build a society with rules and a government. It's like nothing you have ever seen.

What, C-Span no longer exists?

[NB: For anyone ready to accuse me of taking a swipe at CBS because I'm an ABC affiliate employee, think again. If this show pulls in numbers, I have no doubt that entertainment-division execs over at The Corporate Mouse will be kicking themselves, wondering what other examples of classic literature are still out there, waiting to be ripped off for reality programming .]



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