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Kid Nation: What Could Have Been

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Before CBS’ controversial new show Kid Nation debuted last week, executive producer Tom Forman used the “summer camp” comparison to describe how the show’s conceit was no different than parents sending their kids away to month-long sleepovers in the Adirondacks—only this time, cameras would capture their every move. It wasn’t the first time TV has tried to spy on kids during summer vacation: back in 1998, Disney Channel debuted a clever little reality show called Bug Juice, which sent camera crews into unsuspecting camp cabins and (you guessed it) chronicled their every move. But unlike Kid Nation, very little of the action, if any, was manipulated. The kids didn’t audition (camps were picked at random) and they ultimately set the tone for the show. (Bug Juice was canceled in 2002.)

Meanwhile, word has it that Forman pitched Nation as a show that would completely abdicate all power to the kids; it would be the tots—not the producers—who would decide things like who would be elected to the town council. Clearly, the network wasn’t willing to take a back seat to the kids, so it stepped in and made the rules—as evidenced by the “pioneer journal” the tykes read in each episode to get their instructions. Too bad; it would have been far more interesting to see the kids elect their own leaders and form their own cliques. Yes, I’ll say it: we would have preferred a small-screen version of Lord of the Flies.

Lastly, rumor has it the casting has been completed for a second season but production has yet to begun. And yes, sounds like they’re eyeing some place in Europe to film the next installment—assuming there will be one.

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