Is the Balloon Boy fiasco the latest example of parents putting their love of fame before their love of children? Should kids even be allowed on reality TV? And how much blame should go on the network executives behind such programs? These are a few of the questions that we look at in the new issue of Entertainment Weekly with a story focusing on how past and present shows like Jon & Kate Plus Eight, Supernanny, Kid Nation, and The Baby Borrowers could be putting young children at emotional and physical risk, all for a paycheck and 15 minutes of fame. “The entertainment executives very well know the risks that are facing these children,” says former child star Paul Petersen (The Donna Reed Show), who now serves as president of A Minor Consideration, an advocacy group for young performers. “They just turn a blind eye to it and climb in their Mercedes as if they’re blameless. I’m sorry, but you’re not blameless.” But what about the parents who sign up their children for such shows? And what of Richard Heene, who has been accused of orchestrating the whole balloon hoax involving his 6-year-old son Falcon to get himself his own TV show? “This is what I’m really scared of,” says reality producer Tom Forman (Kid Nation), who says he heard and rejected Heene’s pitch for a storm-chasing series. “Parents get blinded by the lights, the fame, and the lure of Hollywood, and are willing to do anything to get themselves on television, including putting their children in harm’s way. This is what happens when a father tries to play television producer.”
To read more about fame-hungry parents, children on TV, and the possible future of the Heenes, check out the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands now.
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