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December 14, 2007 at 05:00 AM EST

Kid Nation didn’t turn out to be the end of the world…but it wasn’t the beginning of a revolution, either. After all the headlines — allegations of child abuse, salacious stories of bleach drinking, New Mexico’s labor investigation, now dropped — viewers got 13 weeks of very smart children living in a pediatrician-controlled environment and not washing the dishes often enough. Hardly the stuff of legend.

Still, I’m not ready to declare Kid Nation a failure. Nor do I think the show’s so-so ratings (an average of 7.4 million viewers, several in the unattractive 2 — 11 demo) are a reflection of its entertainment value. Leaders like the impossibly perfect Laurel gave me hope, but it was the weirdos who kept me watching: Shakespeare-quoting savant Jared. One-toothed chart-maker Alex. Caustic ”sheriff” Sophia, whose many sociological experiments never got dull. (Will kids stick their hands in goop for money? Yes!)

Exec producer Tom Forman is already prepping Kid Nation 2, pending CBS’ approval. (No word on where he’ll film, though some reports indicate the kids may want to have a passport handy.) Asked which aspect of season 1 he’s most proud of, Forman cites the cast’s willingness to atone for crappy behavior: ”There are moments on Kid Nation that will never exist on Survivor.” True — but the rare glimpses of kids being their oddball selves often gave the show its most compelling moments. Why not flood season 2 with more of that footage? On second thought, why not just hire Sophia to run the whole damn production?

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