On ''Kid Nation,'' the tiny townsfolk nearly overthrow the government and Pageant Princess Taylor; plus, they practice their binge-drinking skills

By Alynda Wheat
Updated October 04, 2007 at 04:00 AM EDT
Credit: Monty Brinton
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”Kid Nation”: The kids are revolting

So close! We were so tantalizingly close to that coup de tyke we’ve begged for, with Pageant Princess Taylor one smart-ass comment away from losing her crown. But no. The Bonanza City pioneers, it seems, hold law and order too dear in their hearts to subvert the government. (Damn, the ’60s really are dead.) That, however, was about the only form of order they hold dear, because let’s just get to it, y’all:

Who the hell taught these children about boilermakers?

(Zen, Alynda, zen. Don’t raise your voice to the nice TV Watchers. They didn’t do it.)

Sorries. It’s just that, well, it’s clear now that this was a mistake. Not the show, mind you — loving the show in spite (sigh…because) of its iniquities. Nor is the problem necessarily the saloon — no, the mistake was giving them shot glasses, because now they can develop the skill set of a college-level mixologist. So what if it’s just root beer? All that means is that the little binge drinkers will get diabetes before they get DUIs. You know what? Let me shut up before I turn into one of those ”The More You Know” PSAs. I’m about to annoy me.

Let’s talk about the Book. Yes, that gen-u-ine ”pioneer journal” written in 1885 (by which we assume they mean the producers wrote it 18 hours and 85 minutes before the kids showed up) that gives the council their organizational instructions — from the past! Oooohhh! Vote now: Is it an amusing historical re-creation that’s guiding the kiddies in the path of righteousness or a hegemonic, patriarchal, killjoy manifesto? I vote manifesto. If the point of Kid Nation was to see how the urchins could do without parents, then let’s take away the constant notes to do the dishes, clean the johns, and be strict about bedtime.

It comes down to this: Inasmuch as Boilermakergate is troublesome, just as shady is the notion that you can’t trust kids to learn from experience. Coupla more nights of playing ”99 Bottles of Root Beer on the Wall,” and they’d have gotten their butts to bed at a decent hour. Few more days of not having a decent breakfast and letting the kitchen fester into a Superfund site, and the rumble at the council meeting would have resulted in some actual governmental change (and just might next week! Whee!).

That’s why you have a leave-the-kids-alone mantra — for the simple fact that if they were left to think more for themselves, Pageant Princess Taylor would never have sassed her way to power in the first place. This is when you wish you could see the council meetings unedited. Are the little insurrectionists getting coached to keep their representatives or to junk them? We need to know, because a certain runty Mussolini needs to do more than drop some pity-me tears to hold onto office. Seriously, keep your fingers crossed that the previews for next week are just a delicious hint, and that Zach has enough intestinal fortitude to take PPT down and liberate the downtrodden of Bonanza City. Because even though I know y’all love Jared (you’re gonna lionize that kid straight into a three-year production deal with Viacom), he seems capable only of quoting about civil disobedience. He’s Mr. Talky Talky, not so much with the walky walky. (No harm, no foul, though. Some kids are Gandhi, some are Woody Allen.)

NEXT: Bulls and bullies

If there’s an argument against the leave-the-kids-alone mantra, though, it’s Greg. We know where the cameramen were when he was rolling over young ‘uns half his size, dragging one out into the middle of town — but where were the producers? When he was bullying others, cussing like an L.A. driver, and being so friggin’ frightening that poor little soon-to-be-rich Mallory was cowering in her sleeping bag, where were the adults? I’m not saying they don’t have a line they won’t let the kids cross; I’m just saying they don’t draw it where I would.

So the take-away is more kid leeway when it comes to deciding their own fate, less when it comes to letting them run roughshod over others — just like in grownupland.

If there was anything pleasant in this week of dust storms and dust-ups, it was that we got to focus on different pioneers, like the sister act of Olivia and Mallory, the younger of whom snagged a ”beautiful, gorgeous” $20K gold birthday/charity gift (and who has an impressive way of tacking a 500 percent markup on her general-store merch). Then there was woman-after-my-own-heart Morgan, who stepped right when she gave Greg a stern but polite ”I was looking for you! Please explain to me what happened. I’m really confused.” I suspect one of your favorites, though, might just be Cole. Yeah, the boy rewrote the Battle of Bull Run when he walked up to a male of the bovine species, looked him square in the eyes, and literally made the horned beast turn tail. He’s got guts, that one. Let’s hope he’ll use ’em to do more than some fancy cowboyin’.

So where do you stand, TV Watchers? Glad the caste system got shaken up (though it does put PPT in with the swells)? Think Greg went too far, even if he did have a point? Would the star ceremony have gone down differently if you were on the council? And finally, which should it have been: pizza or microwave? Hit me back.

Episode Recaps

Kid Nation

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