On the premiere of ''Kid Nation,'' 40 minors stranded in the desert learn to be good for real gold stars, and one of them comes to his senses and decides to go home
Credit: Monty Brinton

The ”Kid Nation” premiere: Greed is good

Please raise your right hand and repeat after me:

I [state your name] do solemnly swear that I come to the Kid Nation TV Watch because I support Dickensian child-labor exploitation for entertainment purposes, particularly when televised. I accept that such exploitation may include (but is not limited to) watching those who have not yet reached the age of consent cook, clean, hike, cry, attempt to catch jackrabbits to alleviate boredom and/or homesickness, scream, scheme, cry some more, whine, whimper, display flashes of rage and/or wit, and drink the occasional glass of bleach. Furthermore, I acknowledge that discussion of said minors on this TV Watch will, in fact, treat them as if they were adults, denying them the kind of coddling and comfort their parents surely withheld when they signed CBS’s draconian contract and cast their progeny alone into the desert to face tribulations of biblical proportions. In closing, I submit that I am predisposed to normal proclivities, and not some freak who’s wandered into the wrong corner of the Internets.

Glad we got that settled, because honestly, y’all, I’ve been looking forward to this show since May, when CBS first revealed its Most Amazing Bad Idea Ever — and EW don’t pay me to contain my excitement, so let’s go!

Lay it out: 40 kids, 40 days, ghost town in the middle of nowhere, no parents. In fact, the only adults of any kind are sticking cameras into little round faces, or serving as host. (Oh, Jonathan, your bland earnestness fades so seamlessly into the background we could easily leave you out of this TV Watch — which we still may do.) As so many media outlets have already surmised — and surmising was all they could do given that CBS wouldn’t show Kid Nation to anyone with a press pass — this could turn into Lord of the Flies. Fingers crossed, that could still happen. But so far, Nation seems no worse than a cross between summer camp and prison work release, but for the loot (more on that later).

First order of business: Meet the camp counselors, otherwise known as the town council. As they floated down by helicopter, you could almost hear the thoughts of those sad, tired, bused-in urchins: ”Who the hell are these nobodies? Why do they get to lead me? I didn’t elect them!” Welcome to adulthood, suckers! Get used to feeling the pointy toe on the boot of civic participation. And say hello to Town Crier Mike; Pageant Princess Taylor, who just wants to help the poor African orphans whom celebrities have yet to adopt; Anjay, who thinks adults basically suck (given that he’ll be using an outhouse amid the tumbleweeds for the foreseeable future, he has a point); and Good Laurel Hunting, our Irish Massachusetts-born redhead, because?well, we just needed one.

By the end of day 1, the council had realized it faced a conundrum: What the hell do they do with all these badass kids? The answer is the only thing logic, common sense, and the producers could dictate: gangs. After assigning colors, bandannas, and graffiti taggers, and before you could say Boyz n the Hood, they were off on their first Survivor-tyke mission: racing to collect colored water into bottles, for the eventual purpose of divvying society up into classes, with different jobs earning wildly different pay. Because, um, even though the kiddies’ mission is to improve faux society, they shouldn’t improve it too much, lest the rest of us feel bad about reality.

NEXT: Money changes everything.

Of course, establishing an economy invites bigger questions. Do the kids pick outhouses or a TV? Crappers. (These children understand the importance of good colon health. See? Katie Couric does contribute to society!) Do the cooks wash plates? Hell, no. (Says Pageant Princess Taylor, ”I’m a beauty queen. I don’t do dishes.”) And what, pray tell, does one do when one wants a $3 bike on a 10-cent salary? According to Sophia, you shimmy for nickels.

We have to pause right there for a second, America, because you know where I’m going with this. How troubling was it to see a 14-year-old learnin’ the wee ones on ”the three dance moves that will get you through life”? How soon till she escalates from nickels to dollars, and graduates from the street to the pole? Don’t look at me like that. I’m not the one who taught that child to dance for money.

Thank God the first town-council meeting was close at hand, and it was Sophia who earned Kid Nation‘s first ”beautiful, gorgeous gold star,” which just happens to be worth $20K. You get the lesson, honey? Shake your moneymaker in the streets? Three dollars. Work hard and impress the overseers? Twenty thousand dollars. I’m not saying you can’t sell out, I’m just saying don’t sell cheap. And that’s one to grow on.

Greed being the great motivator, the rest of the kids vowed to work hard, schmooze their fellow citizens, and win their own beautiful, gorgeous gold stars. Even Pageant Princess Taylor decided she’d stick it out. (Yay?) On a happy/sad note, poor 8-year-old Jimmy, displaying more sense than God gave his parents — and overcoming the peer pressure of the entire town — decided he was too young and wanted to go home. Godspeed, little Jimbo. Now Good Laurel Hunting won’t have to be your surrogate parent, and there’ll be more beautiful, gorgeous gold stars for the rest of the contractually obligated urchins.

All in all, not a bad first couple of days in Kid Nation. But of course, this show’s already got EW chattering amongst ourselves. What about you? How scripted do you think Nation is? Who’s your favorite tyke? Why isn’t Michael on the council? Was that a black eye on Pageant Princess Taylor by the end of day 1, and how come we don’t know how she got it? Is Jared Who Will Not Poo weird? I mean, what kind of 11-year-old buys Shakespeare with his measly salary? Talk to me.

Episode Recaps

Kid Nation
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