CBS' upcoming reality show "Kid Nation" has generated a fair amount of pre-season buzz because of its provocative conceit of sending 40 kids to a remote spot in Bonanza, N.M. to fend for themselves, "Lord of the Flies" style. (Click here for a promo clip.) The show's sesh during last month's Television Critics Assn. press tour caused quite a hubbub among TV scribes, who questioned the propriety of the whole concept, among other things. (Variety's Brian Lowry was among the first to opine on the matter in this column from May. And Variety's Joe Adalian was the first to break the news of the show to the world a few weeks earlier just before CBS unveiled it at its upfront.)
CBS isn't backing away from any of the drama, billing the show as "40 Kids, 40 Days, No Parents." Ostensible goal is for the tykes and teens (aged 8-15) to "form a new society in a ghost town that died in the 19th century." And generate ratings to help kick off CBS' fall slate. According to Eye's press materials, there'll be no eliminations on this show, only a Town Hall meeting at the end of each seg in which kids can say bye-bye and head home if they want to.
CBS is promising that the reality moppets will create their "government" with four kid leaders selected from the group, and the whole bunch of them will tough it out frontier-style (with only camera crews to keep them company), cooking their own meals, scrubbing their own outhouses and running their own establishments including the town saloon. Soft drinks only, natch. The end game is for the kids to decide who gets the $20,000 Gold Star. I guess the lure for adult viewers will be to pick which kids are going to have a major case of homesickness, and how quickly the situation devolves into food fights and temper tantrums.
"Kid Nation" hails from exec producer Tom Forman, of "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" fame.
Here's CBS' biographical info on the 40 "Kid Nation" contenders. Most of them sound like over-achievers, Junior Business award winners, 4-H club leaders and Sunday school stalwarts. I like the response from Savannah, age 10 of Partridge, Ky., to the question of "what others would be surprised to learn about me": "That I like bugs, frogs, lizards and other gross things." And it's clear that the parents of Eric, age 10 of Morristown, N.J., are doing something right. He cites Paul McCartney as his role model.
Hometown: Reno, Nev.
Favorite subject: Geography
When I grow up I want to be: "I'm not sure what I would like to be when I grow up, but I currently think that it would be interesting to be a linguist, geography teacher and/or a chemist."
(Pictured at right: Taylor, Michael, Laurel and Anjay)
Hometown: Pearland, Texas
Political views: "If I could hold one office in politics it would be Secretary of the State, so I could suggest the policies for the future of the U.S.A."
Role Model: "Mahatma Gandhi, because he gained India's independence without firing a single shot or shedding a drop of blood."
Hometown: North Palm Beach, Fla.
My Perfect Day: "There is nothing I like better than to spend the day at the beach, waiting on the perfect wave to surf on my favorite board."
Rode Model: "My Dad is my hero and role model, hands down! He is an Engineer/First Mate on a 124' private yacht, and some day I want to do the same thing, 'cause I love to work with my hands, be on the water, travel to exciting places and meet new people."
Hometown: Edina, Minn.
Accomplishments: "I am working with families on changing the family law in Minnesota that upholds contact between kids and their 'non-custodial' parents, creating 'Ryan's Law.'"
Political Views: "I am very conscious of world events and concerns. I believe the best way I can help my community and world is to spread good energy to others."
Hometown: Thomasville, Ga.
What I want to be when I grow up: "I would like to be a political person because good government is important and I could help the economy."
If I could switch places with someone: "I would like to switch places with the President of the United States so that I could perform the daily duties and protect the wildlife."
Hometown: Newport, Ohio
When I grow up I want to be: "A police officer."
Political views: "If I could write a law, gas prices would be $0.25 a gallon."
(Pictured below: Divad, Kelsey and Jack)
Hometown: Reno, Nev.
Accomplishments: "My football team made it to the playoffs and was named the All-Star team. Also, I won my first belt buckle at the Wadsworth Rodeo."
Political Views: "I feel that no matter who you vote for, someone is always going to disagree with the president's judgment."
Hometown: Fayetteville, Ga.
Personality traits: "Kind, helpful, honest - I am a great leader and I like to make others laugh."
If I could write one law: "If I could write a law, I would make it illegal to charge medical care to someone who can't afford it."
If I could switch places with someone: "I would switch places with the President of the United States - this would be the opportunity to have a positive influence on others and make the world a better place."
Goals and Aspirations: "I want to inspire kids everywhere. I want to be able to prove all things are possible if you put your mind to it and believe in yourself."
Hometown: Sparks, Nev.
Favorite hobbies: "Horse back riding, finding adventure and basketball."
If I could switch places with someone: "I wouldn't switch places with anyone because I appreciate myself."
Hometown: Morristown, N.J.
Role model: "As a musician, my role model would be Paul McCartney. I play many of the same instruments as him and his life is very inspiring to me"
Goals and aspirations: "My career goal would involve music, leadership and teaching others. I want to inspire and help others."
When I grow up I want to be: "I want to be an actress or President of the United States."
Role models: "My family and my educators - they all help me to learn and grow in different ways."
(Pictured at right: Jasmine, Maggie, Madison, Michael and Cody)
Hometown: Reno, Nev.
When I grow up I want to be: "A mechanical engineer - working at my dad's shop (dad is a master mechanic) gives me the experience I need to become a successful engineer someday designing cars or something."
If I could switch places with anyone: "It would be my mom, because I want to know how she does it. She raises me and my sister, keeps a clean house, does paperwork at the shop, cooks dinner and yet she still has time to go out and work with the horses. She's amazing."
Hometown: Upton, Mass.
Experiences: "My parents are exotic animal trainers, therefore providing me the opportunity to live and work with bears, camels, baboons, lions, tigers and elephants literally in my back yard since I was a year old. I also grew up living in two zoos in New England, York's Wild Kingdom and Southwick's Zoo, for a few years."
Goals and Aspirations: "To stop global warming; to seek out new life and civilizations and to boldly go were no man (boy) has gone before."
Hometown: Martinez, Ga.
Interests and hobbies: "Basketball, biking, water sports, golf, fly fishing, hunting and reading."
Goals and aspirations: "I would like to go to college and be in one of the branches of the armed forces."
Hometown: Dunwoody, Ga.
If I could hold a political position: "I would be Speaker of the House."
If I could write one law: "I would write a law that required specific requirements for animal refuge centers."
Goals and aspirations: "When I grow up I would like to have my own television show, an artist development company or a School of Performing Arts.
If I could switch places with someone: "No one, because I love the people in my life and I would not want to change that."
Hometown: Salem, N.H.
Political views: "If I could outlaw something it would be weapons and war."
If I could switch places with someone: "It would be Bill Gates, because he is the richest man in the world and very smart."
(Pictured below: Natasha, Anjay, Greg and Blaine)
Hometown: Furlong, Pa.
People would be surprised to learn: "That I performed on piano at Carnegie Hall when I was in the fourth grade, which was a great honor to experience."
Political views: "I think it was a bad choice to send soldiers to Iraq to fight. If I could change something about our world it would be to let all world and nationwide disagreements to be settled peacefully."
Hometown: Ashland, Ky.
Accomplishments: "I started the program 'Break the Cycle with Reading,' spending Saturdays reading to inmates' children who were visiting their parents that are locked up; I'm a highly-ranked tennis player across Kentucky, the south, and the nation."
Role Model: "President John F. Kennedy - he had high hopes for our country and was fearless."
Hometown: Medford, Mass.
If I could write one law: "I would make a 'no bullies' law. I believe bullies are truly cowards and I think if bullies were gone the world would be a better place."
If I could hold one position in government: "I would like to be in a position where I could make decisions that would affect people's lives in a positive way."
Hometown: Charlotte, N.C.
Favorite hobbies or sports: "I have been doing beauty pageants since I was a baby. I usually do about 15-20 pageants a year. I also enjoy riding horses with my oldest brother at the barn and going to my other brother's high school football games."
If I could change one thing in the world: "I would want to make people more honest and nice with each other."
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Goals and aspirations: "I have always dreamed of being an actress, being in movies, and in many plays."
Quote: "If I could change one thing in the world I would change people's desire to be perfect. NO ONE is perfect, and you don't need to be a Barbie to be loved. You are perfect in someone's eyes."
Hometown: Evansville, Minn.
Experiences: "I was adopted as a baby, and still know my birth parents. I keep in touch with them and my brothers and sister. I live on a hobby farm in a one-room house, with no indoor bathroom."
Political Views: "I would outlaw smoking and war - they both kill - and bombs kill innocent kids."
MALLORY (OLIVIA'S SISTER)
When I grow up I want to be: "A pediatrician - I want to help people."
People would be surprised to learn: "That I play soccer better than most boys on my team."
Hometown: Marietta, Ga.
When I grow up I want to be: "An entertainer."
Quote: "If I could change one thing in the world, I would make sure that all kids with single parents have good role models and mentors to make sure that they have the same amount of opportunities and love and grow up to be happy."
Hometown: Monroe, Wash.
If I could write one law: "I would allow gay marriage. I think it's time to stick to equal rights."
If I could hold one political office: "I would be a White House Press Correspondent."
Hometown: Downers Grove, Ill.
If I could write one law: "I would make it a law that mothers couldn't leave their kids."
Role Model/Hero: "My hero is my mom. She has been through some tough times and is always there for me."
Hometown: Bellevue, Wash.
Role Model/Hero: "Raoul Wallenburg, who was a Swedish citizen who saved thousands of Jewish lives during the holocaust."
If I could hold office in politics: "I would like to be in Congress and be on special committees so that I could work in small groups to write laws."
Hometown: Indianapolis, Ind.
If I could write one law: "I would outlaw smoking in the U.S."
Quote: "If I could change one thing in the world, I would rid the world of prejudice because it's unnecessary and we are all equal in God's eyes."
Favorite subject: "I think right now my favorite subjects are art and civics because in art, you can just express yourself on paper using anything you want, and in civics, I get so into learning about the government and laws and things involving the amendments and rules, I just find it so cool."
When I grow up I want to be: "I'm still finding my place in the world and I'm not absolutely sure what I want to do when I'm older. I'm young and I'm still experimenting my skills in different subjects so I want to first find my strengths and weaknesses and then go from there on what I'll be most committed to."
Hometown: Mount Prospect, Ill.
If I could switch places with someone: "The President of the United States, so that I could run the country and make all the rules."
When I grow up I want to be: "Either running my own business or an architect or interior designer."
OLIVIA (MALLORY's SISTER)
Hometown: Indianapolis, Ind.
Goals and Aspirations: "I want to be a journalist because I love to write."
Role model: "Nellie Bly; I also admire my mom's ability to work, my sister's logic and my dad's writing abilities."
If I could write one law: "I would write a law that puts more police officers in school. I would also write a law that bans any form of discrimination."
What others would be surprised to learn about me: "That I ride horses and play polo."
Hometown: Sparks, Nev.
When I grow up I want to be: "A horse trainer - I have learned the proper techniques and I would love to be able to teach them to others."
If I could write one law: "No one over the age of 65 is allowed to smoke. Also, we would all have to go back to riding horses."
Hometown: Partridge, Ky.
When I grow up I want to be: "A lawyer or zookeeper - a lawyer is interesting and makes a lot of money, and a zookeeper because I like animals and want to learn more about them."
What others would be surprised to learn about me: "That I like bugs, frogs, lizards and other gross things."
Hometown: Winter Park, FL
Accomplishments: "In elementary school, I began a 'non-violent protest' to have the school closed for President's Day and was successful. I also founded a club for Jewish students in middle school, where they only had a social organization for Christian students."
If I could write one law: "I would outlaw ignorance. I would write a law that said that everyone must be literate and aware of what is going on in the world around them."
Hometown: Issaquah, Wash.
When I grow up I want to be: "An author and a professional soccer player. If I'm lucky, I'd also like to be an actress. I'm a busy girl!"
Accomplishments: "I have a company called 'Art in the Heart' to raise money for the SPCA every year. I make paintings and bookmarks with my own art, then sell them at the local farmer's markets and then give 50 percent of the profits to them. For the last two years, I have won the city's 'chalk art' competition for the elementary level."
Hometown: Sylvester, Ga.
When I grow up I want to be: "A paleontologist because I love science."
Miscellaneous: "I am passionate about pageants because I want to be Miss America or Miss USA one day. Also, I enjoy hunting for arrowheads with my family. I have over 2,000 arrowheads in my collection."
Hometown: Miami Beach, Fla.
Goals and aspirations: "I plan to go the Air Force Academy."
Role model(s): "My dad, he really sets an example for me."
Quote: "I am passionate about helping people that are sick."