CBS' new 'Kid Nation' reality series to premiere September 19
By Christopher Rocchio, 07/18/2007
CBS has announced that Kid Nation, a new reality series that will chronicle the adventures of 40 children that were given 40 days to "establish a fully-functioning community" in an "uninhabited ghost town," will premiere on Wednesday, September 19 at 8PM ET/PT.
Kid Nation, which was first announced when CBS revealed its 2007-2008 primetime schedule back in May, was filmed in the remains of Bonanza City, a New Mexico ghost town, earlier this year. After arriving in the town, the children -- who ranged from 8- to 15-year-old and didn't have the benefit of modern comforts or adult direction -- spent 40 days attempting to cook their own meals; clean their own outhouses; carry their own water; and even oversee their own businesses in an effort to their own "sustainable society."
According to CBS, each Kid Nation episode will end with the children gathering for a Town Hall-style meeting that gave them the opportunity to debate and discuss the community's issues in an adult-like manner. The show won't feature any eliminations and the kids were free to leave whenever they wanted to.
"It's hard to find good adult reality characters. They all know what they're supposed to do," Kid Nation executive producer Tom Forman toldTelevsion Week magazine in a recent July 15 cover story about the show's behind-the-scenes production "You need participants who didn't grow-up on this stuff."
Also included in the magazine's story was the disclosure that while Bonanza City is indeed a former ghost town that was founded in 1880 and only lasted about five years, only a few original structures remain and the town is now part of the Bonanza City Movie Ranch, a privately-owned property that has served as the setting for films like Silverado and All the Pretty Horses.
In addition to the ghost-town feel the largely rebuilt location provided, TV Week also alleged that the fact that New Mexico had -- at least until July 1, when the state passed new legislation -- long been known for having some of the country's more lax labor rules governing children working in entertainment was also an important factor in choosing Bonanza City. Although Kid Nation wasn't the motivation behind the new legislation that now limits a child's entertainment production work to only 18 hours during a school week, the rule changes would have likely prevented the show -- would had originally been scheduled to air this summer, and thus filmed earlier this year while schools were still in session -- from filming in New Mexico.
"We were essentially running a summer camp," Forman told Television Week in response to the magazine's allegation that the production's lawyers intentionally used a "summer camp" classification as "a unique way to avoid complaints that the kids were overworked."
"They're participants in a reality show. They're not 'working,'" Forman continued. "They're living and we're taping what's going on. That's the basis behind every legal document for the show."
"The kids loved it," another unidentified crew member told Television Week about the children, who each received a $5,000 stipend and various additional awards during the filming. "Some have been depressed returning to normal life."
"We were basically camp counselors that followed the kids instead of led," Forman told Television Week. "We were the safety net if things had ever really gotten out of hand."
With the exception of a "minor cooking burn," sources told the magazine that "no kids were harmed" during the production. Producers are also apparently confident Kid Nation's stars will succeed in drawing a television audience, as sources told Television Week that the show is already scouting for a second-season cast.
"I expected a lot of off-camera hand-holding, but [the kids] just didn't need it," Forman told Television Week. "The kids were better human beings than you've ever seen on television. And when they decide to be mean to each other, they're horrible. You're seeing kids at their absolute best and worst."
Following Kid Nation's September 19 premiere, CBS plans to debut Survivor: China -- the fifteenth installment of the long-running reality competition series -- on Thursday, September 20 at 8PM ET/PT. Although the 2007-2008 broadcast season won't officially begin until September 24, the remainder of CBS' fall primetime programming schedule -- with the exception of Viva Laughlin, a new musical drama that won't premiere until mid-October -- will launch during the week beginning Sunday, September 23.
Despite it's kid-friendly concept, Kid Nation's Wednesdays at 8PM ET/PT time period will serve as a lead-in for adult dramas Criminal Minds at 9PM ET/PT and CSI: NY at 10PM ET/PT beginning September 26.