No surprise here: The season finale of Kid Nation offered a pretty serious anti-climax, with lots of lessons learned, tears shed, and kids speaking in cliché after cliché. That said, it was pretty sweet. (Not as in "sweet, bro," but as in, y'know, nice.) It began with some flare-ups, though: The job board–on which the classes and occupations were listed–was burned to the ground, a result of arson by the producers. (The kids apparently learned in Bonanza that you should run directly toward a fire.) Without the board, the kids would be free of their jobs and rules for a few days–would chaos reign? Sort of.
The first thing the kids did was raid the general store, and Bonanza turned into South Central L.A. (circa April of 1992) for a brief moment while they cleaned out all of the candy. A couple of more responsible citizens found the thievery appalling, but really, were they stealing from anybody but themselves? Later, a fight broke out between tantrum-prone chubber Emilie and the "cool girls," who didn't want her to sleep in the bunk on their last night. Emilie was ready to scrap, but Migle, sadly, calmed things down.
Karsh shows up early to give away a $20,000 gold star (worth its weight in cheesy over-hosting), which surprises all of the kids. The early star goes to Zach, who cries, but it's kinda cute. We learn at some point that there are three bonus gold stars–worth $50,000 each–to be rewarded if the town can complete one final task: getting the place ready for a party. They make spaghetti and clean up trash. Does anyone in the entire world think there was a chance they weren't going to complete this task? The producers had a special watch that always said "2:00 to go!" and just started it when they finished, methinks.
Okay, so this whole time, and this whole show, they've gone on and on about "making Bonanza City work," which is about as empty a slogan as "these colors don't run." Did they make it work? How did they do that? By cooking their own food? Some adults apparently talked them into thinking that they did something really important here, which is kind of a shame. Here's what they accomplished, and what came as a surprise: They were mostly pretty nice to each other. Some of them celebrated that fact, and some decided to pretend something much bigger than weird summer camp happened. (For the record: It didn't.)
Which isn't to take anything away from these kids' good times, nor to say that I'm utterly pained by the show. It was fine. Spending time with real-life kids (rather than reality-show-type kids) had its moments, especially the weird kids like Alex and Jared, and the smart, kind ones, like D.K. It's just that being hit over the head with lines like, "We've shown the world what we can do" slammed right into my gag reflex. Next time send them on a mission to Africa, producers of Kid Nation, or have them build shelters or work in soup kitchens–something that might actually make a difference. At least if you're going to feed them lines like, "Keep building a better world."
When the parents showed up for the final town council meeting, they even got in on the act. To wit, Mike's mom: "Thank you for giving us so much hope for our future." Seriously, because your kids went to camp?
Anyway, the big winners: Sophia, who totally deserved it and looks just like her mom and will probably grow up to write some kind of erotic feminist fiction. Morgan, who was very nice but didn't get all that much screen time. And Migle, who gave an Oscar-level acceptance speech: "Mom, Dad, this is for you!"
I can't say I'll miss Kid Nation, and I probably won't watch next season unless they do something radically different with the concept. But it was fine while it lasted, preferable surely to, y'know, The Hills.
-- Back into the hole, Karsh!
-- Now that we've briefly met Jared's dad, who looks like you'd expect, we really need a reality show about his family.
-- After many hugs from his parents, Alex said, "Okay, that's enough." Amazing.
-- Goodbye, children, until we meet again at the Kid Nation reunion!