Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Kid Nation: "Deal With It!"

Illustration for article titled Kid Nation: "Deal With It!"
Illustration for article titled Kid Nation: "Deal With It!"

With Josh on vacation, I've been nominated for the TV Club gold star. The main reason I think I deserve this gold star and a call home to Mom is because I watched Kid Nation last week and decided to continue watching it this week because I'm worried that if I don't watch, they'll kill the kids one by one.

The producers are setting up this week as "Greg Goes Rogue." Teenager Greg, who took charge when a chicken needed beheadin', didn't get the gold star last week and was subsequently filmed sitting menacingly on a rail fence. But instead we start with a rootbeer bash that the districts pooled their money to throw. It's nice to see the kids having fun pounding virgin boilermakers, but naturally there are some kid versions of Donna Bowman in the town who resent the revellers for disturbing their efforts to get a good night's sleep. "That's why this town got 'bandoned," moralizes Mallory primly. And sure enough, the party-pooping rulebook advises the council to institute some blue laws. What I thought might actually have been the kids' idea to combine their resources turns out to be the producers' idea of a tough life lesson.

Greg's anger and foul mouth are real enough, though. Without any parents around to enforce the "jobs" the districts have been given, with no threat of being voted off to deter bad behavior, there's not much reason for folks to do what they're supposed to do. But maybe that's the point — real communities rarely resort to exile, instead relying on social pressure to control deviance.

We get an insight into kid virtue theory when Colton gets termed, admiringly, "one of the toughest and bravest kids I've ever met in my entire life," for such feats as telling his friends to confront cows then run like hell. And when Colton himself walks right up to a threatening longhorn like some kind of matador, the biggest weakness of Kid Nation rears its ugly head. Nothing pulls the viewer out of the reality of a reality show like yelling at the screen, "Cameraman! Producion staff! Adults! Somebody intervene!"

The showdown, which involves chasing sheep around a pen and grabbing playing cards from under their chins, is mass chaos. At least they all finished in time to win the reward, which, by the way, I totally do not believe. As my husband said, channeling Monty Python, "That was never five minutes just now." And the town council, continuing their progress toward Cotton Matherdom, choose the "frontier microwave" (how can a jump rope be hi-fi?) instead of the perceived instant gratification of hot pizza. Where, oh where, is the pirate court that will set one of these captains adrift? Despite a brief insurrection at the town council complete with shouts of "re-election!" — quickly squashed by the producers waving copies of the rules, one imagines — pageant/drama queen Taylor cries and promises to "clean up the town," which vague objective prompts respectful applause from the submissive citizens. And she survives to annoy another day.

Grade: B-

Stray observations:

- Whoever made the decision to cast Jared, the dorky Dunwoody half-pint with the giant straw hat, deserves a raise. His attempts to carry water with a yoke, ridiculously outsized down jacket, and ominous "duh duh duhh!" at the prospect of being a laborer — star quality all the way.

- Jeez, Kid Nation crew, hide a space heater out of the camera's view or something. I can't take watching an eight-year-old with zero percent body fat try to work a cash register with mittens on.

- If I have to hear "It's a two-pound star that's worth its weight in gold — literally!" 18 more times before this show ends, I may chuck a copy of The Elements Of Style at the TV.