The world of reality television may have its detractors, but there'll always be a market for it until mainstream scripted drama starts to tackle big issues like how children burn their faces and drink bleach when they're left unsupervised.
And until that day comes, reality TV is going to have to cover those issues in shows like Kid Nation. For the uninitiated, Kid Nation is a new CBS reality TV show that dumps a bunch of kids in an abandoned ghost town and sees how long it'll take for them to form tribes and start crushing the other kids with boulders, or something. Surprisingly enough, Kid Nation has been roundly criticised by just about everyone, from those concerned that labour laws were breached during filming to parents angry that their children started drinking bleach. But we say this – would you rather watch a child screaming in pain because they've badly burnt their face in a kitchen accident or Dance X? The question answers itself, people!
There isn't a single reality TV show that hasn't contributed in someway to the downfall of civilisation, whether it's Big Brother celebrating women who stuff wine bottles into their vaginas, The Apprentice rewarding hateful ladder-climbers, The Real World focusing on anorexic almost-cannibals or Survivor making stars out of tax-dodgers and puppy-shooters and – worst of all – Elisabeth Hasselbeck. But for sheer boneheadedness, Kid Nation sounds like it'll take some topping.
Seemingly made for people who thought that the racially-segregated series of Survivor wasn't quite divisive enough and that Bobby Brown pulling shit from Whitney Houston's arse was only the second-most harrowing that reality TV could get, Kid Nation – set to debut next month on CBS – revolves around the premise of 'What would happen if children were left to form their own society?' before answering it with 'they'd work unfairly long hours, drink bleach and set their faces on fire.' And, somewhat unsurprisingly, Kid Nation is currently attracting so much criticism that we'd be surprised if it even made it to screen at all. ABC reports:
A reality television show that sees children left to fend for themselves in a ghost town has triggered outrage and is facing demands for it to be cancelled. The groundbreaking program, Kid Nation, is to due to premiere on US network CBS next month… Government officials in New Mexico, where the show was filmed, are reported to be probing whether labour laws may have been violated following allegations that children had been required to work 14-hour days. One parent filed a complaint after her daughter suffered burns to the face in a kitchen accident, while other children were reported to have accidentally drunk bleach. Series creator Tom Forman denies the children in the show were mistreated.
And Kid Nation's troubles appear to be far from over. The Screen Actors Guild is furious that children have been exploited in such a way, while the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists is launching an investigation into Kid Nation's working conditions. Meanwhile it's emerged that the parents of the children featured on Kid Nation – ranging between the ages of eight and 15 – signed waivers that genuinely gave the go ahead to let their children be exposed to:
"conditions that may cause serious bodily injury, illness, or death, including drowning, falls from heights, encounters with wild or domestic animals, sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and pregnancy."
Kids drinking bleach? Kids setting their faces on fire? Getting HIV? Falling from heights? Admit it – part of you actually wants to see Kid Nation, doesn't it? And you're right to want to – because Kid Nation is a) a groundbreaking social experiment and b) a timely reminder that children drinking bleach is sort of funny. But just hold your horses, because the Kid Nation trailer seems to suggest that the show only wants to create a society of the most annoying children on the face of the earth. Hecklerspray is not responsible for anyone punching a hole in their monitors at the 3:50 point…