Tuned In

Test Pilot: Kid Nation

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Monty Brinton/ CBS

Test Pilot is a semiregular feature this summer sharing my first impressions of the pilots for next fall’s shows. These aren’t reviews, since these pilots may be rewritten, recast and reshot before airing, and end up much better or worse. But, premature opinions are why God invented the Internet, so let’s get on with…

The Show: Kid Nation, CBS

The Premise: In the New Mexico ghost town of Bonanza City, CBS moves in 40 children, 8 to 15 years old, to build a society without parents or teachers, voting in elections, working to maintain the community, drawing water, cooking and feeding animals. There are no tribal eliminations, though kids can ask to leave if they want to. There are competitions, though, which determine what level of society the kids will occupy (from laborer to upper class). The kids also vote to award a $20,000 “gold star” to one of their members every episode. Nobody, as far as I’ve seen, eats anything gross. (Though the kids in my elementary school did, so knows what they do on their own time?)

First Impressions: CBS sent only a five-minute trailer, not a full episode. You can’t exactly preview, much less review, a show without a pilot. On the other hand, the success of reality shows in 90% premise, and this premise is awesome. Some people have already called the show exploitive (and again, how many good reality concepts haven’t been called that?), but that’s where the other 10%–the execution–will make or break the show. Despite the descriptions of the show as Lord of the Flies, the trailer makes the show look moving and much more focused on co-operation among the kids than on the competition. It looks like something between Survivor and PBS’s Frontier House. That said, for now I’m assessing it on the basis of a glorified commercial.

Do I Want to Watch Another One? I really want to watch the first one. Then we’ll talk.