Commentary

Forty Days, Forty Kids, No Adults, And Some Trusting Marketers

CBS's "Kid Nation" will be looking for TV advertisers that aren't kidding around.

Television trade press reports have discussed possible child labor law violations, alleged child abuse, and other iffy issues concerning the reality show. Couple this with the question of kids trying to act like adults -- or better -- and you have one interesting marketing question: How does an advertiser look to engage viewers in this TV show?

"Kid Nation" will no doubt try to rally around the drama and tension of bad kids, lazy kids, as well as industrious and fair kids. It's one thing to have nasty/bad characters in an adult reality show -- but what about the nasty/ bad characters who are kids? That sounds a bit scary.

Some of the 40 kids ages 8-15 have already burned themselves with grease in the kitchen, or accidentally drunk bleach while building this abandoned New Mexico Western-looking town (an abandoned movie set, apparently). One mother has already filed a child abuse complaint -- because it seemed the kids worked long hours.

One report cited a member of the "Kid Nation" production crew saying that the kids were woken at 7 a.m. and sometimes worked until midnight. Didn't Trump ask that kind of devotion from his apprentices? (Oh, they were adults!)

The dramatic ending will see them all triumphantly uniting in making the town a success. Veteran reality show editors will pick out the safest and most politically correct storylines.

To be sure, a squad of child psychologists and other caretakers has been on duty. CBS calls the show not "work" but a 40-day "camp." So it seems the show is bulletproof, with the intended destination of feel-good ending entertainment.

Journalism? Please. Entertainment? That's another story. Advertisers should hope for the latter.

What will we really get from "Kids Nation"? A soft PBS-type lesson on what kids need to know in the world: that hard work, and goodwill toward men and women, makes the world spin better.

Hopefully, this programming lesson won't be giving CBS or its advertisers any failing grades.
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