"Kid Nation" sounds too adult for CBS -- perhaps too scandalous.
Brad Adgate of Horizon Media says if you put the same show on Nickelodeon, the Disney Channel, or any other kids' network, you'd have what appears to be a harmless reality TV show.
But not on CBS. "In prime time, it's different," he says. Now you have kids in the adult world.
The main issue remains whether those kids are "workers" or "game show participants." Of course, that has always been the real question about any reality show participant -- young or old.
For example, should those hard-driving adults on "The Apprentice," working night and day to put together a marketing plan for a new Pontiac model, be paid as well? Why don't the performers' unions, AFTRA and SAG, look into that?
It all goes to the issue about whether those on reality shows are really "cast members." Right now, reality show producers already openly use the word "casting" when talking about their programs. So why not take the next step - and pay "cast members"?
But if you don't pay the adults, you can't pay the kids.
This isn't the first time kids have appeared on reality shows -- though most have appeared in their regular family roles, not building towns on the frontier. Consider those domestic reality shows, ABC's "Supernanny," ABC's "Wife Swap" and Fox's "Nanny 911."
So far it looks as if CBS has its bases covered, as well as getting what it really wanted -- to create some buzz about its TV programs. For the TV critics and trade press, usually nothing really exciting happens with the programs on CBS. The network always seems a bit too plain-vanilla.
Advertisers, so far, aren't reconsidering any upfront decisions about the show. One media agency executive who bought the show for a few of his clients says the issue of payment has nothing to do with the program itself -- which has been entirely filmed and edited and is ready to roll.
Still, "something could blow up after it's on the air," admits the executive, adding that this can happen with any TV show. "But right now there are no issues for advertisers."
The only issue right now is how much press the controversy can stir, and how many viewers will follow that path to its debut episode -- and possibly others to follow. Then advertisers will certainly have no issues.