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James Hibberd



‘Nation’ Panel II: You Don’t Need a Bike to Backpedal

July 18, 2007 5:00 PM

After the dramatic TCA panel, the "Kid Nation” story exploded.

The best follow-up story at this early hour is from ABC News, which added some original reporting about the New Mexico labor law issue. Washington Post’s Lisa de Moraes also weighed in with some good transcript action.

As for the panel, it’s tough to do the drama justice. Critics hit executive producer Tom Forman about a myriad of legal and ethical aspects of the “Nation” production, many based on TVWeek’s “The Founding of Kid Nation” exclusive. Forman tended to follow a pattern of glib denial, obfuscation, then hesitant admission.

Some highlights:

On “Founding” stating that New Mexico was chosen due to having loose labor laws: “No.” Then: “Well, I don’t have the story in front of me.” Then: “We picked New Mexico because it had the right location.” Then: “We subsequently checked with our attorneys who investigated the legality of shooting the show and reported back that there wasn’t any problem.” Then: “It’s less child labor laws than labor laws.” Then, when asked if the show could be shot in California, which has tighter labor laws than New Mexico: “I don’t think so, no.” A critic asks: "Does it trouble you at all that, if I follow this story correctly, the way you filmed 'Kid Nation' would be illegal in a number of states?" Forman: “Is it something I think about? Of course."

On a production crew member quoted in “Founding” saying kids sometimes worked from 7 a.m. until midnight: “I don’t know who that production crew member is.” Then: “The kids woke up whenever they wanted and went to bed whenever they wanted. We were going to follow their lead.”

On “Founding” reporting that the “ghost town” chosen by Forman was actually a longtime film set built amid the ruins of a former ghost town: “Bonanza City was a real New Mexico mining town.” Then: “We also needed a place with 45 real buildings that these kids could populate and live in safely, where we had the flexibility to actually make a television show.” Then: “Some of the buildings are originals. Some have been built over the last hundred years. A couple we built ourselves.” Then, after a critic noted, “No buildings in a ghost town look anything like the buildings I saw on [the 'Nation' preview]," Forman said: “You have some existing stone structures from the original town.” To which the critic replied: “So as far as original ones, those were not the wooden ones we saw [in the show].” Forman: “Right.”

On “Founding” stating that “Nation” likely would have to find a new state to shoot a second season due to New Mexico changing its laws: “We’re not even there yet.” Then: “I plan to find the right location that seems right for the kids and right for the show and investigate the laws at that location. Until I do that, I just don’t know.”

After the panel, Forman said the next production may be shot outside the United States, which presumably would make the child labor law issue easier to navigate. And who knows? If the kids have some spare time, they could also make shoes.


Note: Some media reports say Forman shot down TVWeek's claim that New Mexico labor laws were changed due to the show. Only problem: TVWeek claimed no such thing. "Founding" said the opposite, that the new rules were not directly inspired by "Nation." Others say CBS denies they "broke" labor laws. Again, story says the opposite -- that CBS did not break labor laws. The facts in the story were ran by CBS and Forman. Their spin is different from what production sources told TVWeek (nobody's going to declare at TCA: "We hunted down a state with loose labor laws and a fake ghost town -- ha!"), but the facts are the same.

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Comments (31)

Bob Lackenstein:

Get over yourself Hibberd...way to make a big deal out of nothing...

Gretchen Woodall:

Are you kidding? Watching a reality TV director squirm is better than watching reality TV.

Gretchen Woodall:

Are you kidding? Watching a reality director squirm is better than watching any reality TV shows

kevin from duluth:

Well...It's just a matter of time now, when one of these kids gets seriously hurt or killed...CBS and Paramount will cease to exist

Mom:

They are not doing anything that parents across our nation are not already doing. These kids are taking care of themselves with no idea where mom or dad is. If this shocks you, take a look around your neighborhood. Until we go back to SAHM being the norm, this is life people.

Chris Ludwick:

I think the whole show is a great idea!!!, Personally my kids could already do many of the "daily living activities" expected of them on the set. Can yours? They could get hurt or killed in your own kitchen or on a camping trip, so are you not going to go? I don't see it that they are "working" for X number of hours a day, they are living, and the camera just happens to be there. Are you calling the cooking and cleaning work? or learning?

eugene lehman:

Excellent show! Can't wait till 19 Sepember

Tammy Greene:

I understand that many people are going to be freaking out about this show because it just doesn't seem right to be leaving our children to fend for themselves, right? Well guess what people, most kids fend for themselves on an everyday basis because parents are always working just to take care of their kids. Children are more capable of taking care of themselves than we give them credit for. Most of them (being of middle class or poor) are able to cook, clean, do laundry and many of the other obligations that they have to know to care for themselves. I don't understand why people are making such a big deal about this...it's not like they are putting them on a deserted island with cameras set up to watch them, there is actually a camera crew there and I am sure they are not going to let anything happen to the children. Adults...you need to relax and sit back and watch just how smart our children actually are!!!

Chuck:

Oh-- we're all going to watch "Child Abuse, American Style"? That's what this is, pure and simple. You people who support this need your heads examined--or to be thrown in jail!

Signed a no disclosure :

My kids auditioned for the show but the "you can't sue us but we can sue you" legal forms combined with the TOTAL lack of confidence in them protecting our kids left me no choice but to decline.
As we left, we wondered what kind of parent would risk their kid's safety for a TV show? I guess they had no problem finding enough parents who would sell their kids and sign away their rights.

I'm sick and tired of shows that pit people, kids or adults, against each other to compete for a prize.
How about this: Offer the kids a prize to cooperate. All must win or nobody wins. Isn't that a novel idea.
Check it out. "The Prize" by Marilyn LaCourt
The Prize starts like a familiar cliché about two guys in a bar. A bully-turned-priest and his former favorite punching bag, now a successful business tycoon, meet for dinner. The now humbled ruffian, JOHN MURPHY, begs his old victim, SYDNEY SCHUSTER, for a donation to save the school run by his church. Sydney gets the last laugh, end of story.

But, no, wait. What follows is hardly a cliché. This timely screenplay starts where we'd expect the story to end. Intriguing characters quickly draw you in and make you wonder why the reunion. From there, LaCourt takes us on a journey few have imagined: the two think adults can learn from kids who behave as they did. Then, they plot a way to test their radical idea.

LaCourt takes us from peer pressure-filled schools to dysfunctional homes and back again. She crafts each complex character carefully so that we not only see the stereotypical, public masks they use to cope, but also their vulnerable natures within. She sets the boys and girls up in a boarding school, gives them a few simple rules to follow, (no sex, no drugs, and no serious violence) and gives them motivation to save themselves from their own bad habits. Thirteen year-old KARTER JOHNSON, the class bully, TASHINA JONES, the young militant feminist and their classmates break all the rules and create turbulence that forces Sydney and John to confront their past and present demons. Who will win The Prize, John, Sydney, the kids, or will they all lose?

The Prize is essentially a window into the lives of bullies and victims, yet it is more than a literal reality show, it’s based on an idea that misdirected intelligence lies behind bully-victim behavior patterns. It ponders the question of whether or not bullies pass the behavior on to their children. Finally, it moves our common understanding of victims as objects and examines them as subjects capable of choices, just as the bullies are.
The Prize starts like a familiar cliché about two guys in a bar. A bully-turned-priest and his former favorite punching bag, now a successful business tycoon, meet for dinner. The now humbled ruffian, JOHN MURPHY, begs his old victim, SYDNEY SCHUSTER, for a donation to save the school run by his church. Sydney gets the last laugh, end of story.

But, no, wait. What follows is hardly a cliché. This timely screenplay starts where we'd expect the story to end. Intriguing characters quickly draw you in and make you wonder why the reunion. From there, LaCourt takes us on a journey few have imagined: the two think adults can learn from kids who behave as they did. Then, they plot a way to test their radical idea.

LaCourt takes us from peer pressure-filled schools to dysfunctional homes and back again. She crafts each complex character carefully so that we not only see the stereotypical, public masks they use to cope, but also their vulnerable natures within. She sets the boys and girls up in a boarding school, gives them a few simple rules to follow, (no sex, no drugs, and no serious violence) and gives them motivation to save themselves from their own bad habits. Thirteen year-old KARTER JOHNSON, the class bully, TASHINA JONES, the young militant feminist and their classmates break all the rules and create turbulence that forces Sydney and John to confront their past and present demons. Who will win The Prize, John, Sydney, the kids, or will they all lose?

The Prize is essentially a window into the lives of bullies and victims, yet it is more than a literal reality show, it’s based on an idea that misdirected intelligence lies behind bully-victim behavior patterns. It ponders the question of whether or not bullies pass the behavior on to their children. Finally, it moves our common understanding of victims as objects and examines them as subjects capable of choices, just as the bullies are.
Check it out: http://www.lacourt-m.com

Chris:

In California, reality shows (and sitcoms, commercials, films, fashion modeling, still photography for the newspaper and cereal boxes, episodic television) using children are covered by child labor laws and studio teachers/welfare workers and their parents/guardians are required to be within sight or sound of their children.

Children who are California residents who work outside California are legally required to be covered by California child labor labor laws and studio teachers/welfare workers and are also required to have their parents within sight or sound.

It is illegal for any of the above children to not have meals at least 6 hours from the start of their day, and to work beyond 8 hours plus a 1/2-hour meal for 8-year-olds, and to work beyond 9 hours plus a 1/2-hour meal for 9- through 15-year-olds. Part of the definition of "work" is to be filmed by camera. The law says shows "for profit" must "employ" its workers, on- and off-screen.

These are just some of the requirements for employing minors in/from California in the entertainment industry. For specific child labor law, see CA CCR Title 8 (11701 seq and 11750 seq), IWC Orders 11-80/12-80, CAC Title 5, Labor Code 1308-1391, Penal Code 311-314, Ed Code 48224, 51l745-6, Civil Code 60 seq. There are other regulations in the DLSE Management Memos, Bulletins, and SAG Young Performers requirements.

How can the show get away with breaking so many laws without the DLSE's Field Enforcement Officers and State of CA Lawyers nailing them?

Crystal:

Child labor laws??...well if you consider being taped while at a "summer camp" work..then we either have some lazy children or lazy parents who instilled such beliefs in thier children. parents obviously didnt have a problem with letting thier children be on the program and be taped for the hours that they did...so why is everyone else getting so upset about it....get over it and if you dont like it so much then dont let your children audition. There are plently of shows on tv that i would never audition for or let me children be on..so i just dont let them audition. If you spend your life gettin all worked up over a flipping tv show then you have real problems and need to find something better to do with your time.

Owen:

Let's see if I have this straight. CBS sends kids to what is admitedly an unsupervised "camp", they film it, pay the kids $5,000+, sell the show to advertisers and the public and yet claim that the kids are not employed? What unethical, lying, desparate , money grubbing losers. And for anyone to suggest that "uptight" people should not even express their opinion is small-minded. To pull any of our children out of school- without fill-in tutors no less- for the sake of profit and entertainment is crossing the line. Interesting to watch? Maybe. After all, clearly so many of us are so bored that we will watch any "reality" show because our own lives seem so, well, unsatisfying. Again, you crossed the line CBS. And by association so did your advertisers.Poor decisions for nothing other than profit. Another sign of the degradation of our society.That's right-degradation. What else can you call this ridiculous lack of ethics by the use of our children who, by virtue of their age and therefore lack of maturity, are unable to make their own decisions and hence don't. Instead, parents who view this as an "opportunity" for a child to experience something "cool" or "unforgettable" are signing them up. Here's an alternative idea for those parents- it's called Habitat For Humanity. Check it out and give your children something you seem to lack-moral character. Some heads should role on this one. Start at the top. Shame on you CBS...

Kaitlyn canterbury:

Kaitlyn Canterbury: I would love to be on next season!!!

Gracie Marsh:

I would love to be on the show. I love outdoors, I live in the country and I would like to know how I can get on the show. Thank You.

roxy sours:

I watched tonight, totally awesome. i am amother of two and one on the way. These kids are actually learning to appreciate everything being done for them by the people who brought them into this world. I know these kids will never forget this experience of what they can actually do if they have to! This is going to deeply affect their adulthod in a positive way AND BY WATCHING THE SHOW THEY ARE SAFE!!!!! I think everyone who is against it obviosly doesn't have children over the age of 12.

roxy:

i forgot to mention to Owen and everyone else negative, yes it is always about the $ when it comes to adults but did you watch tonight? these kids were so proud of themselves for all they had accomplishd and they had the choice to go home and be pampered by mom and dad but they chose not to so they could see just how much more they had inside themselves!(mentally and physically) I wish I could have been a part of something like this when I was young, I'm sure it would have made me more responsiple and appreciative of my elders to this day!

Melanie:

My children and I sat down to watch the show and we were impressed by the all the kids. I saw cooperation, compassion, leadership, improvising and initiative. How great was that Sophia wanted the bike so she did what she needed to do and earned that money - the kids were also generous enough to support her. Great show - will continue to watch

Devon:

Why don't you ask a flipin' child like myself people. I would give almost anything to be on that TV show. The children are supervised, the camera crews people. And I'm sure if the children were to get killed, the camera crews would drop the cams and save their buts, or at least correct them before they do something completely outrageous. And back to the point. Children work hard for the great things they do at that camp. And they work to build a great town. So have you lost some cards from your deck or do you just like to hate fun, there some, well, not so happy times but theres more fun times than bad. Thats all I have to say.

Tiffany:

I understand the risks and dangers of having children unsupervised in any situation, and as much as this show advertises "NO Adults" there is always someone there to prevent serious issues. The point is that the 40 kids have to care for themselves physically by working and preparing meals, and are unguided emotionally when dealing with fights and homesickness. If one of the older kids tried to beat up a younger kid, a camera man would step-in if the kids didn't resolve it themselves. You don't "see" the adults everywhere, but who do you think is holding the camera filming what you are seeing? Not only that, but there was a 24/7 medic available right there. Also, the kids are free to leave if they choose, obviously it isn't as bad as it looks for them and they are enjoying the experience.

I find the concept of Kid Nation fasinating. To see how these brave kids will work or fight among eachother to make things work. Its giving them a taste of adult-life, but in a kid-friendly enviroment. Thousands of parents send thier misbehaving kids to bootcamps around the world to teach them leasons that these kids are learning willingly.

I dislike that CBS sneaked through a loop-hole leagally, and I wish that they had taken another route to secure the rights of everyone involved and hopefully they will do that next time.

Like the show so far, and love the kids:)

tracy:

We love KN. Great concept for a reality show! Each episode has started a conversation that spills over past bedtime and sometimes even picked up in the morning. These kids are interesting and intelligent. What a great experience for them. I hope a second season is possible.

Barbara:

I am a grandmother and have not missed an episode yet! These kids are so ingenious! I have a grand daughter who could DEFINITELY learn from an experience like this. My only comment: Some of the kids seem to have skin break-outs and don't look so clean. You don't address how they bathe. I assume they do!!
Does the council really always choose the best for the group? Is that reality?

Barbara:

I am a grandmother and have not missed an episode yet! These kids are so ingenious! I have a grand daughter who could DEFINITELY learn from an experience like this. My only comment: Some of the kids seem to have skin break-outs and don't look so clean. You don't address how they bathe. I assume they do!!
Does the council really always choose the best for the group? Is that reality?

lark2172000:

This Guy Owen, Is he for real?

Man, lay off the Mary Jane. You obviously don't have children of your own, or if you do YOU spent waaaaaaaaay too much time on the tit. Did the doc forget to cut the cord?

Kids have to Grow and learn to make decisions on their own. You are obviously still connected to mommy. Cut the apron strings little boy and be Happy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

lieperjp2007:

If everyone is so worried about the kids, why don't they just ask the kids what they think? I'm 18, and I know that three or four years ago I absolutely would have loved to be on this show! This is the experience of a lifetime!!! If you're worried about protecting kids, protect them also from the demeaning comments you put forth about kids and their abilities.

Courtney:

Does anyone know who to get on Kid Nation?

If u do plz tell me

Mom of 2:

I have twin 12 yr olds that would both love to get on this show. We've watched the show as a family all season I think this shows teaches these kids responsibility and how to work together. It's wonderful to see the pride and joy in their eyes when they accomplish something they didn't think they could do. Please let me know how my kids can apply.

Jessica Lawson:

I think this show is a great idea. Not only does it encourage discipline, cooperation, self control, and teamwork; but the kids have to learn to deal emotionally with being away from friends, family, and normal surroundings for a long time. This would be good practice to prepare the children for adulthood and college. They have to exercise their household and cooperation skills. Some kids do this already; I know I do, as do many other children whose parents work. This show is wonderful.

John:

Kid Nation is the best show that has ever aired! People who have bad things to say have clearly never even watched an episode. I am 14, I would give an arm and a leg to be on that show! Even without the $5K or the $20K star. The show is this: To show that kids can work together. That we're not defenseless infants that magically grow up at age 18. I have met many children that are much more mature and intelligent then some adults!


If there is one thing I know, it's this: If this show is not reproduced in the U.S., I'm moving to Canada and losing all hope for people in the U.S.

Ed:

So many people (adults) have lost what it is like to be a child. Children today are WAY too protected from EVERYTHING! A skinned knee, a sliver from an old piece of wood, a cut from a sharp object, a burn from touching something too hot, are all object lessons. Without them, would we need band-aids? Can a child get hurt, ABSOLUTELY! But so can adults! Does a child learn from this, also absolutely; children are NOT dumb! They know what work is. They also know how to manipulate adults too!

Kid Nation was way above a lot of adults head. Critics are making a mountain out of a mole hill about it. Simply put, this show was about watching how children cope with everyday lives and how they solve their every day challenges.

Let's define work; to think that doing dishes (by hand), cleaning house (using a real mop & broom), preparing meals, etc. is work, is mildly “Hog Wash!” These are everyday tasks or "chores" that have to be done. Any child that doesn't learn this early-on has a BIG problem ahead of them in life. This show was not only entertainment but, very educational as well. Every cast member of this show will never forget the experiences they LEARNED while on this show.

It is a pleasant feeling to know that there are still some children out there that can figure things out on their own, how to work most problems out, how to get along with, and take care of, each other in life. Kids, "hats off to you," Go for it!

Last fall we all sat around the television set as a family, watching every week; and then, waited for the next week's episode to air. It was a wonderful family program. We as a family even Google Earthed and found "Bonanza City" in New Mexico (Bonanza Creek Ranch Movie Set #1, just southwest of Santa Fe) and pictured where they were and what it could be possibly like there during filming. Kid Nation sure beats all the lousy crime shows that they have now left us with (which we don't watch).

...As for asking CBS to make Kid Nation 2. If that has seemed to fall on deaf ears...hit CBS in their pocket book!

Write the companies that advertised their products during the commercials when the show aired. The companies running the advertisements have a lot of pull as to where their monies are spent. If the public shows the advertisers that they were watching their commercials during the show, they are a lot more willing to tell CBS that they want their products shown on "Kid Nation 2, etc." They have a larger voice than you and I combined.

Let’s all get out our pens, pencils and paper (or) exercise our fingers on the keyboards and write those letters and emails!


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