When it comes to most reality shows — no matter how stupid or heinous — I've always figured that adults can do any stupid thing they want.
If, at this point, you don't know what you're getting into when you sign up for one of these shows, shame on you. If you act like a jerk, you're going to come off looking bad.
If you act even sort of badly once in a while, the potential is there for the editing to make you look like a jerk. It's just part of the game.
But when kids are involved, all bets are off. It's something akin to child abuse to subject kids to reality-show exposure. It's bad enough when you have small children on shows like "Super Nanny" and "Nanny 911."
It's unforgivable to subject teenagers to the humiliation that accompanies being one of the "stars" of a show called "Brat Camp."
And it's also unforgivable to subject 40 kids to the scrutiny of CBS's "Kid Nation," which airs on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on Ch. 2.
While executive producer Tom Forman insisted to critics back in July that he was well aware that a show like this "comes with a unique set of decisions to make in the editing room," the fact is that some of these kids are coming off looking pretty bad. The most obvious example is Greg, who has come off as a foul-mouthed, insincere bully who only behaves (which he seems to infrequently) because he wants one of the $20,000 gold stars that is given out each week.
His behavior has not been unusual for a 15-year-old boy. And there certainly must be hours of footage of Greg behaving like an average teenager.
But that footage isn't as interesting as when he's acting like a foul-mouthed bully.
Yes, Greg signed on for this. Or, rather, his parents allowed him to sign on for this. And, while there's far less reality in this reality show than the producers would like us to believe, there's no doubt Greg has given them unflattering material to work with.
But this kid is just that — a kid. He's too young to be subjected to this kind of focus and, potentially, ridicule.
And he's old compared to 8-year-old Jimmy, who went home in tears. Or 10-year-old Taylor, who burst into tears when she was confronted for her bossy, obnoxious behavior.
Shame on their parents. Shame on the producers. Shame on CBS.
Fortunately, the ratings for "Kid Nation" are sagging, making a second season far from a sure thing. Ratings aside, however, CBS ought to pull the plug on this thing at the end of the 13-episode order.
Again, I don't care what stupid things adults do to embarrass themselves on TV. But it's not the same thing when kids are involved.
ALL REALITY SHOWS are frauds, to some extent. You don't think those folks on "Survivor" are really on deserted islands by themselves, do you?
But "Kid Nation" is, if not a bigger fraud, certainly a more obvious one.
These kids are not building a new town. They're getting by in what amounts to a sleep-away camp/TV studio.
These kids are not creating a real government — the town council was appointed by the producers.
These kids are not operating on their own — their routine is dictated by the challenges imposed upon them by the producers. Heck, last week the subject of a curfew only came up because it was in the fake "pioneer journal" producers had the kids read.
And, of course, there are dozens and dozens of adults standing by (in addition to those holding the cameras) at all times.
To pretend otherwise is insulting to the intelligence of viewers.