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THE BIG THING

First to go: bedtime

September 16, 2007|Robert Lloyd

Forty children. Forty days in the desert. One reality show. (You were expecting maybe a burning bush?)

In a New Mexico "ghost town," two-score youngsters from age 8 to 15 were brought forth this year to see whether "Kid Nation" (or any nation so conceived and so manipulated) can long endure.

Though the idea of a society with kids in charge is not new as fictional speculation -- and the producers have made the obvious "Lord of the Flies" comparison -- this is certainly the first time that it has been the stuff of a "Big Brother"-style dormitory-reality series.

And where the point of most such series is to get adults to act as much like children as possible, the idea behind "Kid Nation" seems to be to see whether children, let off the leash and charged with their own care, will act like adults. (Or better, it may be hoped.) To be sure, this is a hand-picked cast: I doubt any of the little psychos I hid from at various points in my childhood would have made the cut. That would have been asking for it.

There has been pre-broadcast controversy. The question has been raised as to whether the tots were being exploited or misused and just what sort of parents would sign a waiver indemnifying a television production company not only against their child's death or dismemberment but against her becoming pregnant or his contracting HIV. (Four kids drank bleach from an unmarked soda bottle, and you know there was a clause to cover that.)

Still, they are already taking applications for "Kid Nation 2."

(CBS, Wed., 8 p.m.)

-- Robert Lloyd

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