CBS's Attempt at New Programming is a Little Strange

CBS Entertainment Chief Nina Tassler is off her rocker.

This greenlighter has decided that what the world needs more of is reality game shows with kids, shows where the actors break into song and possibly Drew Carrey replacing Bob Barker on "The Price is Right."

First, she is pressing her luck on the worn-out, but still apparently marketable reality game show genre one more time. The new show scheduled for next season is "Kid Nation" which puts 40 kids ages 8- 15 stranded in a New Mexico Ghost Town with no adults. Of course there is a small army of adults behind the cameras including doctors, psychologists and producers, but you arent supposed to think about that. The kids job is to improve the town while participating in Survivor like contests and a chance to win a $20,000 "gold star" that's awarded in every episode.

There has been some controversy over this series due to the producers working a loophole in child labor laws. Apparently New Mexico didn't consider TV programs something that could be covered under the laws, so kids could technically "work" more hours per day than they could in California or New York. And as one blogger pointed out, there are no California or New York kids in the show. Coincidence? Hmmmm...

Producer Tom Foreman denied the allegations of over-working the kids at a press conference Wednesday saying "the kids woke up whenever they wanted and went to bed whenever they wanted." but a follow-up article by TV Week James Hibberd shows the amount of backpedaling the producer has done over the whole issue:
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."
So clearly there seems to be some ethical questions about the producers circumventing the laws to make the show happen. Each of the child's parents gave their concent to the filming so I personally think its not that big of a deal, but its an issue that will definitely haunt this show like the ghost town they shot it at.

In fact, there is even some question as to whether or not the ghost town was a real ghost town. Apparently it was, but has since been used often as a movie set, with several buildings being built over the years to accommodate that.

For more information on "Kid Nation", check out CBS's webpage here.


Getting back to Nina Tassler, her next foray into what she thinks America wants is "Viva Laughlin" which is about a casino where people inexplicably break into song. Someone needs to send her "Cop Rock" on DVD (orVHS if necessary) as a wake up call. As I recall there weren't that many episodes of the show before ABC realized that a musical version of "Hill Street Blues" was as popular as a fart in church and pulled the plug. Something tells me that "Viva Laughlin" wont be long on the CBS airwaves. The show is scheduled to premier on October 18th at 10pm.

And finally there is talk that Drew Carrey might be replacing Bob Barker on "The Price Is Right". I would say that is a good idea for CBS, provided that they do a few things to improve the look of the show. TPIR has been on the air for ages without any changes. The sets are tired, the music is dated and the product girls all look like they are in their late 40's. I don't think its possible to "sex up" a box of Rice-A -Roni, (nor do I want them to), but just revising the look and feel of the show might go a long way to improving the shows longevity, or at least attracting a younger, more marketable audience and better ratings.

So exactly what is Nina Tassler thinking? Not really sure. Being a TV network exec is all about taking risks and controversy is always good for ratings, but are any of the things she's approving worth watching?

Only time (and the Neilsens) will tell.

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