“Kid Nation”: The world didn’t come to an end after all

KidnationflagWith everything that’s gone on in the TV biz during the past two months, the uproar over CBS’ reality skein “Kid Nation” shortly before the show’s September premiere seems like such a tempest in a teapot.

All the overheated talk about “investigations” by the New Mexico state attorney general’s office petered out barely a week after the show premiered. A complaint from one parent about the show’s treatment of her daughter stirred up a media tsunami about the propriety of the show and whether it violated child labor laws with its premise (40 kids ages 8-15 are sent to a ghost town to live the rugged pioneer life with, ostensibly, no adult supervision) and filming sked.

Interestingly, the advance hubbub never did goose “Kid Nation” ratings. It opened modestly on Sept. 19 and has maintained an average of about 6 million-7 million viewers per week — not great but not a total bomb, either.

The “Kid Nation” finale is set to air tonight at 8 p.m. The denouement is about one contender claiming a cash prize but about a hands-on civics lesson to see if the their community will actually be able to function under the rules and systems that they’ve established through the weekly Town Council governing process.

Most important to “Kid Nation” creator/exec producer Tom Forman is the fact that none of the other families came forward with horror stories, and all the scrutiny of the show’s operations yielded nothing in the way of tangible evidence that he or the show did anything terribly wrong by its young stars.

“It’s a bizarre experience to open the New York Times and read that the newspaper of record is calling you a child abuser. It was head-spinning,” says Forman, who is a former journalist himself, and a father. “We knew what we had shot. We knew once people saw it they’d realize that it was much ado about nothing….We’re all really proud of the show. It’s what we said it would be all along — a show that will get kids thinking and talking about social issues.”