Tom Forman

Since the advent of reality TV, executives responsible for this bane of the entertainment industry have gotten increasingly creative in formulating the premises of their brainchildren (ironic since reality shows require no creative writers). These pinheads seldom fail to produce at least one controversial show each season. Remember Survivor: Separate but Equal and FOX’s Skating with Felons? This fall is no different.
Tom Forman is the wunderkind behind CBS’ much-hyped Kid Nation. In case you missed any of the umpteen promos, the premise is simple: 40 kids between the ages of 8 and 15 are left to their own devices for 40 days in an abandoned New Mexico ghost town to form their own society.
According to Forman, the goal was to succeed “where adults have failed.” What the hell did he expect these kids to do out there? Cure cancer? Solve the world’s energy problems? Seriously, though, given how little American children know about U.S. history and our Constitution, why would anyone think a bunch of kids could form a more perfect union?
Instead of listening to “The Greatest Love of All” for the millionth time, maybe Forman should have read William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Anybody who’s ever been to a pizza buffet on “Kids Eat Free” night knows that a large gathering of children with no adult supervision is never a good thing. In fact, if Forman really wanted to see what happens when a bunch of kids are thrown together without any parental involvement, he could have just sent a camera crew to ValleyParkSchool here in Baton Rouge.
Now, Forman and CBS are catching all sorts of flack from actor unions and child labor protection groups amid reports that the children were required to work 14-hour days. According to TV Week, Forman and the Tiffany Network managed to sidestep regulations by “declaring the production ‘a summer camp’ instead of a place of employment, by taking advantage of a loophole in New Mexico labor rules two months before the state legislature tightened the law.”
Forman further explained to TV Week, “They’re participants in a reality show. They’re not ‘working.’ They’re living, and we’re taping what’s going on.”
How interesting he would say the kids weren’t “working,” since a number of parents have claimed that, during the course of the show, their little Utopians were either fed lines by producers or were asked to repeat scenes or re-cast dialogue. Hell, some state employees don’t even do that much, yet they still call it work.
The best part of this whole story has to be the 22-page agreement, in which the Kid Nation parents signed away their rights to sue if their child died, was severely injured, became pregnant, or contracted a sexually transmitted disease. Well, what can you expect when no adults are around to help keep teenage hormones in check?
Fortunately for Forman and the parents, only two, rather minor mishaps during taping have been reported. A 12-year-old girl received facial burns from splattered grease while cooking on a wood-burning stove. The other incident involved four kids who accidentally drank bleach from an unmarked pop bottle. One kid thought the solution tasted funny, so he did what any future leader of America would do: He asked three friends to take a swig. It’s pretty safe to say they were all boys.
Forman also had the parents sign a contract stating that their kids could be filmed when they were in the bathroom except when they were “showering, bathing, defecating or urinating.” What about the rest of the time they had no clothes on? Can you say “child pornography”?
If the country has a collective lobotomy and the show is a hit (the next round of casting’s already begun), Forman and his gang may have problems finding a location to shoot season two, since authorities around the nation are well aware of the concerns raised in the Land of Enchantment. If Forman needs a location where child labor laws are lax and child exploitation is perfectly acceptable, there’s always Thailand. Plus, they probably wouldn’t have a problem with the filming of naked 12-year-olds, either.
This article was originally posted on September 07, 2007