‘Kid Nation’: And Then There Were 39

“Raise your hand if you know how not to burn your face on a stove.”Courtesy of CBS

It’s finally here! Remember when the pioneers of the Old West used to split themselves up into four color-coded teams and compete in challenges for large sums of money? Well, Kid Nation is exactly like that, except with more crying. But, if you were watching last night’s premiere in the hopes of seeing a bleach-drinking or one of the show’s other promised kitchen mishaps, you were probably disappointed (CBS is obviously saving those for later episodes).

Once we came to terms with all this, we were able to sit back and start rooting for our favorite kids. There’s Michael from Washington, whose impassioned speech during the kids’ darkest hour (so far) brought everyone together (not to be confused with Mike, the “capable boy scout” and red-team leader whose glasses steamed up every time an adorable subordinate challenged his authority). There’s Laurel, the 12 year old with such leadership potential we were calculating the year in which she’s eligible to run for President (2030). There’s bossy foodie Sophia, whose skills as a chef garnered her the first gold star worth $20k, but who will be rebelling against the 4-kid “town council” in future episodes. And we’re pouring out a little root beer for little homesick Jimmy, who was miserable — “I think I’m gonna die out here!” — until he took his first chance to get the hell out of Bonanza City and back to Mom and Dad.

Like any good reality show, Kid Nation’s strengths are in its characters, and the most remarkable aspect of these characters so far is their intellectual superiority to adults on reality shows — they use big words and make funny jokes! And if we can swallow our unease with the values these stage-parent offspring “from all walks of life” are learning (hint: they’re all striving to be labeled “upper class”) and the fact that the show bears more than a passing resemblance to long-running Saturday-morning staple Discovery Kids: Endurance, it should be a fun ride, like summer camp (albeit one located in a deserted mining town with no adults in sight). Go Green Team!! —Lindsay Robertson

‘Kid Nation’: And Then There Were 39