August 25, 2007 03:35 PM by Joe Blackmon
The new CBS reality TV series Kid Nation is receiving the type of
controversy-driven publicity that would make Michael Moore turn green
with envy. A parent has complained about conditions bordering on abuse
and neglect, the New Mexico Attorney General’s office is investigating
whether state laws were broken, and the Smoking Gun has published the
show’s contract with parents.
While in most industries, bad press like Kid Nation is receiving is something to be avoided that’s not the case in the entertainment industry. The only bad press in the entertainment industry is usually no press at all. So will all the attention that Kid Nation is receiving lead to blockbuster ratings?
In most cases, a little controversy is almost always beneficial in the ratings. With dozens of new TV shows launching, people are prone to tune into the ones that are making headlines if for nothing else but to see what all the fuss is about.
Of course being the center of controversy usually only buys a show an audience for once episode and where the ratings go from there depend on how good the actual show is. If Kid Nation winds up being an exciting and well-produced show, then it may be able to leverage the initial controversy into strong overall ratings for the series. If Kid Nation winds up being boring and poorly produced, then the viewers will abandon it with the first episode.
And even though controversy can drive initial viewers, it’s no guarantee of blockbuster ratings. When Survivor Cook Islands decided to divide castaways by race, it generated a wealth of attention in the press. However, even though Survivor Cook Island performed well against other shows in its time period, the series didn’t exactly see an enormous increase in ratings over previous seasons.
One big down side of controversy for a show is that there is a fine line between controversy that can drive viewers and controversy that can get a show canceled before it even airs. While there were plenty of protests over the concept of Survivor Cook Islands when it was announced, the show had a history and a solid fan following. There were enough people that trusted that the shows producers weren’t going to create a show that in any way condoned or promoted racism because the show had a good history.
With a new show like Kid Nation, viewers don’t have any pre-established level of trust over what producers might do. With a new show that generates a great deal of controversy, it is often easier for a network to cave into public demand to cancel the show. For instance, ABC pulled “Welcome To The Neighborhood” before it even aired a single episode. As media and public outrage continues to build, will the same fate be in store for Kid Nation?
The answer is probably not, even though it’s always a possibility. The Kid Nation show is attracting so much attention that it’s probably got the best bet of making it of any of the new CBS shows. CBS has also shown their willingness to not pull the plug on a show just because of controversy in the past. Plus, the fact that many of the sensationalistic media headlines center around what the contract says parents can’t sue the show over and not what actually happened on the show, it kind of hints that the most controversial elements of the show might turn out to be a couple minor injuries.