#347: The Fyre Festival of Summer Camps

Early 2000s Reality TV Was a Vibe

Some of you might remember life before unscripted television.

At the dawn of the 21st century, a whole new form of TV entertainment was thrust upon us. We were graced with the gift that is reality television, thanks in part to a Hollywood writer’s strike.

An cascade of low-budget, high-entertainment concepts began cropping up, all with aspirations of captivating the millions of ordinary people with slightly less ordinary content.

Some reality shows absolutely took off and shifted the culture of television, for better or worse.

Now we don't have to wonder what a naked Richard Hatch looks like.

Pretty fair trade-off, I guess.

Forum Survivor GIF

So, as Survivor saw CBS pretty much catch lightning in a bottle, networks began green-lighting anything they thought could share the same rarified reality television air. After nearly 50 seasons and a podcast, few reality shows have come close.

But one 2007 reality show named Kid Nation decided it would out-crazy the competition and abandon 40 children in a ghost town just outside of Sante Fe.

Once more for the cheap seats: grown adults thought it was okay to exploit 40 children in the name of reality TV and under the guise of a summer camp.

With the only certainty being that these children would turn absolutely feral while the cameras rolled, Kid Nation produced and aired 13 episodes of a one-of-a-kind experience that now deserves all the attention it's getting with Split Screen: Kid Nation

The fact that Kid Nation was a flash in the pan works for it.

There's no way around that.

Had it not been cancelled after one season, who knows how tame it'd inevitably get.

Thankfully, Split Screen: Kid Nation delivers a glimpse into the mechanics at play while producing a reality show pegged as "Lord of the Flies but with cameras and in the desert".

Actual footage from Kid Nation. It’s root beer. They’re drop-shotting root beers.

Stranding over three dozen children to see whether they'd form anything resembling a civilized society is a twisted social experiment. But, there’s more to it than just that.

Culture journalist Josh Gwynn tries to unpack that social experiment while also kicking off Spilt Screen's debut season. It promises to uncover complicated truths behind TV’s carefully curated facades and encourages us to understand and reflect on just how much of ourselves is being reflected back at us; all in the name of "entertainment".

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