Dog Nation: “Kid Nation”

Frequent Theater Dogs commenter Tracy recommends the somewhat controversial CBS series “Kid Nation.” You’d think, as an elementary school teacher, her days would be full enough of kid nations. Here’s what she has to say (and thank you, Tracy, for the contribution).

You’d think I’d get enough of kids from teaching and parenting, but no, right now the only thing I watch on the telly is CBS’s “Kid Nation” on Wednesday nights. Hosted by Jonathan Karsh, it is a reality show set in Bonanza City, New Mexico (a privately owned movie ranch). The pioneers, or kids, range in ages from 8 to 15, and they are on a quest to build a viable society. Each week the kids have challenges and rewards where they ‘earn’ their place in society as upper class, merchants, cooks, and laborers.

You might think “Survivor” meets “Lord of the Flies,” but it’s not like that at all. I am impressed by the kids’ logical thinking and big hearts. When choosing between dune buggies and fruits and vegetables, guess what they chose? Fruits and vegetables! One week, they earned a reward and the choice was between holy books and pizza. They chose the holy books. The kids are natural characters and the producers of CBS do a great job of editing to create somewhat of a plot for each episode. I like Sophia and Zach, and yes, even the beauty pageant queen Taylor. Her “Deal with It” attitude and non-work ethic make things interesting. Alex, with his one adult tooth that looks like a Chiclet, is another favorite as he quips observations about life on the ranch.

At the end of each episode, the Town Council (a group of four elected kids) chooses one citizen to earn the Gold Star, a solid gold star worth its weight in gold ($20,000). This really gets the kids to think about the positive traits of others; however, birthdays trump hard work as one week they gave it to an 8-year-old who was homesick and turning nine out in the desert.

My 10-year old got the whole family hooked on “Kid Nation”! It something we look forward to watching and discussing together.

The Dog House

Hey, Theater Dogs — it’s time to check in with the hip, the hot, the happening in the world of theater and beoynd. I figure that a common-denominator blog such as this one, where readers (and the writer) gather because they love theater, will also enjoy similar tastes elsewhere, in music, books, TV, movies, etc.

So, from time to time, I’ll share what’s being watched, listened to and otherwise enjoyed in my Dog House, and I’d like for you to do the same. But rather than posting a comment (which you’re still welcome to do), e-mail your hot-list enthusiasms to me directly at, and I’ll post them here in the main column, where they’re more visible and accessible.

So here’s what I’ve been enjoying recently:

TV: “Pushing Daisies,” Wednesdays on ABC, and not just because Broadway vet Kristin Chenoweth is so delightful (and she sang “Hopefully Devoted to You” a couple episodes back, which makes this television’s only musical series after the welcome demise of “Viva Laughlin.” “Pushing Daisies” is a whimsical delight and feels like a weekly dose of the French movie Amelie. And last week’s was another tiny slice of musical heaven with Chenoweth and Ellen Greene singing They Might Be Giants’ “Birdhouse in Your Soul.” Oh, this is good TV.

BOOKS: Hero by Perry Moore (Hyperion, $16.99). They call this a young-adult novel, but boy howdy, young adult novels sure have changed since I was a young adult (but then again, we didn’t have Internet porn then, which is something that comes up in this book, along with some decidedly adult language). This fascinating book is about high schooler Thom Creed, who’s dealing with his single dad, a disgraced super hero, and dealing with his own budding super-hero powers as well as his emerging homosexuality. Moore’s deft novel combines the best of the coming-out novel with the excitement of the geeky super-hero world. This will make a great movie (or heck, great musical). Check out Moore’s Web site here.

MUSIC: Jens Lekman, “Night Falls Over Kortedala” (Secretly Canadian, $14.98). This disc is such a charming surprise I can’t quite get over my delight with each song on this Swedish crooner’s latest. I’m a fan of big orchestrations (must be the show tune genes at work), and Lekman never met an orchestral sample he couldn’t use. His sound, awash in strings, horns and catchy hooks, is somewhere between Burt Bacharach and Belle & Sebastian, but with its own unique charm. Check out the record company’s Web site here, where you can download songs (I recommend all of them, but do “The Opposite of Hallelujah” first

Here’s Lekman live singing “The Opposite of Hallelujah.”

Now it’s your turn.