CLOVIS, NEW MEXICO — CBS is busily promoting It’s new ‘survival’ series; the incredible experience of a group of 40 kids, ages 8 to 15 plunked down in a New Mexico ghost town, free of adults.
For 40 days on their own the children cooked their own meals, cleaned their own outhouses, formed a government and ran their own businesses, all without adult presence or supervision..
Then CBS ran into trouble..
Parents of participants who had previously signed a legal 14-page permission and waiver to allow their child to participate wrote letters of complaint to New Mexico state officials after the show had completed production claiming the show violated child labor and school-attendance laws, and the experience bordered on abuse and neglect. There were injuries.Several children required medical attention after drinking bleach that had been left in an unmarked soda bottle. One 11-year-old girl burned her face with hot grease while cooking.
The children were made to haul wagons loaded with supplies for more than a mile through the deserted, dusty ghost town countryside, and they worked hard… from before sunrise to well after sunset, said Taylor, a 10-year-old from Sylvester, Ga., who was made available by CBS to respond to questions about conditions on the set.
Reminiscent of “Lord of the Flies”; a movie about the survival of a planeload of English school kids which crashed on a remote island, efforts of the New Mexico kids to set up some sort of functioning community quickly collapsed into anarchy and hedonism.
The kids broke up into small groups at odds with each other, and with little cooperative effort; the strongest, and most bullying kids assuming leadership.
When the episode completed it’s 40th day, the smelly, hungry and bedraggled group were bussed to a local resort hotel where they were bathed, fed and clothed prior to the arrival of their parents. One small child, 8-year-old Kathy Samson could not be accounted for. Upon hearing this, Frank Justin, one of the older boys, piped up. ” Oh Kathy? We ate her for supper last night!”
There is a strong possibility that the series may never be aired.