Question: As a fan of your column, I know you dislike Big Brother, and I won't try to sway your opinion, but I have to say that I've been disappointed by how CBS has handled recent controversies about their reality shows like BB and Kid Nation. Every year I expect one or two contestants to be irksome and display some repugnant behavior, but as I'm sure you've heard, many contestants this season have been either vapid, racist, sexist, abusive or all of the above. Amber made deplorable comments about Jewish people, but most of us only found out about them because of the controversy that erupted outside of the normal CBS airings of the show. At the very least, I expected CBS to allow Amber to defend herself during the Early Show morning-after interview that Julie Chen usually conducts with evicted HouseGuests, but now they have blocked all interviews with Amber and the rest of the cast until after the finale airs. CBS could have taken the opportunity to show that any kind of bigotry, either unintentional or not, should be combated at all costs. The network is also forbidding most of the Kid Nation parents and kids from making potentially damaging comments about the filming of their show, so I shouldn't be too surprised. Videotaping children for 14 hours a day while they "build a new society" seems careless at best, but once I heard a few kids possibly drank bleach, I was repulsed. You basically sign your life away when you sign those binding 20-plus page confidentiality statements, so of course CBS doesn't want idiot parents to reveal their carelessness and desire for their children's five minutes of fame. I have no plans to watch Kid Nation, but how can I and the rest of Big Brother's fans support a show that can't confront the bigotry CBS had a hand in exposing America to?
Answer: I'm more shocked you went on this long tirade and didn't even utter the name Dick, whose homophobic rants (and, according to reports I've read about other moments CBS has chosen not to show, abusive threats of rape) were the last straw for me. I'm not going to get into the incident here involving Dick, Jen and the cigarettes, because I only read about it. But: Ick! It looks to me like CBS is turning a blinder eye than usual toward this hideous jerk for the sake of ratings, and I have no use or patience for it. The fact that Julie Chen or anyone has shielded Amber from having to answer for her idiotic anti-Semitic comments is maybe a blessing, considering that when Amber went on Power of 10 (the one jeerable moment in that game show's history to date), she didn't know what the word scrutiny meant; just imagine how she'd react to charges of something as complex as prejudice. As for Kid Nation: Who knows how that will all turn out? I'm betting the show isn't nearly as objectionable as a series as it is in theory, but even if it turns out to be OK or somehow successful, it ranks right up there with the all-time worst ideas. It's one thing for adults to go on Big Brother and act like spoiled, awful, mean-spirited, hateful children and another thing entirely to let parents sign their own kids over to a reality producer for whatever purposes. I signed one of those endless confidentiality contracts when I agreed to be a judge on America's Next Producer, and there are so many caveats and conditions amid the boilerplate that it gave me pause, even though I knew it was all mostly routine. But again: Kids? No.