For every parent who has wondered if their twentysomething kid will ever move out of the house — and perhaps even more for every one of those hanger-on children — ABC Family has the reality show for you. Kicked Out, premiering tonight at 10 pm/ET, puts a big ol' nationally televised footprint on slacker kids' backsides as it ambushes them with cold hard reality: Their meal ticket is all punched out, and it's time for them to get out and earn a living. After covertly converting a derelict son's or daughter's bedroom into a home office, expanded den or the like, the Kicked Out parents hand their offspring a packed suitcase, car keys, petty cash and directions to the tiny unfurnished apartment he or she will call home for the next 10 days.
"One of the biggest elements of our show is the surprise element: These kids do not know that they are going to be kicked out of their house," coexecutive producer James Flint tells TVGuide.com. "The parents are in on it, and maybe the siblings, but the [to-be-evicted] kids aren't."
Instead, the TV crew and early on-camera interviews are explained away as being for a "documentary" on American families. "Little tricks like that got the kids to open up, and I was very surprised by how well they did," notes Flint. "They'd say, 'I'm proud of the fact that I play video games and that my mom and dad give me money.' 'I'm proud of the fact that I live at home. After all, why not? No one is kicking me out.' So it is very shocking for them when they walk in the door and see that their [bed]room is transformed. 'Not only did you go through all my stuff and pack it up, but you turned my room into something else in a matter of hours!'"
Tonight's premiere profiles 24-year-old Verion, a slacker through and through. His parents, Venida and Walter, like the others in the series, came to fear that maybe, just maybe, their nest never would be empty. "A while back, Verion said [to his parents] that he would live with them for the rest of his life — and that he'd get married and maybe his wife would live with them," says Flint. "And now that he's older, his mom got a little scared! She realized, 'Maybe I have made it too comfortable for him. He is kind of proud to be playing video games and staying home and doing his own thing. Now it's time to get his ass out the door!' It was a wakeup call for his parents — and it was soon to be a wakeup call for Verion, too."
Verion gets handed his walking papers, forced to exit his plush digs and to pound the pavement looking for employment. It may sound a bit like cruel and unusual punishment, but it's not. "It's not like I'm handing them a cardboard box and saying, 'Here, you'll be living underneath this freeway overpass,'" Flint maintains. "We didn't want to take it that far, but what we did want to do was [present] an opportunity for a family to really take a look at themselves — not only from the kid's perspective, but also from the parents', because a lot of them admit that they are enablers, that they are the reason their kid has not left the house yet."
But make no mistake, Kicked Out isn't wall-to-wall psychological insight and family dynamic study; no, there are many laughs (and not all of them bemused) as these sad young adults are compelled to dive into the real world. "You're going to see some kids get their first jobs, and the jobs are not what they expected," Flint previews with a (slightly evil) laugh. "We have this one Orange County/Laguna Beach kind of girl who never thought she'd be leaving home anytime soon, who loves to sit and sunbathe with her friends by the pool, then all of the sudden it's, 'You know what? It's time for you to get a job, honey... and you're going to work at a hot-dog stand.' And believe me, she is a riot. When her mom invited a bunch of friends out for drinks and told them that her daughter was working at a hot-dog stand, well, you could hear the laughter a mile away."