When dealing with kids 16 and under, reality TV has tended to treat them with a certain level of kid gloves.
It can get knotty. CBS learned this when it aired “Kid Nation” in 2007 and fielded complaints of exploitation and treatment over the concept of kids fending for themselves in a tamed down “Survivor” set up. Once it aired, the controversy ultimately died on the vine, but the show’s low ratings really doomed it. In 2003, Fox also tried “American Juniors,” a younger version of “Idol” that went nowhere fast with viewers.
Then again, TLC has managed to draw viewers with “Toddlers & Tiaras.” Blecch.
The Hub has decided to air its own band-camp style music show but made it clear that there would be no eliminations. Called “Majors & Minors,” it debuts this Friday. Not that competition is completely scrubbed away. One kid (they range from 10 to 16 years old) will win a record deal with RCA. Brandy hosts and a host of big stars come in to mentor, including Adam Lambert, will.i.am, Colbie Caillat, Jennifer Hudson and Jordin Sparks. In other words, this is definitely a step up from typical band camp.
“It’s about helping young artists find the artist within,” said Brandy in an interview this week. “I get to share my experience with these artists and help them draw from what I experienced on my journey. It’s about bringing each artist’s individuality without invalidating them like on some other shows.”
Brandy, who broke it big in the business at the tender age of 15, said she would have loved an experience like this when she was a teen-ager to meet her heroes like Whitney Houston, Stevie Wonder or Aretha Franklin.
The kids, she said, “inspired me more than I feel I inspired them. I was completely blown away. I was crying every five minutes!”
The show was taped over the summer but the winner won’t be named until November.
Two of the participants are from metro Atlanta, Nia Holloway and Austin Crute. This area has generated its fair share of teen stars, from Diana DeGarmo (”American Idol”) to Kyle Massey (”Corey in the House”) to Kenan Thompson (”Kenan & Kel,” now on “SNL”).
I was amused how the pair were obviously “media trained” to ensure they don’t reveal any spoilers from the show. They also said nothing but nice things about everyone else and denied there was anything remotely close to romantic interest among the participants. Both said the others were like “brothers and sisters.”
School: Greater Atlanta Christian School, in tenth grade
Family: Father Bryan is a pastor at Destiny Metropolitan Worship Church. Mom Lanette is COO of the church. Older brother Bryan is 21; older sister Kristen is 22. “My family has been very supportive. They’d buy different things I needed to get me to the next level.”
Favorite mentors: will.i.am and Mike Posner (”You’d be surprised. He is literally one of the wisest people I’ve ever met!”)
How it helped him: “My range has widened so much. My performance has widened so much it’s ridiculous. I had no idea how amazing the mentors would be.”
His view of Nia: “She is very bright and funny. She is given a challenge, she always pulls it off. She would tell me she’s doubtful but I can’t tell. She’s very confident.”
Brandy’s take on Austin: “He’s the whole package. He can sing. He can dance. He can speak. He’s a good writer. He’s a triple threat. I’m sure with his great personality, he can act in the future as well.”
Family: Father is Floyd, in customer service; mom is Celeste, a claims adjuster; two sisters: Audrey, ninth grade; Naomi, seventh grade
School: Norcross High School
Past: In eighth grade, won two rounds at “Showtime at the Apollo” in Harlem, winning two free trips to New York City.
How the show helped her: “It improved my writing skills and my overall performance being on stage with everyone… It was a dream come true, everything I dreamed up wrapped into one. It came so fast.”
Toughest challenge: “The long hours. We’d practice over and over. We are all perfectionists. We would go nine hours straight. We’d go to the hotel and work three more hours.”
Time off: “We girls would go to the mall. We’d eat out all the time. Me and Austin went to Six Flags.”
Hanging at the hotel: “Josh and I would bring out our guitars and we’d sing, the 12 of us, in harmony. People at the pool would clap and sway. Everyone was asking us what we were there for. We said band camp.”
Her opinion of Austin: “He is such an amazing person. He’s hilarious. If you are having a horrible day, you call Austin. Your day will brighten! He actually went to homecoming with me and my sister this past weekend.” (Not dating though!)
Brandy’s take on Nia: “She was one of my biggest fans. She showed me tapes of her singing ‘I Wanna Be Down’ when she was six years old. When I heard the tapes, I cried. Her relationship with her dad is so beautiful. I think him being involved in her career will keep her on the right track. She blew me away. She has such a strong voice at such a young age.”