American Genius

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
American Genius TV Poster Image
History docu-drama shows how competition drives innovation.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Competition spurs inventiveness, creativity, business savvy, and sometimes hard feelings.  

Positive Role Models & Representations

Forward thinkers, creators; rivalries get personal. All characters are men. 


Arguments; accidents, death discussed. There's an episode about guns. 


Apple, Microsoft, Xerox, Tesla, Ford, Colt, and so on.  

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Wine, hard liquor occasionally visible. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that American Genius is a history-themed docu-series that focuses on the competition between rival innovators. There's some mild arguing; discussions about accidents and deaths; and mention of major brands such as Apple, Xerox, Ford, and Tesla. Expect occasional drinking too. All this is offered in a historical context and tame enough for older tweens and teens (if they're interested in this sort of stuff).

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What's the story?

AMERICAN GENIUS is a series about the competition between some of the greatest innovators and businessmen in American history. It offers dramatizations of the professional (and sometimes personal) rivalries between television creators Philo Farnsworth and David Sarnoff, the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss (both of whom contributed to what is now the modern airplane), and  Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, the two men who spearheaded the digital age. In addition to historical reenactments and archival footage, viewers get to hear from historians, journalists, businessmen such as Mitt Romney, educators such as Bill Nye, and fellow innovators such as Steve Wozniak and Twitter cofounder Biz Stone. 

Is it any good?

This entertaining and informative series tells interesting and dramatic stories about the professional and personal rivalries that drove innovators to work harder and be more creative, despite multiple failures, to produce the technology, industry models, and policies we live with today. It also highlights some of the business practices (ethical or otherwise) that affected the process. 

History buffs and tech-oriented folks certainly will appreciate the history lessons being offered here. But the messages it sends about the need for ingenuity and forward thinking to change the world will resonate with larger audiences and encourage them to think about the technology we rely on today a little differently. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what drives people to invent new things. Is it to be able to sell it and make lots of money? For the love of creating? To make the world a better place? What is the difference between being an inventor and an innovator? How does this series make that distinction? 

  • Have you invented anything? Is there anything you'd like to invent or that you hope someone else will invent? How can this thing potentially change the way we live? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love history makers

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