A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that many of the contestants on this series have put everything on the line to develop their invention. Expect lots of tears; some contestants weep with joy when they're able to continue in the contest, while others sob when eliminated. Overall, the contestants are likeable; the only drama occurs within the dynamics of the group of judges.
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What's the story?
In AMERICAN INVENTOR, a panel of four judges travels to seven different cities to meet everyday men and women of all races and ages (some as young as 18) and listen to their pitches. Just a sampling: There's a father who has designed a safer car seat for babies, a quadriplegic man who has made a tool to floss his teeth, and a woman who has invented padding to wear underneath wigs for those who have lost their hair. After a series of elimination rounds, 12 finalists are each awarded $50,000 to tinker with and hopefully perfect their inventions. Viewers then get to see how the finalists use their money, finding out who's progressing and who isn't. It all leads up to a call-in vote by the public; the winning inventor gets $1 million, an opportunity to market his or her invention, and the title of American Inventor.
Is it any good?
Produced by none other than American Idol's Simon Cowell, American Inventor is surprisingly clean. Early episodes of each season have their share of oddballs and strange inventions, but once the gimmicky inventions are eliminated and only serious inventors remain, the show begins to take on quite a different tone. Each finalist reveals the struggles, challenges, and emotions behind their projects; many have given up jobs, mortgaged their houses, and made sacrifices that have affected their families -- all because they believe in themselves and their inventions. While the inventors are likeable and it's hard to pick just one to root for, the judges tend to either bicker or look into the camera and give sugary exaggerations: "Boy, this choice is going to be brutal." Fortunately, it's up to the American public to make the final selection by a call-in vote.
American Inventor is a good show to watch with kids who tinker themselves and show potential as budding inventors. It's also great for kids to learn about taking safe risks. Parents may need to talk to their kids about the sacrifices some contestants have made and whether those choices seemed to be the right ones, given the circumstances.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about all the factors that come into play for inventors: dedication, confidence, creativity, passion. It's not enough just to be book smart or a smooth-talking salesperson to succeed in this arena -- it takes years of hard work and unyielding dedication to perfect an invention. Is there anything you're that committed to? Families can also talk about the challenge of bouncing back after being eliminated. When the odds are stacked against you, is it worth it to put everything on the line for the sake of making it?