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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 Big History is a fast-paced factual story about the underpinnings of historical events with a few bloody reenactments, making this series best for high schoolers. The show jumps quickly from topic to topic without a lot of explanation of events and concepts, so requires a reasonable acquaintance with history in order to understand what is being said. Scholarly teens and parent/child pairs who enjoy researching history will enjoy making connections between seemingly unrelated events.
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What's the story?
History is not random, says BIG HISTORY, the fact-based series narrated by Bryan Cranston. There are secret connections between events; people, places, and things that you never thought much about that brought about much of how we live our lives today. In each half-hour episode, Big History probes the links between historical happenings, swooping from the dawn of time to ancient human history to modern-day life with dizzying speed. Along the way, actors recreate famous moments in time, or gorgeous CGI shows us how it was.
Is it any good?
Big History boasts a tying-it-all-together theme that's very appealing to the type of person who likes historical mysteries like The Da Vinci Code, showing the viewer how simple things had great reverberations throughout human existence. It's a stretch to imagine, for instance, that something as humble as salt is responsible for the way humans migrated and settled throughout the world. But Big History shows how it was done, how humans laid down roads on top of animal salt licks, how trade routes were made on top of those, how people settled around them, how all life started in the salty brine of the world's oceans.
It's mesmerizing stuff for the history nut. But younger viewers who don't know about things like the Great Wall of China or the Erie Canal, will be quickly left behind. If younger kids want to watch, parents may want to DVR Big History and watch later, so that they can pause and give footnotes to catch everybody up, since the show moves quickly from idea to idea. Otherwise, this is terrific for family viewing, with everyone coming away better-informed than they started out.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what viewers enjoy about historical shows. Do they like imagining the past? Learning new things? What do you like about watching Big History?
The narrator of Big History is Bryan Cranston, who is a famous television star. Why do you think the makers of Big History got a well-known voice instead of just an anonymous narrator?
Big History uses both live actors and computer graphics to illustrate its concepts. Can you tell the difference between the two? Why doesn't the show use one or the other all the time?
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