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 this series tends to include more fiery explosions and flashy stunts than in-depth scientific experiments, but viewers will still pick up a few facts. Women often wear skimpy clothes, and they're sometimes shown in bras and underwear. Some experiments use guns; others involve drinking alcohol. The series' target audience -- tween and teen boys -- may need a reminder not to try their own experiments without some supervision.
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What's the story?
Science-minded British series BRAINIAC aims to answer burning queries like these: Can a motorcycle outrun a firework? Is X-ray vision possible? If your workspace fills with water, which office supply will make the most reliable flotation device? Each episode follows teams of men and women called Brainiacs who conduct scientific experiments to find the answers. Will tapping on a shaken soda can eliminate the fizz? Maybe you don't care, but to the Brainiacs, it's just another reason to make a mess and have some fun in the name of science.
Is it any good?
One thing's for sure: Fun and mess definitely seem to trump science and innovation on this show. In one segment, for example, the cast puts an airplane flight recorder to the test to find out whether it is really as indestructible as it's chalked up to be. They shoot it with a cannon, pepper it with shotgun blasts and blow it up -- only to discover that it most likely would survive a fiery crash after all.
In general, the show favors stunt work over scientific method, and the brief experiments usually include little background information or follow-up. Some real educational information is occasionally included (an explanation of how X-rays work, for example), but it's not common. The show's use of guns and explosives and the prevalence of scantily dressed women (why?) make this series somewhat iffy for tweens -- not to mention the fact that they might get some questionable ideas from the show's stunts.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how TV can be a learning tool. What types of shows are the most educational? Does that automatically make them boring? Why or why not? Why do you think this show features so many barely dressed women? Families can also discuss the scientific method. What steps are involved in running an experiment? Does this series do a good job of explaining the science behind the questions it answers or the tests it runs? Why or why not?