Engineering the Impossible

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Engineering the Impossible TV Poster Image
Docu builds interest in historical construction.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The series investigates the history of the construction process as it relates to three ancient projects. Experts detail the innovative techniques and materials -- many of which are still used today -- that were used to make the massive buildings possible.

Violence & Scariness

Dramatic re-enactments sometimes include historical scenes like swordfights and the mistreatment of slaves.

Sexy Stuff
Language
Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although this thorough documentary series is quite tame overall, some of the dramatic re-enactments used to bring the history of the three central architectural undertakings to life include images of things like swordfights and slavery. But tweens and teens intrigued by architecture and engineering are sure to enjoy it -- and, thanks to computer graphics and experts' explanations of the innovative construction techniques and materials that revolutionized the projects -- they'll understand it all, too.

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What's the story?

ENGINEERING THE IMPOSSIBLE spotlights the architectural breakthroughs that enabled the construction of three iconic historical structures: the Roman Colosseum, the Great Pyramid of Giza, and the Chartres Cathedral. For each project, experts begin by explaining the historical events that spurred construction and listing the obstacles (financial, geographic, etc.) that stood in the way of such a massive undertaking. They then outline the design and building process, using dramatic re-enactments and computer-generated images to illustrate their explanations and show the construction progress. Researchers also point out how the innovative techniques that architects and builders developed for these ancient projects changed the course of future endeavors, and, in many cases, continue to be used today.

Is it any good?

In a segment focusing on the Colosseum, experts explain how pioneering Roman engineers designed a drainage system that diverted an entire lake to make way for the amphitheater. To overcome the issue of the building's weight being unable to support itself, they pioneered the use of structural arches and invented concrete and red bricks. Finally, they kept the project on schedule by streamlining the materials' production process.

For both history buffs and building connoisseurs, Engineering the Impossible is an enjoyable blend of curiosity and education. But its most impressive accomplishment is making what could be a pretty dull topic entertaining enough that casual viewers will get something out of it, too. And there's virtually no worrisome content here, so if your tweens are so inclined, encourage them tune in.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why it's so important to understand history. What can we learn from studying the past? How does understanding past events affect how we look at the future? What role does the media play in helping (or hindering) people examine and understand history? How has technology altered how things are done in more recent history?

TV details

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