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 educational, documentary-style series takes a close look at current and future large-scale engineering projects. The show goes into great detail about each project, providing an informative -- if sometimes boring, depending on your level of interest -- glimpse into the world of engineering and construction. The narrator attempts to build tension and create drama by emphasizing costs, weight, temperatures, and even the risks to human life that an engineering mistake could have. But there's really nothing to raise eyebrows here; if your kids like this kind of thing, they'll learn a lot.
What's the story?
EXTREME ENGINEERING is a documentary-style program about large-scale engineering projects -- both actual and theoretical. Episodes have explored Boston's notorious Big Dig, Hong Kong's airport at sea, and the futuristic Transatlantic Tunnel. Hosted by architect and comedian Danny Forster, the series documents the different stages of a project, showing footage of actual work being done, interviews with engineers and other key folks, and computer-generated graphics demonstrating certain aspects of the engineering process. All of the details of a particular project -- from the weight of a steel wheel and the cost of a concrete plate to the temperature of water in a hydraulic system and the number of years for completion -- are covered.
Is it any good?
Though Forster attempts to build excitement through each project's many steps, some episodes are less interesting than others. For example, one that detailed an extremely complicated Swedish project called the Hallandsas Ridge Tunnel is dull despite the narrator's enthusiasm and the pre-commercial break cliffhangers (what will happen after the dynamite blast to that wall?!). The episodes that deal with issues that are more familiar to viewers -- like the one exploring the Big Dig -- are more attention-grabbing. So kids with a particular interest in engineering, construction, science, and math may well find Extreme Engineering fascinating, but others probably won't be converted.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the structures they see in their daily lives. Do you go over bridges or through tunnels? Have you ever thought about how they were built? Would you be interested in taking a closer look at them? (If so, a trip to look under a bridge or meet with a construction professional might be in order.) What kind of futuristic structures can kids imagine?
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