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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that History 101 is a documentary series that investigates various aspects of world history, how events played out in the past, and how they could continue to affect us in the future. A variety of subjects is covered, including space exploration, fast food, feminism, germs, robots, nuclear power, and more. Some topics and imagery may be disturbing, such as mushroom clouds and information about the dangers of nuclear power, as well as segments on climate change. There's no cursing, but expect occasional potty humor, like when the show investigates climate change and shows cartoons of cows with green gases emanating from their butts and fart noises. Some subjects may touch on sex, like the mention of the effect of the invention of the birth control pill during the "Feminism" episode. Viewers may find both their curiosity and empathy stimulated by this show.
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What's the story?
With an eye towards how what's happened in the past continues to reverberate in our present, HISTORY 101 investigates how various things came to be and why we should care. From space exploration, germs, plastics, to the rise of China's economy, all are given their due with archival footage, colorful explanatory infographics, and wry narration.
Is it any good?
History lessons can be scintillating to dusty-dry depending on who's doing the telling, but with its innovative storytelling and bright graphics this history series definitely veers towards "fascinating." Archival footage is, of course, a mainstay of just about any retelling of the past, but History 101 has a way of packaging and narrating said footage, and bringing its points home with great infographics, that brings it to life. Episode 2, "The Space Race," has plenty of the sort of shots of rockets firing up and grinning astronauts that you'll have seen before; you probably haven't, however, seen a bar graph showing how low the temperatures are in space while a narrator calmly informs you that in space "your blood will boil, or at least start to vaporize, because there's no pressure keeping it a liquid."
In episode 1, "Fast Food," we're told that KFC was the first chain to really rev up a system of franchises and thus set into motion a chain of supply and demand that's partially responsible for climate change, as we watch a vintage pancake-making machine turn out stacks of hotcakes and cartoon cows emitting green clouds of methane. It's eye-catching. It's interesting. And it's also a little disturbing, as History 101 shows us the connections between fast food and factory farming, car culture and Middle East unrest, and plastics and the billions of pounds of waste overwhelming the earth. It's tough, smart, real stuff, and you'll get smarter by watching, without ever regretting your time investment.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the stories told on History 101. Did any of the show's stories inspire you? How? What did you learn? Did it change your viewpoint or behaviors in any way?
How do you think the makers of History 101 want the viewer to feel when they are done watching the show? Do they want to inspire action or emotion? What brings you to this conclusion?
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