How the States Got Their Shapes TV Poster Image

How the States Got Their Shapes



Upbeat study of state boundaries encourages curiosity.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The show encourages curiosity about the history of the United States and the many stories surrounding its formation and growth as a country.

Positive role models

The host and historical experts provide positive examples by demonstrating passion and interest for the cultural past of the United States.

Not applicable
Not applicable

Rare language of the "crap," "damn," and "hell" variety.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this hour-long series, which explores the history of the United States from a unique standpoint, encourages curiosity about the country's origins. There is very occasional language ("crap," "hell," "damn"). While the show's content may only be of interest to older kids, it is generally appropriate for younger children as well.

What's the story?

The big, bold strokes of American history are common knowledge from grade school history classes. HOW THE STATES GOT THEIR SHAPES dives deeper into the country's rich story to spotlight the unique combination of people, events, and nature that created the boundaries of the 50 states. On-the-street interviews, computer graphics, and visits to historical locations keep the show fast-paced and light.

Is it any good?


Did you know there's a restaurant where the border between Tennessee and Georgia cuts through the building? You can eat in one state and use the bathroom in another.

These are the kind of stories host Brian Unger shares on How The States Got Their Shapes. It's amazing how many fascinating tidbits there are to be found in how each US state came to rest within its current boundaries. While the show doesn't innovate (if you've seen one History Channel show, you're familiar with the format ), the use of computer-generated illustrations and on-the-street interviews keeps things moving. Unger is an amiable and eager host, willing to try almost anything -- he spends part of one episode being attacked by Asian carp in Illinois and gets the laughs and scars to prove it. There's plenty of material to explore in regional American history, and this series explores it well.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the tools the show uses to depict history and state borders. Does the show's style help communicate the history?

  • What did you learn about America that you didn't know before seeing the show?

TV details

Cast:Brian Unger, Mark Stein
TV rating:TV-PG

This review of How the States Got Their Shapes was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Educator and Parent Written bybaypoint April 25, 2015

Be Aware - Season 2 - Talk about SEX in Certain Episodes

For the most part we like this show, you can really learn a lot. Season one was pretty good and safe to watch. Season 2 - Episode 8 - Battle of the Bible Belt was inappropriate for my preteen kids. Talked about sex and which religion is getting more!! Couldn't believe what I was seeing, that was way too much to handle. The clips that they showed of people laying intimately made my son look away in embarrassment. We had to turn it off. Just wish I would have known to skip that one. Worried about Episode 9 - Vice vs. Virtue now. I will have to prewatch it. Just thought I would share with you our experience. This is on netflix kids so just be aware.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Teen, 14 years old Written byAuboisAcadiaStudios September 5, 2011

great for history loving kids

it's a good show, best for older kids who love history/geography though.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Teen, 13 years old Written bythebomb May 31, 2011

good show

good show watch it ever Tuesday night i;ve learned things off that show that i've never knew before
What other families should know
Great messages


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Family Media Agreement