Invention Nation

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Invention Nation TV Poster Image
Green docuseries is educational but one-sided.

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

Positive Messages

The series spotlights earth-friendly inventions that make products like biodiesel fuel, solar power, and hybrid cars accessible to the general public. Experts discuss the financial and ecological benefits of replacing standard products like gasoline and propane with "green" products. But the series is severely one-sided, and inventors rarely offer full details about the complete costs of their earth-friendly products.

Violence & Scariness
Sexy Stuff

Very rare use of "hell."


Interviewees often wear clothing adorned with their companies' names, and some use their time on the air for blatant self-promotion.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this docuseries heavily promotes earth-friendly fuel alternatives like biodiesel and solar power, giving inventors the chance to tout the qualities of "green" products ranging from bamboo bikes to hybrid cars. The arguments are persuasive but one-sided, glossing over some of the less-convincing details (many of which relate to implementation costs). Still, the series exposes viewers to lots of earth-friendly resources and encourages serious thought about the effects of the world's current energy consumption.

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Adult Written byShaneighneigh April 9, 2008

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What's the story?

Docuseries INVENTION NATION follows the cross-country travels of three guys on a mission to redesign their toxin-spewing bus into a lean, green, clean-burning machine. Chris, Nobu, and Micah drop in on some of the country's leading inventors in the field of earth-friendly energy, learning how their products -- which range from a human-powered car to vegetable oil-derived biodiesel -- can reduce pollution, recycle current energy sources, and reuse stuff we currently consider to be waste. But the guys do more than listen to the inventors' sales pitches -- they put some of the products to the test on their own ride, decking out the lime-green bus with alternative fuel systems, solar panels, and other \"green\" devices.

Is it any good?

Invention Nation's premise is intriguing, and its subject matter is both timely and worthwhile -- but getting tweens and teens to tune in is likely to be a hard sell unless they already have an independent interest in green technology. As documentaries go, this one's no-frills style is pretty bland and lacks a lot of the bells and whistles (narrative continuity, CGI effects, etc.) that make others more universally entertaining.

But the show's main drawback is that it rarely offers details on the featured products' costs, so viewers are left in the dark about whether such earth-friendly alternatives are really feasible for them. (Auto fuel from used vegetable oil is free, to be sure, but how much does the conversion kit cost to install, and what kind of maintenance is required? This obvious omission gives the series a commercial feel that detracts from its overall reliability. But in the end, viewers who do watch will be hard-pressed to avoid rethinking their own energy consumption and its eventual effect on the planet, which in and of itself is a positive lesson learned.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the show's messages. What do you think the producers' goals are? What do they want viewers to take away? Are you convinced? Do you think the series tells the whole story behind the featured products? What other reliable sources of information exist about products like these? How could you investigate them further? Families can also discuss their own energy consumption. What resources do you use on a daily basis in your home? Where do they come from? What are some ways you could be more responsible with them?

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