Is It Real?

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Is It Real? TV Poster Image
How do legends stand up to science? Tweens+.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The series offers a look at how recent advances in science can help prove or disprove longtime legends. Kids may take an increased interest in the sciences after seeing them put to such practical use.

Violence
Sex
Language

Mild language, depending on the show's topic. One episode includes infrequent mentions of killing a Sasquatch, including terms like "bagging one."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this documentary series takes on longtime legends, tackling some topics -- like ghosts and UFOs -- that might be frightening for the littlest viewers. Youngsters may also be upset by depictions of legendary creatures or alien sketches, as well as the uncertainty of their possible existence. But kids who like this kind of thing will probably be fascinated as scientific experts discuss how they use various disciplines to analyze physical evidence and self-proclaimed witnesses offer first-hand accounts of paranormal experiences. A final caveat: Before tuning in, even gung-ho kids might need some explanation of what makes (and fuels) legends, as well as some background on each episode's topic.

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What's the story?

Scientific experts, eyewitnesses, and believers on both sides of the fence discuss evidence in age-old mysteries that continue to garner speculation today in IS IT REAL? The show takes on cultural and scientific legends like crop circles, vampires, ghosts, Bigfoot, and the lost city of Atlantis. Forensic experts, statisticians, and even psychic investigators offer scientific evidence to both support and discredit the legends, while eyewitnesses weigh in with their own fascinating stories.

Is it any good?

While the series never arrives at cut-and-dried answers to these legendary quandaries, the process by which the scientists arrive at their individual conclusions offers an intriguing look at practical science. For example, in an episode dedicated to Bigfoot, a fingerprint expert discovered that one mysterious footprint contained friction ridges much like the lines that make up humans' fingerprints, leading him to believe that a hoax with such fine detail was unlikely. However, a primate expert disagreed, showing that through a simple process of making a print of his own foot in silicone and soaking it in paint thinner, he could stretch it to a much larger size while maintaining its general appearance.

The show's combination of enticing mystery, persuasive evidence (both for and against the stories' truth), and first-hand accounts makes for well-balanced, captivating entertainment. But inquiring minds beware -- you won't find any clear-cut answers to these age-old questions here. In the end, you're left with your own opinions and the pieces of evidence that resonate with you. Both intriguing and a great example of science in action, Is It Real? is an excellent choice for family TV viewing -- provided that your kids are old enough to separate reality from conjecture. Even then, you may find yourself explaining what's science and what's supposition.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about legends and folklore. How do stories go from being harmless entertainment to becoming larger than life? Why would people take actions (like faking evidence) to keep stories like these alive? What evidence about each mystery do you find most credible? Least credible? Families can also discuss which of the legends they personally believe in, if any. What are some other legends you've heard?

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