John Ratzenberger's Made in America

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
John Ratzenberger's Made in America TV Poster Image
Fun factory field trips will entertain families.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Celebrates the ingenuity and strong work ethic of the American manufacturing industry.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Ratzenberger expresses respect and admiration for the employees of each company. He is also quick to jump in and work at each location.

Violence & Scariness

Some factory scenes include shots of welding or hot ovens, but workers always wear ample protective gear.

Sexy Stuff

The featured companies (Gibson Guitars, Harley-Davidson, Campbell's, Airstream, Titleist, Brooks Brothers, Hallmark, Serta, etc.) get lots of publicity, but not really in a commercial way -- instead, the focus is always on the quality and craftsmanship of the products shown.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Occasionally the series highlights beer manufacturers like Anheuser-Busch.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the brisk pace of this documentary-style series (each 30-minute episode covers three different factories) makes it a great choice to share with grade-schoolers -- or any other viewers with short attention spans for educational programming. Factory tours and easy-to-understand explanations of the manufacturing process are both informative and entertaining. Kids will be especially intrigued by episodes that highlight products they're familiar with -- like Necco candies or Crayola crayons. Viewers of all ages are likely to gain a new respect for the hard work, ingenuity, and craftsmanship that allow the featured factories to turn out their products.

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What's the story?

In JOHN RATZENBERGER'S MADE IN AMERICA, the former Cheers star travels the country visiting the factories that turn out all-American products like Campbell's soup, Sam Adams beer, and Yankee Candles. The series spotlights both the manufacturing process behind these everyday items and the hardworking men and women who take pride in their craft and the products they make. In each episode, Ratzenberger visits two factories, taking viewers on behind-the-scenes tours and chatting with the workers he meets along the way. As they demonstrate and explain the intricacies of their their jobs, Ratzenberger often jumps in to lend a hand and express his amazement at the quality work they do. Each episode also includes a brief discussion of a third company, but video footage and photos take the place of an on-site tour.

Is it any good?

There's a lot to like about this enjoyable series, not the least of which is Ratzenberger's natural ease in his role as host. His demeanor with the workers he meets is so effortless and respectful that watching him interact with them is like being a fly on the wall during a conversation between friends. He single-handedly succeeds in giving the series a personal touch that's often lacking in onscreen peers like How It's Made.

Made in America has an obvious educational angle -- you learn a lot watching how common items from salt to cookware are produced. But viewers of all ages also benefit from the respect the show pays to the hard work, craftsmanship, and ingenuity of blue-collar American workers, whose pride in their work shows in the products they create. Family-friendly to the hilt, Made in America's brisk pace caters nicely to the shorter attention spans of young kids and tweens. That said, teens and adults who like to know all the nitty-gritty details of the manufacturing process may feel like the show doesn't go deep enough.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what "blue-collar" means. Which jobs are considered blue collar? Who do you know in jobs like that? Does society give more respect to people in "white-collar" work (lawyers, doctors, accountants) than to those in manual jobs? Why or why not? How does the media support or undermine stereotypes about blue-collar work? How does the number of TV shows featuring blue-collar characters compare to the number focused on white-collar characters? What does that say about society's take on people's chosen careers?

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