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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Crystal Maze is the American iteration of a long-running and beloved U.K. game show of the same name. In this family-friendly game show, "Maze Master" Adam Conover (Adam Ruins Everything) leads a family team through timed challenges in the Crystal Maze, which consists of four immersive zones (Future, Aztec, Eastern, and Industrial), with the goal of earning time to collect tokens inside the Crystal Dome that are exchanged for up to $25,000. This show emphasizes teamwork, relying on your strengths, and supporting and helping others. Conover is a witty and capable guide for the teams; he keeps energy high and encourages teams during challenges. Families come from various racial backgrounds, and the show avoids gender roles or stereotyping. Parents won't find offensive language or mean-spirited competition here, but some may take issue with the Aztec and Eastern zones, which borrow from ancient Aztec and Asian cultures to represent sets for the sole purpose of game play.
What's the story?
THE CRYSTAL MAZE is a game show that challenges a team made up of family members to complete various challenges within time limits. Maze Master Adam Conover guides one family team through the 8 physical and mental challenges (2 in each zone) such as crossing a pond on a narrow beam while foam boulders swing across the path, collaboratively guiding a team member through an invisible path, or solving letter or color puzzles. The family earns time for each completed challenge to spend in the Crystal Dome, a geodesic dome fed by a wind tunnel. In the Dome, the wind swirls foil tokens around the contestants, who collect them to win up to $25,000.
Is it any good?
This game show, shot with American families in Bristol on the same set used by the UK version, is an exciting show with lots of kid appeal. The youngest child in the family is made captain, and they decide who will participate in each escape room-esque challenge. The tasks can be quite hard, so teams must be strategic and supportive in their advice. The Crystal Maze is detailed and immersive, bringing viewers into each zone with both décor and the nature of the challenges (futuristic tasks are high-tech, for example). Conover brings his signature wit to this series and the vibrantly colored suits he dons add whimsy to the plotting Maze Master persona.
The Crystal Maze can help kids learn about teamwork, identifying strengths, and how to be good winners and graceful losers. Sadly, the show doesn't feature the families negotiating their strategies or processing their failures, which are often important to effective teamwork. However, it seems that the Aztec and Eastern zones represent ancient Aztec and Asian cultures simply for an interesting setting for the challenges. It's unfortunate that Nickelodeon chose not to update these zones, because it's otherwise an enjoyable show, with suspense, laughs and positive messages for the whole family.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the families overcome a setback, like not completing a challenge, in the game show. How do the parents respond to the kids in The Crystal Maze? How do the kids handle it when a family member can't get the crystal in time? Is winning always the most important thing in a competition? How does being on a supportive team make failing/mistakes different?
How might you strategize differently than the contestants do in the challenges? How does the pressure of being up against a clock affect your ability to complete a task? Do you find situations like this stressful, or do you like the challenge?
Is a prize always necessary for you to do your best, or do you give it your all regardless of what's at stake? Do you believe in getting participation prizes? In what way does the idea of everyone getting a prize affect your appreciation of a prize?
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