Who Knew? With Marshall Brain

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Who Knew? With Marshall Brain TV Poster Image
Factory field trips are smart fun for families.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The series offers an educational look at the technology and craftsmanship that goes into cutting-edge manufacturing processes.

Violence & Scariness

A few segments centering on gun assembly show people test firing the weapons.

Sexy Stuff

Rare expletives like "s--t" are bleeped.


No outright promotional material, but the featured companies certainly get a lot of air time.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this intriguing docuseries -- which gives viewers an up-close look at the manufacturing processes behind products from automobile airbags to world's largest revolver -- is a great choice for curious families. The host explains each stage of production in a way that's easy for the average viewer to understand, though young kids probably won't have the attention span to follow a project from start to finish. Expect some rare bleeped swearing.

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What's the story?

WHO KNEW? WITH MARSHALL BRAIN takes viewers on behind-the-scenes tours of some of America's most impressive factories. In each episode, host Marshall Brain investigates three cutting-edge manufacturing processes, getting hands-on with the engineers and laborers who create a spectrum of items -- from high-performance racing bikes to everyday American currency. Along the way, he explores how technology has changed the manufacturing process and allowed these factories to ensure their products' perfection.

Is it any good?

The show has a lot in common with its many peers (including How It's Made and John Ratzenberger's Made in America), but it's certainly a worthwhile viewing choice if you're the type who's intrigued by the ins and outs of the production process. The series also spotlights the craftsmanship that's often overlooked in the technology era and gives credit to the workers whose skills still make them irreplaceable by machines.

And for the mechanically unsavvy, the good news is that Brain's background in both science and communication makes him an adept tour guide; he easily tweaks the experts' technical jargon into a narrative that any viewer can easily understand. The subject matter probably won't interest young kids, but if your tweens and teens will tune in with you, you'll all come away from the show with a better understanding of what's involved in making some of the products we often take for granted.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the media serves as a learning tool. Did you find this show educational? Was that its sole purpose? How do producers balance the desire to pass along information with the need to entertain their audience? Do you think this series succeeded on both counts? What did you learn from watching?

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