Ages 10-12 (Tween)Ages 13-17 (Teen)Media & Technology

[TTT] Let’s Get Real(ity)

A few weeks ago, back when it was still summer, we were discussing the camp my son was taking that week – one of a series of “Soldiers and Diorama” camps in which the kids paint figures and build battle scenes and learn about military history. This particular week was focused on the Korean War and I noted that maybe it was time to introduce the Tween to “M*A*S*H”.  Really, maybe past time – I can remember watching the show as a first run series, as well as in re-runs and being bitterly angry at my mother for refusing to let me watch the final episode in February 1983.*

Note that I turned 40 this summer. I’ll let you do the math.

For that matter, I can remember watching “Mork and Mindy” (1978-1982), WKRP in Cincinnati (also 1978-1982 and I specifically remember watching the first episode), The Carol Burnett Show (which ended in 1978, so maybe I am remembering reruns, although Alice Portnoy would be a good alternative to “Paw Patrol”) and lot of other television I can barely contemplate watching with young children today, largely because I don’t have to.

Today we have, literally, thousands of options at any given time. Between FIOS/cable/satellite/Netflix/ Hulu/Amazon Prime Video/DVDs/bluray/DVRs/LMNOP, there is rarely any reason for my kids to ever watch network television, let alone watch anything at the same time as it originally aired . The idea of a collective multigenerational viewing experience is largely a thing of the past, at least in my house.  I should note that part of the reason that I write so much about what my kids watch, asked from the fact that this is a parenting blog, not Television With Out Pity, is that I don’t much watch “adult” TV at all anymore.

Except that now I sometimes do, with my son, because he’s gradually moving into that ‘tween state of sometimes wanting to watch Cartoon Network and sometimes wanting to watch other stuff like “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. “.  The other things he loves at the moment are “reality” science shows like “MythBusters” and “Brain Games”.

So, without further ado, I give you 3 Science/Adventure/Reality Shows to Watch With Your Older Kids:**

    1. MythBusters. This one is so obvious I should just get it out of the way off the bat. It is certainly not the first show of its kind, but it is definitely one of the most successful and a great use of focus and formula – rather than just trying to make science look wild and fun, it takes the specific premise of, well, myth busting, to great and sometimes very wild lengths. It sounds like the show is moving in a new direction next season, with more focus on the builds and background of the testing mechanisms and none of the sideline smaller busts by the Kari/Grant/Tori team, which makes me sad because I liked them and because it was great to see a woman playing with science.
    2. Brain Games. This is a relatively new entry to the field, but is the one I’ve seen the most of after “MythBusters”.  Because “Brain Games” focuses specifically on mental processes, almost every premise involves a certain amount of playing along at home, which makes it more engaging and interactive. Sometimes even the 4 year old will join in. Plus, it’s only half an hour. Here’s a clip that your kids will get right away.


  1. Outrageous Acts of Science. This show takes those weird random YouTube videos your kids find of escaping octopi or gigantic bubbles and explains the science behind them in a top 20 countdown style. The show brings in a diverse group of experts to tackle each question in a fast paced engaging format befitting its interweb roots.

Now, I’m sure that there are dozens of good shows out there that we’ve yet to discover, so what are your favorites?

* I did finally see the final episode, which never entered syndication, as part of a high school class and totally understand why my mom didn’t want her 8 year old watching it. If I recall, we had to get signed permission slips to even watch it in class.

** I’m not including general science/nature shows on this list because it could go on for pages and pages. My key requirements, aside from personal familiarity, are an interactive or experimental element and at least some degree of human weirdness or breaking of the 4th wall. Trust me, we watch scads of nature and history shows as well. Also, everyone reading this already knows about Cosmos.

Emily Sexton

Writer of incomplete novels, entertainment lawyer, mom of two with a wide age spread, blogger here and elsewhere, wannabe vocalist and v/o actress, atheist, weirdo. That last bit went without saying. Find Em on twitter @emandink and maybe she'll use it more.

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