Tuesday, August 19, 2014

My 4th Pair of Reviews

As an Art Evolved member, I post a pair of my reviews here every so often, the 1st being positive & the 2nd being negative. I'd greatly appreciate you reading & voting "Yes" for said reviews in the bolded links below. Besides wanting to make sure said reviews give a good idea of what to expect, they need all the "Yes" votes they can get because 1) the 1st is for a great show that deserves more attention, & 2) the 2nd is outnumbered by opposing reviews (which don't give a good idea of what to expect). Many thanks in advance.

P.S. For my previous reviews, see the following posts:
-"My 1st Pair of Reviews": http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/03/my-1st-pair-of-reviews.html
-"My 2nd Pair of Reviews": http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2013/04/my-2nd-pair-of-reviews.html
-"My 3rd Pair of Reviews": http://blogevolved.blogspot.com/2014/04/my-3rd-pair-of-reviews_21.html


Better than their previous best ( https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R2YG8ZL43RYDFO/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B00652U6WE ): 5/5

Short version: If I was going to build the perfect science/nature edutainment show, I'd build a Kratt show. If I was going to build the perfect Kratt show, I'd build a "Wild Kratts" (henceforth WK) because it's just the right blend of education & entertainment. There are few good science/nature shows on TV, making WK all the more important.*

Long version: Read on.

As you may have noticed, I usually review non-fiction books. That's because non-fiction books are more structured than other forms of edutainment (& thus, easier for me to review). However, I feel so strongly about WK that I had to make an exception. In this review, I list the 4 main reasons why I think WK is currently the best science/nature edutainment show while using the "Raptor Roundup" episode (I.e. My favorite episode) as an example.

1) In WK, all the characters are a ton of fun: For 1, the WK crew reminds me of Mystery Incorporated, but better defined/developed; Chris & Martin (henceforth the Kratts) are, like Fred, the leaders, but also "real-life zoologists" ( http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-kratt-brothers-get-animated-when-wild-kratts-shows-kids-that-animals-can-take-you-anywhere-in-science-on-pbs-kids-go---january-2011-112241999.html ); Aviva is, like Daphne, the hot girl, but also a brilliant inventor; Koki is, like Velma, the researcher, but also a sassy black woman; Jimmy is, like Shaggy, the lovable coward, but also a "master gamer" ( http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/the-kratt-brothers-get-animated-when-wild-kratts-shows-kids-that-animals-can-take-you-anywhere-in-science-on-pbs-kids-go---january-2011-112241999.html ); All that's missing is the animal mascot (unless you count the Tortuga HQ); For another, the WK villains remind me of Disney villains, but with unique twists; Chef Gourmand is like Chef Louis from "The Little Mermaid", but with a Southern accent instead of a French 1; Also, Gourmand specializes in cooking with endangered animals; Donita Donata is like Cruella De Vil from "101 Dalmatians", but with 1 bumbling henchman (Dabio) instead of 2; Also, Donita freezes animals in suspended animation to use for jewelry/clothes; & don't tell me Zach Varmitech's incredibly shrill voice doesn't remind you of Iago from "Aladdin".

2) Growing up, my favorite stories were animated animal adventures (E.g. Walt Disney Animated Classics) & real-life animal adventures (E.g. Walt Disney's True-Life Adventures). WK combines the best of both worlds with animated versions of real-life animal adventures. Better still, said adventures are based around key scientific concepts (E.g. In "Raptor Roundup", the Kratts challenge themselves to ID as many raptors as they can; We learn about classification).

3) There are 3 main reasons for WK's good humor: 1) Funny characters who can be summed up by Dr. Cox's rant in the "My Fishbowl" episode of "Scrubs"; Aviva, like Carla, is "very funny...WHEN [she's] being sarcastic or [she's] up on [her] high horse"; Zach, like Elliot, "is funniest when [he's] an anal retentive train wreck" (The same goes for Donita); Koki, like Turk, "sells it with a cocky attitude"; Gourmand, like Janitor, "is amusing because quite frankly he's insane"; The Zachbots "can turn a phrase"; Dabio has a funny name (Fabio with a D); Jimmy, like Ted, "is the hospital sad sack"; The Kratts, like Dr. Cox, are "funny because [they] commit"; 2) Clever dialogue; Martin's animal names (E.g. "Stomp" the secretary bird) & Gourmand's dish names (E.g. "Raptor amandine. Vulture bouillabaisse. Eagle Gorgonzola. Ooh, owl étouffée. And falcon fritters") are especially good examples of WK's witty wordplay; 3) Classic physical comedy; The battles between the Kratts & Gourmand, like those between Sebastian & Louis, recall "the dark slapstick of classic era Warner Bros. cartoons" ( http://www.dvdjournal.com/quickreviews/l/littlemermaid.q.shtml ).

4) To quote Sampson ( http://edge.org/3rd_culture/sampson05/sampson05_index.html ), "The web of life is composed of two distinctly different kinds of threads<those that link organisms at any given moment in time through the flow of energy (ecology), and those that link all lifeforms through deep time via genetic information and shared common ancestry (evolution). Seen from this dual and complementary perspective, the two themes are inseparable. Without evolution, our vision is severely limited to the present day and we cannot begin to fathom the blossoming of life's diversity from single-celled forebears. Without ecology, the intricate interconnections we share with the current panoply of lifeforms cannot truly be envisioned. United in a single theme, evolution and ecology provide a powerful lens through which to view life's web, forming the foundation of an integrated and underutilized perspective on nature. In short, we need dramatic increases in levels of both ecological literacy, or "ecoliteracy," and evolutionary literacy, or "evoliteracy," with this dynamic pair of concepts reinforcing each other." That's exactly what WK does. "Raptor Roundup" is an especially good example of evoliteracy (E.g. "Got to love raptors...Fantastic flyers with powerful talon feet. Direct descendants of dinosaurs...Who still fly the skies today. Raptors are one of the most awesome creature families on the planet. They're not meant to be fried or fricasseed. They belong living free and in the wild") & ecoliteracy (E.g. "And the great thing about raptors is no matter where you live. Or what the weather's like. Raptors are flying all around. So get to know the raptors that live around you. Keep on creature venturing. And keep on identifying...Raptors!...See you on the creature trail") reinforcing each other.

*As far as I know, the BBC & PBS are the only channels that still make consistently good science/nature shows (E.g. "Life" & "Wild Kratts", respectively). I used to love watching the Discovery Channel & Animal Planet, but now they're full of garbage like "Yukon Men" ( http://www.theguardian.com/environment/nature-up/2013/may/17/bloodthirtsty-wildlife-documentaries-reality-ethics ) & "Mermaids" ( http://phenomena.nationalgeographic.com/2013/05/29/mermaids-return-from-the-depths-of-tvs-chum-bucket/ ), respectively.


Not nearly as good as the original books ( https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R1A9PA105I2590/ref=cm_cr_srp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=B007I1Q4RM ): 2/5

Short version: The Nostalgia Critic put it best when he said (in reference to "The Last Airbender"), "I'm sorry, I'm really sorry, I know it gets really annoying every single time I say "in the show", because it's an adaptation. Adaptations, you gotta make changes, I understand that, I really understand that, but... it's gotta be changes that make sense, guys!" Not that "The Magic School Bus" is the worst edutainment adaptation, but I just don't think it holds a candle to the original books.

Long version: Read on.

As you may have noticed, I usually review non-fiction books. That's because non-fiction books are more structured than other forms of edutainment (& thus, easier for me to review). However, I feel so strongly about "The Magic School Bus" that I had to make an exception. In this review, I list the 4 main reasons why I don't think "The Busasaurus" (henceforth TB) in particular & the show in general holds a candle to "In the Time of the Dinosaurs" (henceforth Time) in particular & the books in general.

1) In Time, Ms. Frizzle, Liz, & Arnold are the only well-defined/developed characters (E.g. We learn that Ms. Frizzle's 1st name is Valerie & that she went to high school with Jeff, her paleontologist friend). The non-Arnold kids are basically wallpaper. The same goes for the books in general. On the show, the good characters are even better developed (E.g. Ms. Frizzle is basically the female Willy Wonka), while the not-so-good characters are almost exclusively defined by their catchphrases & range from bland to awful: On the bland side, there's Tim, whose basically the Franklin to the show's "Peanuts" (I.e. He doesn't even have his own catchphrase); On the awful side, there's Carlos, whose basically a FOX Newsman (I.e. He's an arrogant, obnoxious, fear/hate-mongering bigot). TB in particular shows the good characters at their best (E.g. Arnold saves the class from a T.rex) & the not-so-good characters at their worst (E.g. Carlos spouts anti-dino speeches at every available opportunity).

2) In Time, most of the ornithischians & some of the saurischians are depicted with wonky hand &/or foot anatomy. Otherwise, the animals are mostly accurate for the time. The same goes for the books in general, but not the show. See "Review update #8 (It's a big 1)!" for how TB in particular fails: http://jd-man.deviantart.com/journal/Review-update-8-It-s-a-big-1-475071561

3) In both Time & TB, the class visits Ms. Frizzle's paleontologist friend at a dino dig. However, the similarity ends there: On the 1 hand, in Time, the class travels back to the Late Cretaceous Period "to look for some Maiasaura nests" because "paleontologists have uncovered the bones of some Maiasaura...but are disappointed that they haven't found any nests" (See "Editorial Reviews": http://www.amazon.com/The-Magic-School-Time-Dinosaurs/dp/0590446894 ); We learn that "Dinosaurs Were Special" compared to "today's reptiles" (E.g. "Some dinosaurs may have been warm-blooded. All of today's reptiles are cold-blooded"); On the other hand, in TB, the class travels back to the Late Cretaceous Period "to see what those ancient reptiles...were really like" because Carlos brought up his "prejudices and preconceptions about dinosaurs" (See "Editorial Reviews": http://www.amazon.com/The-Magic-School-Bus-Busasaurus/dp/6304400683 ); We learn that "there are more plant eaters than meat eaters. The meat eaters wanted a quick meal without getting hurt. They were not blood thirsty monsters" ( http://www.thirteen.org/edonline/nttidb/lessons/as/dinoas.html ). I have 3 major problems with TB's story-related changes:* 1) T.rex shouldn't have replaced Maiasaura as the main dino; For 1, T.rex is the most overexposed & overstudied dino; For another, a cameo like in Time (I.e. 1 T.rex turns its head & glances at the class, but otherwise pays no mind to them) would've made more sense given TB's lesson; 2) TB, among other episodes, shouldn't have been based around Carlos' prejudices & preconceptions; Google Books search "Considering Effects in Context As" for why; Point is, bigotry shouldn't be allowed on an edutainment show; 3) All carnivorous dinos shouldn't have been depicted as being dangerous & all herbivorous dinos shouldn't have been depicted as being friendly because, to quote Bakker (See Bakker's "Maximum Triceratops"), "that's wrong. In nature today, the most dangerous critters on land are huge, strong vegetarians. African elephants charge lions and try to squash their cubs. Black rhinos use their long horns to spear hyenas. Hippos use their big teeth to chop crocodiles in half."

4) In Time, the epilogue consists of 2 pages in which Cole & Degen recognize some major falsehood in the story (E.g. "A BUS CAN'T BECOME A TIME MACHINE") & expand on what we learn from the story (E.g. "Birds are the dinosaurs of today"). The same goes for the books in general. On the show, the epilogue consists of 3 minutes (including the completely pointless & slightly racist intro) in which the producers or guest stars do the same thing while taking phone calls from kids. I have 2 major problems with the show's epilogue: 1) Unlike the book's epilogue (which concentrates on expansion), the show's epilogue gives equal time to recognition; 2) The show's epilogue fails to cover many story-related subjects & those that are covered are done so in an insufficient manner (I.e. Sometimes, it simplifies things to the point of being meaningless; Other times, it's just plain wrong). Again, see "Review update #8 (It's a big 1)!" for how TB in particular fails: http://jd-man.deviantart.com/journal/Review-update-8-It-s-a-big-1-475071561

*I don't have a problem with all of TB's changes. In fact, I like that Carmina replaced Jeff as Ms. Frizzle's paleontologist friend given that there aren't enough "female characters with personalities" in cartoons ( http://babbletrish.blogspot.com/2013/03/revisiting-my-little-pony-friendship-is.html ).