Children's Toy & Media Reviews Since 1978

Time Shift Your TV – Brain Games

Brain GamesThis week, how about taking a more cerebral approach to TV viewing?

Here are two series worth DVRing. Both focus on using your brain. Both are fascinating and compelling, but in different ways. Both will likely make you smile at some point.

First is Brain Games on the National Geographic Channel. The series is featuring a new episode on Monday at 9 p.m.(with repeats of older episodes starting at 4 p.m. ET) .

The show is hosted by Jason Silva, who calls himself a “wonder junkie.” His noncommercial videos delving into science, technology and imagination are hot online and The Atlantic called him a “Timothy Leary for the viral video age.” Nat Geo describes Brain Games as a show filled with interactive games and experiments “designed to mess with your mind and reveal the inner-workings of your brain.” Monday’s new episode, titled “You Decide,” looks at how your brain is constantly making decisions. And how can it not be given that our world today is constantly bombarding us with choices we can make. But are we making those decisions based on logic? Intuition?  Silva notes that sometimes having fewer choices makes life easier.

Check out the show and Silva, and you might look at yourself a little differently after watching. And if you visit Nat Geo’s Brain Games site you can take some simple decision-making tests and play some fun interactive games.

Big Brain TheoryThe second series, The Big Brain Theory, is a reality show competition on Discovery (a new episode airs Wednesday at 7 p.m.). It’s based on teams of engineers who face a task each week. Losers are sent home. Winners move on, competing for $50,000 and a one-year contract job with WET (Water Entertainment Technology) Enterprises, the company that devised the famous choreographed fountains at the Bellagio hotel in Las Vegas.

The host is Kal Penn, who is known for his role as Kumar in the Harold and Kumar movies, but who also spent time working the White House Office of Public Engagement. He brings liveliness to the show.

But the most interesting aspect is the task at hand. In the first episode, the engineers were divided into two teams. They had to come up with a way for a pickup truck to crash without detonating a box of dynamite. This week, the competitors must create an automated machine that can prepare a meal. Viewers can see the competitors’ minds at work, get to know their personalities, see the design theories the teams come up with and then watch to see how successful the projects are at the end.

Both shows do something that a lot of TV shows don’t: They make you think. And, hopefully, they’ll inspire some budding engineers in your home.