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In a small grade school, one class has a unique way of learning about the world with their teacher, Ms. Frizzle. To illustrate the science concepts they discuss, they always take a field trip on the Magic School Bus, a magic vehicle that can literally go anywhere and be anything as the class explores space, the arctic, the human body, and more in order to have a firsthand experience of the principles of science. Written by
Kenneth Chisholm <email@example.com>
The other day I caught my five year old nephew watching The Magic School Bus. At first I didn't think much of it, but then I caught myself sitting down and watching it for the first time in 10-12 years. I forgot how good the show was in its basic educational value.
The show follows a crazy/smart science teacher who has a magic school bus that can take her class on endless adventures through volcanoes, water, space, people's intestines, and other places. This gives the show a large variety of episode locations. This means the show can never be held back by the location because the School Bus is "magic".
While the class isn't the most interesting, they aren't boring either. Miss Frizzle always seems to know what is going on and is never "troubled" because she always has a plan. Arnold is always the nervous kid, Dorothy Ann is the bookworm, Ralphie is the muscle, and various other pretty basic character traits. However, it works surprisingly well compared to most kids' shows. This might be due to good voice acting or simply better timing on the dialogue, but all of the characters works pretty well.
The interesting thing about this show is that at the end of every episode there is a small skit where the "producer" is at home receiving phone calls about the episode just witnessed. This is actually really clever because it allows the show to... break the fourth wall while still being in its own show... literally the producer of the show has Liz (the class pet) with him so it is strange if the characters are conscious that they are in a show or not. Either way, these skits help explain "faults" in the episodes and help stop parent complaints. In one such episode, the character needs to fix the bus and they shrink down and examine the bus' engine from the inside. In real life, they would've been dead. So the ending skit with the producer has him receive a call from someone complaining about how "Unrealistic that was". So the producer comments back about why they allowed an unrealistic element in and how kids should watch out when handling gasoline or car parts. This cleverly allows the show to go into even more dangerous territory. A lower quality show would've avoided car parts in fear of parents complaining. However, The Magic School Bus doesn't avoid dangerous subjects, because it openly explains itself as to why it can do that.
The Magic School Bus is cliché at times. There's no doubt about that, however, it was a slightly early kids' educational animated show so you have to give it some credit that some of its clichés weren't as... bad back then.
All in all, The Magic School Bus is an educational kids' show that has held up fairly well over the course of time. It can be clever, risky, and humorous when it needs to be. Is it as educational as watching a documentary on the same subjects? Probably not. But it dumbs down the facts without diluting them too much, which is just enough for kids to learn. A very good show.
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