‘Weird But True!’ is back to explore our wonderfully weird world

Carly Ciarrocchi and Charlie Engelman don’t just talk about Science: they live it. As hosts of the children’s science show Weird But True!, they live, pursue and explain Science in the quirkiest, most unexpected ways that a production team can wangle: from flying a real Second World War biplane to looking at the solar system up close, in a makeshift set. Ask them which of their adventures have been more popular, and Charlie says over a Zoom call from the US, “In season one, the episode where we went diving with a bunch of bull sharks; and a lot of people reacted positively to our tree episode where we climbed giant sequoias – some of the tallest trees in the world.”

Their upcoming season, which released earlier this week, is less about the quirky and more about the familiar and relatable. This happened purely by accident.

“We wrapped up production on this show a week before the world went into lockdown. But a lot of the episodes and the topics are really relatable right now. We have an episode on germs, where we talk about how viruses and bacteria are passed around. We do an episode where we sequester ourselves in a ‘Martian habitat’ on a volcano in Hawaii, which is pretty isolated. Even our episode on explorers, that talks about exploring your own backyard: suddenly a lot of things are very relatable because times are so different.”

Adds Carly, “Since so many parents and educators are looking to offer kids dynamic education and entertainment, I think this show will be a uniquely suited offering. It will allow them to see the world around them in a new way, and also to go to places that nobody can travel to right now. To have adventures that are a little bit harder to have — in any circumstance, but especially right now. Even though we didn’t intend to set people up for this moment in time, we accidentally made something that is extra special for right now.”

‘Weird But True!’ is back to explore our wonderfully weird world

The season, which features 13 episodes of 25 minutes each, features a range of topics, from scuba diving, to cooking, to dinosaurs.

Says Charlie, “Each episode follows the same format: we start in our basement where we start learning about something, then go on an epic field trip to explore that topic, and then come back home to apply it to the world around us.”

Clearly, there are challenges to creating a show like this, including keeping scientific concepts clear and simple for the young audience. Charlie, who is part of the writing team, says, “It takes a lot of skill. The way we think of it, is not in terms of ‘dumbing it down’, but in terms of journalism: they say you have to write to a VI-grade level of knowledge, and if you make sense to that age group, you make sense to everyone. It’s difficult because we can go down the wormhole [of neverending information] so fast, especially because it’s Science. For example how do you explain electromagnetism without talking about electron orbitals, or what exactly an electron is?”

The lessons here exist outside the realms of Science, as well. For instance, one of Carly’s favourite experiences in the coming season is becoming scuba-certified for an underwater episode. “The idea of breathing underwater is not something that makes me feel calm. We were able to weave in that experience and that character arc into the episode — and show the kids that you can be nervous about something new and yet be excited about it, and come out on the other side successfully.”

Adds Charlie, “The thing that I like most about the show is that we get positive feedback from everybody: not just kids. Parents say their kids like it; college professors say they like it; old people and young people like it.”

In India, the show can be watched on Disney+ Hotstar Premium.

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2020 2:38:13 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/weird-but-true-is-back-to-explore-our-wonderfully-weird-world/article32385245.ece

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