Anyone who’s seen the book series Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty knows that it’s one of the few kids series that totally embraces STEM topics, drawing kids in with how fun they are. Now, Chris Nee, creator of Doc McStuffins, has teamed with the Obamas’ Higher Ground Productions to make a TV adaptation of the series.
Opening Shot: Ada Twist, Scientist (Amanda Christine) wakes up, pets the cat, puts on her clothes and wakes up her mother (Susan Kelechi Watson). Ada wonders why she wakes up at the same time every day. She thinks she’ll have to make an experiment to figure it out.
The Gist: Ada asks a lot of questions, but she thinks like most scientific minds do: If you break down the improbable into small chunks and ask the little questions first, the big answers will become apparent. In the house with Mom Twist, Dad Twist (Taye Diggs) and her brother Arthur (Terrence Little Gardenheigh), Ada is always searching for the answers to her questions.
Arthur is just happy that he created a fort outside that’s not only structurally sound, but the perfect place to play by himself. But Ada and her buddies — Iggy Peck, Architect (Nicholas Crovetti) and Rosie Revere, Engineer (Candace Kozak) — want to get in there to play. They try to figure out just how many kids, adults and goldfish would fit in there, just by looking at it. Ada proposes that if they can open the latch from across the yard, Arthur has to let them in. Arthur thinks it’s impossible, but the three friends create a chain reaction contraption to make the improbable probable; they even make changes when things don’t work the first time.
In the second segment, Ada, Rose and Izzy try to figure out why the birdfeeder has no water in it. At first, Arthur is accused of not filling it, then the cat. But during a “trial” presided over by Mom, Ada looks to clear the cat’s good name, while demonstrating why evaporation might be a factor.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Because Chris Nee developed the popular Ada Twist, Scientist book and the other books in Andrea Beaty’s series about kids and STEM, its look and feel hews pretty close to Nee’s most famous creation, Disney’s Doc McStuffins.
Our Take: Nee created Ada Twist, Scientist along with Michelle and Barack Obama’s Higher Ground Productions, so there’s a pedigree there that lets parents know that the show is going to be fun and informative. And like Doc McStuffins, Ada Twist is a girl that is unafraid to get involved in some very un-kid-like things. This time, it’s using the scientific method to answer all those little questions she has about life.
The show isn’t trying to obscure its “science is fun” message behind other story elements, though: Ada and her friends use their respective interests and skills to figure problems out without guessing or using anything mystical or magical. Iggy Peck designs; Rosie Revere builds. And after each animated segment, Ada introduces the audience to a real-life scientist.
It’s an admirable goal, and if your kid has any interest in science, this show should give them the impetus to look into some of the experiments that Ada and her friends are doing.
What Age Group Is This For?: The show is rated TV-Y, so kids of all ages should enjoy it. We think the science will really make an impact on kids that are 5 and up.
Parting Shot: The “12 Angry Birds” who didn’t have water in their feeder are “12 Happy Birds” now that Ada has figured out why.
Sleeper Star: Maybe we shouldn’t have found out that Mom Twist is played by Watson, one of our favorite actors right now. When we hear Mom talk, all we envision is a stressed out Beth Pearson now.
Most Pilot-y Line: None we could find.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Ada Twist, Scientist expands on the book series by making a kid who loves science fun and relatable to kids of all ages.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.