Sunday, July 19, 2009

PBS...a kid's show with some science

One wonders sometimes just how much science is really offered with a PBS kid's program. It was initially somewhat difficult to choose but I settled on a PBS program called Fetch which is a blend of animation and live action. This series is in part sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

Wikipedia offers this synopsis:

FETCH! is a reality-based game show where young contestants take on various challenges to gain points. During these challenges, the contestants must complete a variety of tasks assigned to them ahead of time (and on the fly) by Ruff and surrogates, depending on the situation. There is also an educational component, as contestants often must learn something (i.e. Astronomy, Carpentry, Food Science, Biology, etc) in order to complete the task.

Not all contestants leave the studio each episode to complete tasks. As determined usually by the Fetch 3000, the contestants who remain behind in the studio participate in the "Half-Time Quiz Show", in which Ruff asks them questions based on the activities of the contestants out on challenges (see below). Once the contestants complete the activities in the field to the best of their abilities, they return to the studio and Ruff tallies their points. A prize is awarded to the contestant with the most points. At the end of the season, a final point tally is conducted, with the winner of the tally being declared winner of that season.

Prizes are not always desirable, and sometimes the prize holder winds up with a "booby prize"; in Good Dancing and Bad Teeth, Anna and Brian had to dance a waltz in the studio. During the first season the contestant had the choice of keeping the prize, or giving it to a fellow contestant. In Season 2 and 3, there are two unknown prizes from which the winner chooses one. Usually, the prize is "mailed" to the mailbox in Studio G, although occasionally large prizes are hidden elsewhere on the set. In one season two episode Rosario gave the prize to Nina.

Out on challenges, contestants have the potential to earn up to 100 points. The contestants in the studio have a chance to win a maximum of 50 points in the Half-Time Quiz Show in which they have to answer 10 questions about events during the challenges. Each question is worth 5 points. They have a total of 90 seconds (for Season 3 it was reduced to 60 seconds) to answer all the questions, as well as a time limit on each question. They can pass on the question and return to it if time permits. Usually, there is also a Fetch Fairness Guarantee, which states that every contestant will have had an equal number of challenges (usually 13) and quiz shows (usually 6) before the final episode. Additionally, there are between 5 and 10 "Bone-us" points (sometimes 15 or 20 points) available for one or two stand-out contestants. On rare occasions, such as an episode with a colonial theme, there is the possibility to earn more than 100 points (outside of any bonuses).

Now, the episode I viewed was rather cool dealing with two legendary places: Dogtopia and Catlantis in "The Mystery of Dogtopia and Catlantis". Ruff sends all the FETCHers to Misery Island to solve the mystery of what happened between dogs and cats in the lost civilization of Dogtopia and Catlantis. Okay, where's the science. Well, there were two: A lesson in the use of pulleys and electromagnetism. Now I am sure that they were scripted to find science solutions to two perplexing problems and coincidence provided the necessary tools. Nevertheless, here is the entire episode in three parts.

"The Mystery of Dogtopia and Catlantis"

June 5th, 2007

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

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