A quartet of clever tweens solve mysteries in this cute Australian import.
Usually I'm glad that my kids still watch cartoons, because so many live-action kid shows are just cringe-worthy. The InBESTigators is a breath of fresh air in comparison: sweet, clean, clever, light-hearted comedy at its best.
The InBESTigators are four fifth-grade friends who solve mysteries around their school and town. Unlike the crazy hijinks of Project MC2, the "crimes" here are all very grounded and kid-friendly: a kid cheating in a track-and-field contest, deliveries missing from a neighbor's porch, a sabotaged science project. Each bite-sized mystery occupies half of a 30-minute episode, perfect for young kids' attention spans.
A cute framing device cuts between three timelines: the kids talking about the mystery in their video blog, the main scenes of them solving the mystery, and flashbacks to the "crime" showing what really happened as they recall clues and figure things out. This all combines in a perfect balance that makes it clear how the kids arrived at their final solution, without giving away the answer too easily. The writing is clever and witty; the video blog in particular is filled with hilarious deadpan commentary.
The best part of the show is the characters. All four of them act like real kids, each with their own distinctive personalities and balanced interests. Ezra is a tech-wiz and math geek, but also an ambitious entrepreneur. Ava is a social butterfly who loves parties and cooking, but also participates in the school's 'future leaders' group and mock town hall. Kyle is a little too close to the "dumb jock" stereotype for my liking, but he's so darn sweet and earnest that you can't help but cheer whenever he does figure something out. He even helps win the math contest! Lastly there's Maudie, whose brilliant observational skills and intuition are the key to most of the mysteries. The way she's written strongly hints that she's on the autistic spectrum, but her friends never judge her or try to put a label on her. She's just Maudie, and that's awesome.
The kids exemplify great teamwork and problem-solving skills. They really care about each other, their fellow classmates, and their neighbors. My favorite episode is the one where Kyle, Ava and Ezra see how upset Maudie is after losing her special notebook, and drop everything to help her find it.
The show's creators told the Sydney Morning Herald, "One of the reasons we made the show was as a response to the world we're living in, which is increasingly us and them...We felt that if you just start from the ground up, with a bunch of kids and you put ethnic diversity and gender equity and respect and integrity and kindness in there, you can maybe foster something else in a kid when they're growing up."
A worthwhile goal. I'd like to hope they succeeded!
And it's just cute to see my kids picking up Aussie slang.
InBESTigators is currently streaming on Netflix.
- Princess Power:
- Bechdel Test: Pass
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