There is a lot of mindless garbage on television these days and while some of this entertaining drivel certainly serves a purpose, you can expand your horizons through some selective channel surfing. Contrary to popular belief, it is very possible to find educational TV shows that are also entertaining and fun. Here are five of my personal favourites.
There are many things that you may assume to be common knowledge, but many of these supposed “facts” aren’t true at all. You can tune in through the Discovery Channel to learn about exploding sharks, the bacteria on your toothbrush, and how to beat radar detectors. Alternatively, you can find Mythbusters on DVD to watch the episodes at your leisure. There’s so much to learn! Trivial knowledge is, arguably, the best kind of knowledge.
The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan
Even though I may not be a dog owner myself, I feel that we have a lot to learn from the Dog Whisperer. Cesar Millan says that he rehabilitates dogs and he trains people, because it is never Fido’s fault. Through the Dog Whisperer, we learn not only how to best interact with our canine companions, but also about the importance of being calm, assertive and balanced.
I found that many of the training techniques that Cesar employs on the show can also help you interact with dogs who aren’t your own. My friend’s dog has a habit of “wandering” when she goes for a walk, so I used some of the techniques described by The Dog Whisperer when I took Phoebe for a walk. She very quickly learned to stay by my side and not to go bounding off on her own. You may also learn how to best handle the aggressive dogs in your neighbourhood.
The Dog Whisperer can be found on the National Geographic Channel.
House Hunters International
Some people say that one of the best places for you to invest your money is in real estate. Some people say that one of the best places to spend your money is on international travel. House Hunters International effectively approaches both of these areas of interest, walking us through the process of buying a home in many locations around the world.
You may recall that real estate is one of my little known interests, so this show is a natural fit. I learn a lot about what to look for when buying a house, as well as some of the regional differences when it comes to buying a home. Choosing a loft in New York City isn’t the same as looking for a villa in rural Spain.
House Hunters International, as well as related shows like Property Virgins, can be found on HGTV.
The Deadliest Warrior
Who would win in a fight between William Wallace and Shaka Zulu? What would happen if the Italian Mafia faced off against the Japanese Yakuza? The Deadliest Warrior simulates these battles that never happened in real life and never could have happened. There is even an episode featuring the legendary Spartans made famous in the movie 300.
In this show, which you can find on Spike TV, they equip these historical warriors with the weapons that they would have used at the time. For example, the Spartan was given a short sword, shield, spear, and javelin in his simulated battle against the Ninja, who was given a ninjato, black egg, shuriken, blowgun, and kusarigama. They test the relative effectiveness and simulate 1000 battles to see who is the deadliest warrior. Very cool.
This television show happens to occupy a very special spot on this list, because it happens to be the only one that is fictional. Whereas the other shows are very much meant to be educational, House is a medical drama. That does not mean that you have nothing to learn from this show, however, and that’s partly why it’s one of my must-watch shows on television today.
Yes, part of the appeal has to do with the cold, calculating, and cynical nature of the show’s title character. The educational side is definitely there too, teaching us about part of the medical diagnostic process, a myriad of different conditions, and some of the ethical issues that may arise along the way. You can find many of the seasons on DVD if you need to catch up. Otherwise, the show is syndicated on Fox.
Do you have any favourite educational TV shows? I think that Jeopardy! could make the list too, but its lack of depth and discussion explain why it didn’t make the cut for me.