A ”CSI” for the younger set
(Discovery Kids, Sat. at 6 p.m. EST)
Abby and Ty Archer are a sometimes-feuding brother-and-sister team of ”grossologists” — that is, agents who specialize in finding out the sources of some pretty gross bodily functions. In the premiere episode of this animated series, they battle head lice that spreads like wildfire through Ringworm Junior High. Through their efforts and frequent visits to the Lab Rat — a super-geek who spends his time creating all sorts of antidotes and concoctions — we learn all about eggs and nits and how lice get in your hair follicles (it made my son itch just watching it). Of course, the cause of the lice epidemic is not simply shared hats (that would be way too boring, and this is called drama, people); it had something to do with an evil bug lady bent on world (or at least, junior high school) domination. In another segment, the duo battle the big D — diarrhea — caused by parasites in the water we drink (or secretly lasered onto cops by criminals who want to rob a bank). It not only wreaks havoc in the town, but almost costs Abby her part as Dorothy in the school’s Wizard of Oz production.
If your middle-schooler is pestering you to watch CSI, here’s the next best thing. Future episodes will deal with various bodily gasses (”Fartzilla”), mutant hagfish, slime, and the fascinating world of termites. Grossology provides a great gross-out experience with a pleasant science-lesson side effect. B+ —Eileen Clarke
Recommended ages: 4 and up
The Naked Brothers Band
(Nickelodeon; movie premieres Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. EST; series premieres Feb. 3 at 8:30 p.m. EST)
If you’re reading this column, chances are that you’re a parent (or a really cool aunt or uncle looking for birthday ideas), and for parents, there’s one universal belief: All of us think our kids are cute/smart/appealing enough to have their own television shows, right? Now the follow-up to that query: Should they have their own television shows? Consider the case of Nat and Alex Wolff, whose mom is Polly Draper, the writer/director/executive producer of The Naked Brothers Band. You may remember Draper as the overwrought Ellyn from the hit series thirtysomething. Inspired by true-life experiences, Draper tells the tale of her boys’ creating a band (they started it in preschool), and how that band broke up because her older son wanted to sing a love song. While those boys are cute, precocious, and talented musicians, the show has a kind of rudderless kids-in-charge, parents-are-pretty-much-boobs vibe to it that makes me want to send everyone involved straight to Supernanny. She certainly wouldn’t approve of kids trashing a radio or consuming can after can of lemon-lime soda (okay, Alex ”suddenly” changes his beverage of choice to milk). And I don’t know that a lot of parents would want their offspring copping the attitude that passes for cool here. Mercifully, Draper leaves herself physically out of the show, but her stamp indelibly remains. C —EC
By Brent Runyon
I’m coming a month or two late to this beautifully wrought novel from the author of The Burn Journals, but it’s taking some time to immerse myself in the YA world. And once I’d finished Maybe, Runyon’s first novel, aimed at older teens, I knew I didn’t want to leave it out of this column.
Brian’s brother has died in a car accident, and now the family is moving. At the last moment, before the car pulls away, he runs back inside and wrests a sign off his brother’s door:
”…he made [it] in Shop class. The word Maybe carved into the wood. It’s stuck on the door with some heavy-duty adhesive. Mom told me to leave it because she didn’t want to ruin the door. F— that. I tear it off, and some of the paint with it. I just want to have something.”
Life in a new town — and at a new high school, where no one knows about his brother — is more daunting and painful than Brian, 16, could have ever imagined. He’s a pretty ordinary kid, obsessed by the usual teen issues (in other words, girls), but navigating his way through adolescence is tough with the spectre of his brother hovering in the background. It takes a while, but he and his parents finally begin to reconnect, and Brian begins to figure out, sort of, who he is. Told entirely in his voice, Maybe comes off as both sweet and raw, and completely real. A —Tina Jordan
Recommended ages: Older teens
What do you do when you hate what your daughter is reading? Click here to see what EW’s books editor Tina Jordan thinks.