Blaze and the Monster Machines, on Nickjr, is one of the shows I feel no guilt what so ever about letting my son watch. He loves it, and, as an adult, for me, it has no annoying side effects. The gist of the show is that Blaze, a Monster Truck can turn into other vehicles depending on the needs of subject of the show. His best friend AJ drives him and every episode is a lesson about math or science. Though the cars talk, it is not like the movie Cars, which I always found a little creepy as none of the cars had drivers and seemed to live based on a non-specific set of ideas that simply populated the world with living vehicles. It was like that Stephen King story about the day mechanical things took over the world, but this time there are smiles, education, and no Emilio Estevez.
Each episode is broken down the same. There is an objective or quest that results in Blaze and his friends needing to use math or science to complete it. They include the viewer every step of the way so that whatever young person is watching has a chance to figure out the problems and use the information they are being taught. For instance, in one episode Blaze and his friends find a map that would lead them to The Wishing Wheel, a magic steering wheel that will allow them to wish for anything they want. In order to get to the end of the map they must first figure out how to get past a huge loop da loop, crocodiles, and a giant stone snake that are all part of the track they are on. The only way to get past them is to use centrifugal force. For the loop it is gaining enough speed to go upside down, for the crocodiles is using centrifugal force in a tunnel to avoid the non-threatening beasts, and for the snake, being trapped in its coil, and having to get enough speed to spin around the coil and shoot out the top.
The things I love about Blaze are many, first let’s talk about AJ. Of all the shows my son watches this is one of the only ones, where the character he would relate to, is a person of color. Now the doesn’t do much with that, but just the fact that he is a kid of a different race means something, and I appreciate the fact that the choice was even made. It could have easily been a white kid. We are always looking for ways to put more diversity into what our son watches and this is a great starting place, other shows should take notice.
The lessons are always great and include a snappy pop song that is all about whatever the subject is. I have to be honest that I think the songs are so good that the lesson gets a little lost, but that doesn’t seem to stop my son from walking away with the information, so maybe that is just me being a grown up. Last but not least, inclusivity. Blaze is one of the most inclusive shows my son watches. In each episode my kid is made to feel like he is going on this journey with the characters in the show. Like many of the preschool age shows they allow him time to sort out the problems and learn the lessons with everyone in the show. I think this is especially important as it makes it easier for him to learn and the lessons to have greater meaning to him. He is not just watching, he is participating, and that always makes learning easier.