Anne: I’m a scientist. I like studying the world! And stuff.
That there might just be the most cogent definition of ‘scientist’ ever made, and it came from the mouth of a 11-year-old girl who builds giant robots androids in her spare time.
Annedroids, the brainchild of JJ Johnson, is a new educational series on Amazon Prime geared towards the ages 6-to-9 crowd. The show blends live action with CGI, featuring the titular Anne (Addison Holley) and her assistants Nick (Jadiel Dowlin) and the scene-stealing Shania (Adrianna Di Liello) with cyber-creations Hand, Eyes and the very humanlike Pal. Though I’m not exactly a TV critic, I was offered the chance to sneak a free peak at its first three episodes. And I’m a huge fan.
Billed as equal parts science and adventure, I couldn’t help but be reminded of such shows as Bill Nye: The Science Guy and Beakman’s World while watching Annedroids, especially in its use of high energy hijinks mixed along with scientific facts and concepts; by the first fifteen minutes, the word ‘hypothesis’ had already been concisely explained. To hold a comparison for too long would be selling Annedroids short though. While Bill and its ilk presented itself as a classroom (a fantasical and bombastic one, mind you), Annedroids plants itself firmly with a flowing narrative and a fully realized world; one where the solutions to problems aren’t handed down by a man in a bowtie and blue lab coat but discovered upon by the characters themselves, with an emphasis on deductive reasoning and logic.
Beginning with the arrival of newly moved-in Nick and his mom across from Anne’s junkyard/android engineering bay, the show runs at a frenetic but never frantic pace, and the protagonists – human and android – are all imbued with discernable personalities by the time the third episode rolls around. It doesn’t caricature them nor talk down to its audience. The kids are clever, capable and curious, even the ones who aren’t Tony Starks in the making. And it’s buoyed by realistic – and funny – dialogue*, cool-looking setpieces and impressively designed androids that anyone would love to build if they could.
More than that, it’s the subtle choices the show makes and doesn’t make that really impressed me. Its title character is a genius engineer who doesn’t once reflect on her gender; Nick is the black kid of a single mom and there’s not a damn thing wrong with it; Shania is eccentric but indomitably quick-witted and isn’t poked fun at for not knowing an answer. Oh, and Pal is an android who hasn’t decided its gender, and might never, and that’s totally cool by everyone else! I can’t think of the last time a piece of media so easily dealt with the concept of gender identity – hell the New Yorker can’t even do it right – and it’s from a kid’s show to boot. (I’m told that a same-sex pairing is seen in later episodes and is as similarly and nonchalantly presented)
These are distinctions the show never dwells on and it’s a failing of our checkered track records as adults that it’s even noteworthy to see them here. But noteworthy and optimistic it is, and I really hope the show gets to have a long shelf-life so that the next generation will look back on it as fondly as us millennials do with Bill Nye. Then again, all of us, big and small, could put the lessons it teaches to good use. (A second season looks to already be in production)
All seven episodes of Annedroids are now available on Amazon’s streaming service.