“Genius Junior” Review

Set Design- 9
Gameplay- 9
Show Flow- 8
Potential Viewer Ratings- 8
Play-Along Factor- 9
Host- 8
Overall Rating- 8.5

Episode Premise: Two teams of three contestants compete against each other in a series of four mentally challenging rounds. In each timed round, teammates take turns answering questions worth one point each with no penalties for incorrect answers. During the game, teams may elect a “Super Brain”, or one teammate to face a round on their own to increase the chances of answering more questions correctly. The team with the highest score at the end of the fourth round advances to The Cortex end game.

In The Cortex, each member of the winning team is placed in three different zones and have three minutes to answer 12 questions correctly. The first zone is worth $3,000 per question and requires three correct answers to advance, the second zone is worth $4,000 per question and requires four correct answers to advance, and the third zone is worth $5,000 per question and requires five correct answers to advance. Answering 12 questions correctly add $100,000 into the team’s prize fund.

Tournament Premise: Twelve teams of three young geniuses face each other for the first six episodes. The winners move on to the semi-finals for a chance to earn a spot in the finals. The team who wins the final episode earns the “Genius Junior Grant”, which is total prize fund they have accrued in multiple bonus rounds.

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Review: Ever since I was a child tuning into Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, I enjoyed watching kids game shows like Double Dare, GUTS, Legends of the Hidden Temple and Mad Libs. As I matured and started watching reruns and new episodes of shows similar to the aforementioned ones, my appreciation for kids game shows grew because of how awesome it is to see young children show off their physical, mental and intellectual abilities for cash prizes and cool trips. Game shows like Quiz Kids Challenge, Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? and Battle of The Child Geniuses places kids in a more serious quizzing environment with tougher questions and thousands of dollars more in cash at stake. Even when placed under the intense pressures of the primetime spotlight, these kids amazingly exhibit their wide range of knowledge. The similar clever caliber of kids can be seen on Genius Junior.

Watching these wunderkinds brilliantly display there rapier witticism, acute memory skills and sharp calculating abilities is an absolute joy. In today’s world where education and learning just for the sake and love of learning at an academic level is ostensibly not as encouraged as it should be, it’s refreshing to see how knowledgable these cerebral children are at such a young age and how eager and enthusiastic they are to expand their minds. Although these adolescent contestants are playing for five-/six-figure grand cash prizes, the focus is more on the kids competing against each other in exciting games filled with agonizing mental workouts and mind-bending, MENSA-level questions.

Shifting to the gameplay, the format has four unchanging games for the front game: Human GPS, Number Cruncher, Talking Dictionary and Memory Master. Although I have no issues with the individual rounds. I would like to see more mini-games thrown into the rotation in future episodes, should the show be renewed for a second season. Some of the new games could include a quickfire speciality subject or general knowledge round in addition to the flurry of memory-based challenges already in play.

The most interesting round of the front game is Memory Master. This is perhaps the most difficult round of the show. It seems as if the teammates have to memorize the cards in at least four patterns, including based on how the teammates are arranged and remembering all 52 cards in sequential order. This round takes a tremendous amount of concentration and focus. Memory Master also poses as a great catch-up round considering the massive amount of points teams could accumulate, nearly rendering the first three rounds useless.

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My personal favorite rounds are Number Crunch and The Cortex end game. Number Crunch is one of the relatively easier rounds in the front game to play along with, especially if you enjoy doing mental math questions just for kicks. I wonder if the contestants were able to see the equations on the hexagonal big screen, they would have had to solve each tough problem using the PEMDAS method – but I digress. The Cortex round is fast-paced, frenetic and fun to play along with as well. It reminds me of the same puzzles featured in speedy brain exercise games like Brain Challenge, Big Brain Academy or BBC’s Beat The Brain end game.

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Perhaps the most important element of a kids game show is finding the right host. For this type of show, the emcee has to be funny, encouraging, enthusiastic and more sensitive because the young contestants might take losing more personally than adult contestants. Neil Patrick Harris checks all the boxes in taking the helm of this series. He has great command of the show and exhibits the ideal amount levity for a game show like this where kids might be feeling more pressure because of their intellectual stature added to the fact they have arduously and tirelessly trained for the daunting challenges Genius Junior has to offer.

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My only criticisms of the NBC game show are the obvious voiceover audio edits by Harris and the ostensible lack of consolation prizes for losing teams. I see no reason why runners-up should not receive a college scholarship worth at least $5,000.

Overall, Genius Junior is a terrific, feel-good primetime series that features competitive young geniuses who yearn for knowledge and great gameplay. This is the type of family-friendly game show that could inspire young viewers to become more excited about school, learning and broadening their eager, developing minds. you may have seen on game shows like American Gladiators or The American Bible Challenge, the bracket tournament-style season format is a great way to retain weekly viewership and keep audiences interested in this show. The potential top prize, which could be worth over $200,000, is incredible and appropriate for a primetime kids game show. Once the first ten-episode season concludes, I believe NBC will renew Genius Junior for a second season.

Stay tuned for new episodes of Genius Junior every Sunday at 9:00pm on NBC! Check out episodes of Genius Junior on NBC.com. Screenshots taken from episodes of Genius Junior.
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