Odd SquadSpring 2017 Television
This live-action half-hour program for elementary-aged kids starts with a winning premise and then goes on to execute it with fun scripting and exceptional production value. The Odd Squad is a kid-run agency that fights oddities in the form of unexplained happenings and sinister criminals (well, silly and sinister criminals). The agents' weapon of choice to solve their problems? Mathematics! They use high-order thinking skills such as reasoning, data analysis, and pattern recognition; and concepts such as numerical relations, greater than/less than, mapping; whatever mathematical concept it takes to get the job done! Each half-hour episode has two separate stories, with additional interstitials called "Odd Squad Training Videos," providing further explanation of a particular concept. Partners, and Odd Squad agents, Olympia and Otis are the leads but a cast of other bright-minded agents also take part in the problem-solving.
In the episode titled "And Then They Were Puppies," sight-gags reach impressive new levels as the evil Puppy Master turns Odd Squad agents into dogs dressed in Odd Squad uniforms. The human actors provide voice-overs as we see puppies ranging from bulldogs to miniature terriers scampering around Odd Squad headquarters, attempting to use the high-tech gadgetry that will guide the only still-human agent in the field to the Puppy Master's evil lair so they can all be restored to normal. Mapping is the math concept of choice in this episode and kids will certainly remember the lesson given the dog paws pointing out the key concepts!
In "Drop Gadget Repeat," another agent drags Olympia and Otis into a time loop with her but the time-travel gadget that will help them stop the loop gets broken. It calls for some tricky arithmetic to figure out how to repair the gadget using pieces from other devices. In "20 Questions," strange things are occurring at headquarters. The agents are all moving backwards, and even talking backwards. It turns out criminal Backwards Bob has burst a "backwards bubble" at Odd Squad headquarters but interrogating him is limited to a 20-questions/yes-or-no format. The agents must reason through the questions that will lead them to the information they seek in the most efficient questions and they realize a number line is the perfect tool to help them do that.
And in a two-part episode titled "Oscar Strikes Back," scientists gather for Lab-Con at the Odd Squad Academy but one of the speakers isn't what he seems and uses a mind-control gadget on the attendees, planning to use them to take control of Odd Squad. To break through the mind control, Agent Oona tries to make a new device from existing gadgets, a process that requires understanding place values and addition.
Kudos to the kids for their acting ability, striking a fun tongue-in-cheek tone that both pays homage to, and pokes a little fun at, the spy and crime-fighting genre. Special effects are fun but not over-the-top, and the math concepts get additional explanations in the form of graphics, revisited multiple times in each story so kids have a chance to absorb the educational content.
Odd Squad does what it promises and it does it well. Kids will come for the comedy and happily dine on the mathematics lessons baked into the show.