Show offers great projects poorly presented


New PBS show has infomercial feel


There is something very cool about making great things with the stuff you have lying around the house.

MacGyver understood. That's why we loved him. That clever TV guy could solve global warming and cook dinner all with just a pocket knife and a few pieces of wire.

John and Danita Thomas are the MacGyvers of kids crafts. They can take a Ziploc plastic bag, milk, sugar, ice, vanilla and salt-shaken, not stirred-and voila, ice cream in a bag.

The couple have four kids and four award-winning books, Kid Concoctions. The two appear regularly on QVC, HGTV and have done the talk show circuit as well.

Now comes their new national PBS series, "Kid Concoctions," based on the books. It will debut on WTTW-Channel 11 on Aug. 16.

They teach you how to make cool things for just pennies-cool things that retail for big bucks in the stores. Their "concoctions" are the homemade version of the stuff that kids will really love to not only make but to use as well, such as water balloon yo-yos, baking-soda-and-vinegar-powered boats, treasure rocks and sidewalk spray paint.

As I watched the three 20-minute segments we were sent to review, I was just mesmerized by what these people could make with dishwashing soap, cornstarch and glue. They put MacGyver to shame. These are projects even the most craft-challenged among us could and would do.

These two make great things. You just wish they could make a great TV show, because this isn't that.

"Kid Concoctions" has the look and feel of an infomercial. John keeps telling us how much money we are going to save. And while saving money is good, the cumulative effect is a bit much. The show also had the same effect on me as an infomercial-it made me want to buy the books.

The show goes against the grain of a lot of the things you might think are normal Channel 11 fare. It's a rather cheesy production and certainly does not fit into the Saturday morning kids' programming block, where it is scheduled to run on its preview days.

Kids expecting "Angelina Ballerina" will not be pleased. They might be intrigued by the projects, but aren't likely to be moved by the presentation.

The show is marketed to kids ages 4-16, but it seems no one told John and Danita. They talk to adults, not kids, saying repeatedly, "Kids will love this" rather than the inclusive, "you will love this." They should take their projects and hand them over to the very able kids at "ZOOM."

On some projects, you get enough details to complete the project on your own-such as the gooey gunk funny putty that glows in the dark. But they move through others so quickly that there is no time to figure out the recipe unless you have pen and paper-or a truly amazing memory.

You're just gonna have to buy the book.

I was disappointed. But it doesn't mean you won't get a lot of great ideas. But if you want to actually do them the next time the kids say they're bored, you'll have to buy the books at

The show will air on Aug. 16 and 24.

-- Susy Schultz


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