Unnatural History is Cartoon Network’s first live action original series. It’s the story of Henry Griffin (Kevin G. Schmidt) a teenager who with anthropologist parents has lived all around the world and learned a lot from other cultures who after causing trouble is sent to live in Washington D.C. with his uncle/high school principal (Martin Donovan) and his cousin (Jordan Gavaris). The high school is part of the National Museum Complex (a Smithsonian copy basically) where all sorts of interesting exhibits can be found. Henry along with his cousin and their friend/love interest Maggie (Italia Ricci) get into all sorts of trouble while exploring mysteries of the past and present using the museum.
At first this seems like a weak Warehouse 13 ripoff, but it’s not. They’re not chasing after lost artifacts and the show is packed with a lot less comedy and is less, well, good. The thing about Unnatural History that really bothers me is that it doesn’t seem to fit an audience. It seems too young skewing for adults and teenagers yet too adult for kids. Also I find myself questioning why this is the show Cartoon Network selected to be their first live-action series. I’ve always thought of CN as skewing towards an older audience, certainly it’s celebrated for its Adult Swim, which is most definitely adults only, but also they’ve always aired lots of older cartoons that adults and teenagers would probably enjoy just as much, if not more than kids. But this seems to be a kids show. Oddly placed at 8pm on Sundays. I feel like I’d have a better understanding if they were trying to show this on NBC at 8am on a Saturday.
But anyway my issues about audience and network choices aside this show is still lacking. It feels like it’s trying to be educational at times but yet there’s still too much fantasy for any of the education to really get across. Also my big problem is that the main character of Henry seems to have unlimited powers and knowledge that are exactly perfect for whatever predicament he’s in that he learned from somewhere he lived at some point. The character doesn’t have enough weakness for there to ever be any real feeling of danger or tension. Ricci is really cute though. Just had to stick that in there.
If you have a kid this may be worth checking out with them to see if they’re into it, but otherwise this would be safe to skip.