In 10 Words or Less
Trying to make math fun
Loves: Good educational series
Likes: Good Nick Jr. series
Dislikes: Bluntly educational series
It's not as if breaking the fourth wall is anything new in kids TV, as I remember hoping to hear my name called during Magic Mirror time on Romper Room (only to suffer eternal disappointment). But it seems like in recent years, the use of direct address on kids shows has exploded, making young viewers feel more involved in the show than ever before. Team Umizoom, developed by several creators from fellow interactive Nickelodeon hit Blue's Clues, takes this to its logical end, making the viewer a part of the series' titular team, sporting the name UmiFriend. The viewer is called upon to help solve the show's math problems, and help the team complete each episode's quest.
Your teammates, Milli, Geo and Bot (who looks suspiciously similar to the Android operating system mascot), all boast "mighty math powers," which they put to good use to help others. Milli has pattern power, so she can control patterns, including camouflage, while Geo has shape powers, so he can build things from the shapes on his belt. (Bot's main skills are mechanical, most frequently seen in his belly-screen, where he displays intel.) Together, they cover the main bases of math, like identifying shapes, completing patterns and basic counting, with the lessons thinly veiled as steps along the way to success. To an older viewer, the education is pretty obvious, but it's fun enough to make learning about weights and such math matters an enjoyable path to the final celebratory song each episode.
Like many such shows, there's a lot of formula at work, but it's not like a series about math wouldn't have a lot of formula, would it? So each adventure starts and ends the same way, and, to be truthful, the middles feel pretty similar as well, but there's enough variety in the math to keep little ones interested, and the animation and design of the adorable main characters is bright, colorful and cute, keeping eyes on the screen, no matter how many times you identify the squares on-screen.
Though three of the episodes are from the show's first season, the fourth, "The Legend of the Blue Mermaid" is actually the most recent episode, and features a guest appearance by former American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, who plays the Blue Mermaid, and sings a song. Oddly, if I didn't tell you this, and you weren't aware of her voice, you'd have no idea about it, as it's not mentioned anyway. It's not as though she changes the dynamic of the series and lifts this episode to new heights, but normally when a celebrity of some acclaim makes a guest appearance on a series, especially one who might appeal to a wide swath of parents of young children, you at least mention it. But on the plus side, and which might mark a positive change in tactic, this is the second straight Nick DVD without a theme name, so there's none of that, why is this called that annoyance anymore.
A one-disc release in a standard keepcase with a cute mini-poster/"mission card", this DVD offers up four seemingly random episodes, sporting a static, full-frame menu, with options to play all the episodes, select shows and check out the extras. There are no audio options and no subtitles, though closed captioning is included.
Breaking with recent Paramount tradition, this disc actually presents its episodes in the format they're aired in, but that just means you're getting full-frame transfers. Everything looks fine, with bright, appropriate color and a clean, clear image, but the level of fine detail is a bit off during the live-action footage, after being spot-on for the rest of the show. There are no noticeable problems with compression artifacts, and, as it's computer animation, dirt and damage are no issues.
The audio is delivered via Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that are just what you'd expect, a balanced, right down the middle presentation. Everything sounds nice and clear, but you won't get anything dynamic out of it.
There's a small group of extras, but nothing that will swap your purchasing decision. Up first is "The Blue Mermaid Shapes Under the Sea Game", a set-top game with six unchanging questions about shapes. It's pretty simple and will only be played once because of that.
The game is followed by a trio of 30-second music videos, one for each member of the team, which are, in actuality, ads for the series. Nickelodeon sure seems to love re-purposing its commercials as supposed DVD content.
There's another extra that was in the DVD we received, but it may not be in every copy, and that's a free year's subscription to Parents magazine, which is a pretty nice offer.
The Bottom Line
There's honestly nothing bad I could say about this series, except that it won't endear itself to parents the way some other Nickelodeon shows do, as the focus is purely on the kiddies. That said, you're not getting much more than you would by taping a handful of currently airing episodes, so you have to weight the convenience against the purchase cost.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.