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In this reality-TV era of smash-hit shows like “Teen Mom,” “TMZ” and “Finding Bigfoot,” I’m pretty certain I’m not the only one who has spent hours channel surfing in search of a good show to watch. Without sounding too much like my mother, I think we’ve all shared the opinion that there aren’t many educational and interesting shows on cable TV these days.

Back in the day, it seemed that we had more options of informative news shows. The other night, I was glued to my television while soaking up CNN’s “This is Life with Lisa Ling.” After watching it, it made me wonder: Where did all of the good shows go? This show inspired me to do a little research and come up with this list of my top 10 educational shows worth watching on TV.

Who Do You Think You Are

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I’m a genealogy enthusiast, and this is one of the coolest shows I’ve seen in a while. This TLC series, which began in 2010, lets viewers peek into the family histories of popular celebrities such as Spike Lee, Susan Sarandon, Emmitt Smith and Brooke Shields. These real-life stories unfold with great revelations since the featured celebrities typically are unfamiliar with their ancestors’ stories.

Watch this show because it makes genealogy come alive by revealing provocative stories and facts.

The biggest take-away is that viewers get valuable tips and steps to take to research their own ancestry. Viewers learn how to utilize historians and city records to learn more about themselves and their families.

Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown

10 Educational TV Shows Worth Watching - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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This CNN series teaches you about tasty, exotic food and interesting cultures around the world. Well known chef and author Anthony Bourdain takes viewers on a quest to find great food. Bourdain visits remote parts of the world and reveals the best and worst aspects of traveling and sampling unfamiliar foods. (I can’t help but wonder whether he gets sick after trying very non-appetizing-looking dishes at times.)

This series, which began airing in 2013, takes you everywhere from Myanmar and Thailand to Morocco and Jamaica. Bourdain interviews local cooks and chefs to reveal their food preparation secrets and to learn about the central role that popular dishes play in each culture. You never know what you’ll learn on this show – like how to make Korean “army stew.”

The Doctors

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This daily CBS talk show stars the handsome Dr. Travis Stork, Dr. Rachael Ross, Dr. Andrew Ordon, Dr. Jennifer Berman and Dr. Jennifer Ashton. The show began in 2008 and explores news-making medical stories, cutting-edge health discoveries and wellness tips. Every episode grabs your attention by breaking down health and science reports into easy-to-understand chunks.

Viewers will be wowed and enlightened by listening to guests share their stories about unusual health conditions and afflictions. I couldn’t stop watching when a recent show featured a woman who was addicted to eating chalk!? The show is a great way to learn the warning signs and symptoms of a wide variety of health conditions.

Wild Kratts

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Wild Kratts is a wonderful animated and live action series that airs on PBS Kids. The show began airing in 2010 and teaches kids about biology, zoology, ecology and more. The show primarily uses animals to explain science as well as growing environmental problems such as deforestation and global warming.

Your child will join brothers Chris and Martin Kratt as they travel the globe on age-appropriate, educational adventures. The show has even captured never-before-seen wildlife moments with animals like proboscis monkeys and Draco lizards.

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?

10 Educational TV Shows Worth Watching - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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This show literally takes you back to your formative years for a chance to win $1,000,000 in cash prizes. I’m not sure exactly who thought up this quiz show, which is hosted by Joe Foxworthy on the Fox network. Every episode features one contestant who attempts to correctly answer 10 questions and a bonus question with the assistance of a school-age child. All of the trivia questions have been taken straight from elementary school books.

Sounds easy, right? Wrong. Apparently most contestants are not smarter than a fifth grader since only two people have won the big jackpot since the show began airing in 2009. Watching this show is an easy and fun way to sharpen your knowledge of physics, math, geography and more.

Monsters Inside Me

10 Educational TV Shows Worth Watching - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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This compelling Animal Planet documentary series has been on air since 2010. Viewers will watch in amazement as the series recounts real stories about parasites that can live on or inside the human body. Each episode explains how the victim became infected and their journey to get rid of their parasite.

Although you may be a little grossed out, every episode outlines the lifecycle and details of a different parasite. More importantly, you’ll learn how to avoid contracting these often deadly pests. This show provides many lessons about the havoc parasites can cause and the common misdiagnoses that victims receive from doctors. Watch at your own risk!

Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday

10 Educational TV Shows Worth Watching - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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After 25 years of hosting “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Lady O partners with many spiritual teachers, authors and experts on her OWN Network to teach lessons and principles to help guide people through life. She and her guests explore a wide variety of topics, including the secret to happiness, the definition of love, and how to heal after loss. Oprah’s guests range from spiritual author Deepak Chopra to feminist icon Gloria Steinem. I’ll guess that, like me, you’ll be inspired by the many “ah-ha” moments you’ll experience watching this show.

Oprah designed this show to wake viewers up and enlighten them about the value of their spiritual lives. She has been quoted saying the show is an effort to help people find a deeper connection to one another throughout the world. It’s a definite must-see!

How It’s Made 

10 Educational TV Shows Worth Watching - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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This Discovery Channel documentary series explores common household items and investigates how and where they are manufactured. Ever wonder about how bubble gum or accordions are made? By watching this show, you’ll become an instant expert on many products you use every day.

The narrator explores the history of why and when each product was first used, and then takes you through the step-by step-process often literally down a conveyor belt in a manufacturing plant. This show even tackles complex products like 3D printers and air conditioners.

Strangest Weather on Earth

10 Educational TV Shows Worth Watching - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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This Weather Channel show has been on air since 2013 and explains some of the world’s weirdest and deadliest weather patterns on record. It captures real footage of weather, like golf-ball-sized hail from instant ice storms, tidal waves that stand still and fog patterns over the Grand Canyon.

You don’t have to be a weather junky to understand the information you’ll learn from meteorologists and environmentalists on this show. You not only learn about nature, but also how humans have impacted our weather and the earth’s bodies of water over the past few centuries. This show definitely has something interesting on every episode.

Dirty Jobs

10 Educational TV Shows Worth Watching - Quicken Loans Zing Blog

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Funnyman Mike Rowe hosts this Discovery Channel series that profiles many American laborers who work in some of the crappiest conditions imaginable. Many of these laborers have had to overcome dangerous, dirty and difficult work conditions in order to complete their jobs.

Rowe has interviewed road kill collectors, fishermen and even septic tank cleaners. Yuck! This series, which began in 2003, takes cameras to places unfamiliar to most viewers. You learn about job descriptions and hear some compelling personal stories.­ 

Once I started researching educational shows, I discovered that there are more shows worth your time than you think. So the next time you need a break from watching shows like “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” or “Punk’d,” remember this list! And, don’t forget to let us know your favorite educational programs in the comments.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. I am 87 yrs old and was fascinated by the program this morning from KU regarding Alzheimer research and steps to avoid it. Will it be shown again? Or if it will be available on CD. I do have limited funds and wonder how it would cost.

    1. Hi Sharon:

      I don’t know if this is exactly what you saw, but PBS has a whole running series on Alzheimer’s. This video would seem to match up with the description you shared.

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