Child Genius: the Final, Channel 4 - TV review: Top marks to the child prodigies but mum and dad should take a bow too

The mums and dads didn't come across as particularly pushy

Ellen E. Jones
Tuesday 28 July 2015 15:00 BST
The brainy bunch: the children competing for the gold in 'Child Genius'
The brainy bunch: the children competing for the gold in 'Child Genius' (Channel 4)

"It's a game and we will play to the end," said Giovanni's stoney-faced dad, making Child Genius: the Final sound not at all like a game, and very much like a gladiatorial death match from which his son, one of five brainy finalists, may or may not emerge unscathed.

Now on a third series, Child Genius gets away with its potentially exploitative, point-and-laugh-at-the-poindexters premise, by being as much about the parents as it is about the kids. Interestingly, these mums and dads, the ones whose offspring have achieved most in the Mensa competition, didn't come across as particularly pushy. Rather, they were as amazed by their children's ability as anyone.

Watching frontrunner, 12-year-old Thomas, blitz through his degree-level questions on "the history and mathematics of cryptography" was particularly emotional for primary school teacher mum, Deborah. She believes he takes after his dad, a physicist and a self-taught computer programmer, who died of leukaemia before Thomas's second birthday. That's clearly true, but Deborah should also take a bow. She figured out that her son absorbs information best when he's simultaneously engaged in some other activity, like thrashing his younger brother at table tennis, or playing the piano one-handed. Revision sessions are never boring round their house.

Impressive too, was Sasha ("I'm Sasha, I'm 12, I'm a history buff and a feminist") who did the girls proud by correctly answering enough questions on "the political and social background to the writing and publication of Anne Frank's Diary" to go head-to-head with Thomas in the final round. She may not have come first, but she did more than enough to justify her mother's ear-to-ear beam. You also had to have a soft spot for Jasamrit who'd chosen to specialise in "foreign policy during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I".

His family prepared for competition with a day trip to Tilbury Fort, where the chubby-cheeked 10-year-old recited Elizabeth's famous rallying call to her fleet: "I know I have the body of a weak and feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king!" Cate Blanchett may have won the Golden Globe for Elizabeth in 1998, but that's only because Jasamrit wasn't born yet.

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