ADAM RUINS EVERYTHING: Learning Disguised With Comedy

TruTV’s comedy show – Adam Ruins Everything – returned for a third season last week to ruin many more misconceptions for their viewers. Adam Conover hosts this informational comedy, which each week examines a topic and breaks down the misconceptions around it. Conover started the show as a short online series on College Humor website but since has been picked up by TruTV. The topics range from nutrition and vitamins to summer vacation to the electoral college and more.

Adam Ruins Everything Starts ItsThird Season off With a Bang

The episodes all start with an unsuspecting person speaking about a misconception such as “Summer break exists for farmers and their families.” Conover then pops in with a classic “actually…” and proceeds to break down the misconception. The episodes break down more than just the one misconception, however. Usually, they cover a wide range of topics surrounding one main issue. For example, in the episode “Adam Ruins Sleep,” Conover discusses the mattress industry, why school start times hurt teenagers, and how detrimental sleep aides are. All the ideas fall under one general category, but range within the category which is nice.

What the Show Does Well

Conover appears as a nerdy, socially awkward, well-dressed guy that just wants people to learn and have fun while doing so. His arguments use sources that appear on the screen, as well as experts that are featured each episode as support. There is always a clear banner at the bottom of the screen, directing viewers to the website for more information.

For the most part, the show does a good job of staying apolitical and addressing the heart of the issue, instead of leaning one way or the other. The first two seasons did address political issues but kept the discussion away from hard-hitting issues such as abortion or gun rights.

That changed with the season three premiere that focused on guns in America. What is nice about this episode, in particular, is that he breaks down ideas from both sides of the argument. While his result does lean slightly liberal, he doesn’t demonize the NRA or gun owners and instead just points out the history, arguments and potential short sights of both sides.

It’s clear that Conover doesn’t intend to make it a purely political show though. In the second episode of the third season, Adam takes a step back from the highly politicized issues to ruin sleep, which is about as apolitical as you can get.

What the Show Could Work on

All the people Conover corrects on the show are supposed to represent the common mindset of many people. Some of the misconceptions are very prevalent in our culture such as the idea that unpaid internships are necessary for full-time work (which Adam proves untrue).  Other misconceptions aren’t really “misconceptions,” but things that a lot of people know to be untrue but don’t necessarily know how to counteract, such as the notion that teenagers aren’t lazy, they just need more sleep than adults.

A problem with this is that the people Conover tries to convince appear as strawmen at best, instead of actually presenting another legitimate point of view with which to argue. That is fine when Conover is dispelling fun myths such as the story of St. Nick or mattress shopping. When discussing deeper issues though, it doesn’t add a ton to the conversation, especially for the more divisive episodes.

Also, often the conclusions are just restating that these things are problems, not giving a solution. The gun episode, for example, didn’t really add a positive solution, except for suggesting that we should be having the discussion.

However, the show acknowledges it isn’t flawless. In a season two episode titled “Emily ruins ‘Adam Ruins Everything,’” Emily Axford breaks down some of the mistakes that they’ve made on the show. They admit that while they have a whole team of researchers finding reliable and credible sources, those researchers (and experts) are still human and make mistakes. On top of that, as new research emerges on topics that they’ve already covered, some of the facts they used might come off as incorrect, though at the time, they weren’t.

Last Word on Adam Ruins Everything

While it’s advertised as a comedy, Adam Ruins Everything often fails to amuse. It is informative and fun, but the humor falls short. Mainly because it rests on Conover’s persona of the overly knowledgeable, often sensitive, awkward guy. While for an episode here and there it is fine, but watch several in a row and you’ll find yourself cringing at the sound of his voice and his elementary jokes.

Adam Ruins Everything definitely gets people to think about topics and ideas that they might have just blindly accepted in the past. It does a good job of presenting experts and sources to back up its claims. While sometimes they fall short, they acknowledge that the show isn’t perfect but tries to inform and educate people in a light-hearted and fun way. As Conover puts it, “the point of our show is to encourage people to question what they know and if we’re lucky change a few minds.”

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