11 TV Shows That Will Engage Your Brain

Rob Lowe hosts Mental Samurai.
Rob Lowe hosts Mental Samurai.
FOX

Depending on how many real housewives are involved, it can be all too easy to achieve a state of diminished focus when watching television. Fortunately, some shows require focus, attention, and engagement to maximize your enjoyment. Take a look at 11 shows currently available that will keep your brain active, even while you're vegging out on the couch.

1. Mental Samurai (2019-)

This intellectual obstacle course series from producer and host Rob Lowe begins April 2 and tasks contestants with navigating a series of questions that challenge their knowledge and mental acuity while being physically maneuvered by a mammoth robot capsule named AVA.

Find It: FOX, Thursdays at 9/8c

2. Jeopardy! (1964-)

Alex Trebek and company helped popularize “smart TV” decades before electronics manufacturers coined the phrase. Every weeknight, viewers are challenged to shout out answers (in the form of a question) at the screen before contestants can buzz in. Now in its 36th season, Jeopardy! remains the gold standard for game shows that makes you an active participant in the action.

Find It: Syndication (Check Local Listings); Hulu; Netflix

3. Brain Games (2011-)

The various ways our brain can play tricks on us are explored in this series originally narrated by Neil Patrick Harris—and now hosted by Keegan-Michael Key—and featuring celebrities demonstrating everything from faulty memory details to lie detection.

Find It: National Geographic, Disney+

4. Cosmos (1980, 2014, 2020-)

Both the original 1980 Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey series created and hosted by Carl Sagan and the revamped version hosted by Neil deGrasse Tyson send viewers on a sprawling excavation of space, time, evolution, and mankind’s place in it all. The newest incarnation, Cosmos: Possible Worlds, is currently airing.

Find It: National Geographic, Disney+

5. NOVA (1974-)

For a broad look at science, look no further than PBS’s NOVA, which has been airing since 1974 and puts the spotlight on scientists and their efforts to better understand the world around us. Stories range from the extinction of dinosaurs to superstorms to the secrets of Stonehenge.

Find It: PBS (Check Local Listings)

6. Outrageous Acts of Science (2013-)

Are you an evidence-based thinker? Do you enjoy people who push the envelope of what’s possible? Outrageous Acts of Science puts the spotlight on boundary-erasing inventors and innovators. Do underwater jetpacks work? Is someone really building rock-climbing cars? Tune in and find out.

Find It: Science Channel, Discovery GO

7. MythBusters (2003-)

Hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage spent 14 seasons taking popular scientific and cultural theories and putting them to the test. If you’ve ever heard of a can of dough popping open in a hot car or if it was really possible to escape from Alcatraz, Hyneman and Savage exhausted every possibility to verify—or debunk—the myth.

Find It: Science Channel, Discovery GO, Hulu

8. QI (2003-Present)

This long-running British series take the stuffiness out of quiz shows, encouraging panelists to answer incorrectly if they must—presuming it’s at least interesting. Each season focuses on a different letter of the alphabet. Even in the flurry of wrong answers, you’ll still learn something.

Find It: Tubi

9. How It’s Made (2001-)

Everyday objects get closer inspection in How It’s Made, which takes a deep dive into the history and production of everything from jeans to braille typewriters.

Find It: Science Channel, Hulu

10. Brainchild (2018)

If you need a primer on science, this Netflix series breaks down concepts like gravity, memory, and even social media to explain how each impacts our world. It’s aimed at kids, but don’t worry—you’re sure to learn something, too.

Find It: Netflix

11. Explained (2018-)

This two-season primer offers breakdowns of everything from cryptocurrency to K-pop. Best of all, episodes are 25 minutes or less. It’s a crash course in topics making headlines today.

Find it: Netflix

14 Retro Gifts for Millennials

Ravi Palwe, Unsplash
Ravi Palwe, Unsplash

Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, which means the pop culture they grew up with is officially retro. No matter what generation you belong to, consider these gifts when shopping for the Millennials in your life this holiday season.

1. Reptar Funko Pop!; $29

Amazon

This vinyl Reptar figurine from Funko is as cool as anything you’d find in the rugrats’ toy box. The monster dinosaur has been redesigned in classic Pop! style, making it a perfect desk or shelf accessory for the grown-up Nickelodeon fan. It also glows in the dark, which should appeal to anyone’s inner child.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Dragon Ball Z Slippers; $20

Hot Topic

You don’t need to change out of your pajamas to feel like a Super Saiyan. These slippers are emblazoned with the same kanji Goku wears on his gi in Dragon Ball Z: one for training under King Kai and one for training with Master Roshi. And with a soft sherpa lining, the footwear feels as good as it looks.

Buy it: Hot Topic

3. The Pokémon Cookbook; $15

Hop Topic

What do you eat after a long day of training and catching Pokémon? Any dish in The Pokémon Cookbook is a great option. This book features more than 35 recipes inspired by creatures from the Pokémon franchise, including Poké Ball sushi rolls and mashed Meowth potatoes.

Buy it: Hot Topic

4. Lisa Frank Activity Book; $5

Urban Outfitters

Millennials will never be too old for Lisa Frank, especially when the artist’s playful designs come in a relaxing activity book. Watercolor brings the rainbow characters in this collection to life. Just gather some painting supplies and put on a podcast for a relaxing, nostalgia-fueled afternoon.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

5. Shoebox Tape Recorder with USB; $28

Amazon

The days of recording mix tapes don’t have to be over. This device looks and functions just like tape recorders from the pre-smartphone era. And with a USB port as well as a line-in jack and built-in mic, users can easily import their digital music collection onto retro cassette tapes.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Days of the Week Scrunchie Set; $12

Urban Outfitters

Millennials can be upset that a trend from their youth is old enough to be cool again, or they can embrace it. This scrunchie set is for anyone happy to see the return of the hair accessory. The soft knit ponytail holders come in a set of five—one for each day of the school (or work) week.

Buy it: Urban Outfitters

7. D&D Graphic T-shirt; $38-$48

80s Tees

The perfect gift for the Dungeon Master in your life, this graphic tee is modeled after the cover of the classic Dungeons & Dragons rule book. It’s available in sizes small through 3XL.

Buy it: 80s Tees

8. Chuck E. Cheese T-shirt; $36-$58

80s Tees

Few Millennials survived childhood without experiencing at least one birthday party at Chuck E. Cheese. This retro T-shirt sports the brand’s original name: Chuck E. Cheese’s Pizza Time Theatre. It may be the next-best gift for a Chuck E. Cheese fan behind a decommissioned animatronic.

Buy it: 80s Tees

9. The Nightmare Before Christmas Picnic Blanket Bag; $40

Shop Disney

Fans of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas will recognize the iconic scene on the front of this messenger bag. Unfold it and the bag becomes a blanket fit for a moonlit picnic among the pumpkins. The bottom side is waterproof and the top layer is made of soft fleece.

Buy it: Shop Disney

10. Toy Story Alien Socks; $15

Shop Disney

You don’t need to be skilled at the claw machine to take home a pair of these socks. Decorated with the aliens from Toy Story, they’re made from soft-knit fabric and are big enough to fit adult feet.

Buy it: Shop Disney

11. Goosebumps Board Game; $24

Amazon

Fans that read every book in R.L. Stine’s series growing up can now play the Goosebumps board game. In this game, based on the Goosebumps movie, players take on the role of their favorite monster from the series and race to the typewriter at the end of the trail of manuscripts.

Buy it: Amazon

12. Tamagotchi Mini; $19

Amazon

If you know someone who killed their Tamagotchi in the '90s, give them another chance to show off their digital pet-care skills. This Tamagotchi is a smaller, simplified version of the original game. It doubles as a keychain, so owners have no excuse to forget to feed their pet.

Buy it: Amazon

13. SNES Classic; $275

Amazon

The SNES Classic is much easier to find now than when it first came out, and it's still just as entertaining for retro video game fans. This mini console comes preloaded with 21 Nintendo games, including Super Mario Kart and Street Fighter II.

Buy it: Amazon

14. Planters Cheez Balls; $24

Amazon

Planters revived its Cheez Balls in 2018 after pulling them from shelves nearly a decade earlier. To Millennials unaware of that fact, this gift could be their dream come true. The throwback snack even comes in the classic canister fans remember.

Buy it: Amazon

Sign Up Today: Get exclusive deals, product news, reviews, and more with the Mental Floss Smart Shopping newsletter!

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

America’s Most Popular Horror Movie Villains, Mapped

FrontierBundles.com
FrontierBundles.com

No matter how you feel about scary movies, it's hard to avoid them around Halloween. This is the time of year when the faces of cinema's classic horror villains seem to pop up in every store window and television set you see. Depending on where you live, certain horror icons may be especially hard to ignore. Check out the map below to find out the most popular scary movie villain in your state.

To make the map, FrontierBundles.com chose 15 classic horror movie antagonists and looked at regional Google Trends data for each name from the past year. Frankenstein's Monster from 1931's Frankenstein dominates most of the country, with 11 states including Pennsylvania and Arizona searching for the character. Ghostface from 1996's Scream ranked second with eight states. Chucky from Child's Play (1988), the Xenomorph from the Alien franchise, and Norman Bates from Psycho (1960) also rank high on the list.

FrontierBundles.com

Not every Halloween term Americans are searching for is horror-related. Some of the more wholesome seasonal queries that appear in Google's data include candy, crafts, and maze. But for every Google user searching for family-friendly fall activities, there are plenty looking up horror movies and monsters as well. Here's what people are Googling in your state for Halloween.