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

The 10 Best Air Fryers on Amazon

Cosori/Amazon
Cosori/Amazon

When it comes to making food that’s delicious, quick, and easy, you can’t go wrong with an air fryer. They require only a fraction of the oil that traditional fryers do, so you get that same delicious, crispy texture of the fried foods you love while avoiding the extra calories and fat you don’t.

But with so many air fryers out there, it can be tough to choose the one that’ll work best for you. To make your life easier—and get you closer to that tasty piece of fried chicken—we’ve put together a list of some of Amazon’s top-rated air frying gadgets. Each of the products below has at least a 4.5-star rating and over 1200 user reviews, so you can stop dreaming about the perfect dinner and start eating it instead.

1. Ultrean Air Fryer; $76

Ultrean/Amazon

Around 84 percent of reviewers awarded the Ultrean Air Fryer five stars on Amazon, making it one of the most popular models on the site. This 4.2-quart oven doesn't just fry, either—it also grills, roasts, and bakes via its innovative rapid air technology heating system. It's available in four different colors (red, light blue, black, and white), making it the perfect accent piece for any kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Cosori Air Fryer; $120

Cosori/Amazon

This highly celebrated air fryer from Cosori will quickly become your favorite sous chef. With 11 one-touch presets for frying favorites, like bacon, veggies, and fries, you can take the guesswork out of cooking and let the Cosori do the work instead. One reviewer who “absolutely hates cooking” said, after using it, “I'm actually excited to cook for the first time ever.” You’ll feel the same way!

Buy it: Amazon

3. Innsky Air Fryer; $90

Innsky/Amazon

With its streamlined design and the ability to cook with little to no oil, the Innsky air fryer will make you feel like the picture of elegance as you chow down on a piece of fried shrimp. You can set a timer on the fryer so it starts cooking when you want it to, and it automatically shuts off when the cooking time is done (a great safety feature for chefs who get easily distracted).

Buy it: Amazon

4. Secura Air Fryer; $62

Secura/Amazon

This air fryer from Secura uses a combination of heating techniques—hot air and high-speed air circulation—for fast and easy food prep. And, as one reviewer remarked, with an extra-large 4.2-quart basket “[it’s] good for feeding a crowd, which makes it a great option for large families.” This fryer even comes with a toaster rack and skewers, making it a great addition to a neighborhood barbecue or family glamping trip.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Chefman Turbo Fry; $60

Chefman/Amazon

For those of you really looking to cut back, the Chefman Turbo Fry uses 98 percent less oil than traditional fryers, according to the manufacturer. And with its two-in-one tank basket that allows you to cook multiple items at the same time, you can finally stop using so many pots and pans when you’re making dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Ninja Air Fryer; $100

Ninja/Amazon

The Ninja Air Fryer is a multipurpose gadget that allows you to do far more than crisp up your favorite foods. This air fryer’s one-touch control panel lets you air fry, roast, reheat, or even dehydrate meats, fruits, and veggies, whether your ingredients are fresh or frozen. And the simple interface means that you're only a couple buttons away from a homemade dinner.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Instant Pot Air Fryer + Electronic Pressure Cooker; $180

Instant Pot/Amazon

Enjoy all the perks of an Instant Pot—the ability to serve as a pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker, and more—with a lid that turns the whole thing into an air fryer as well. The multi-level fryer basket has a broiling tray to ensure even crisping throughout, and it’s big enough to cook a meal for up to eight. If you’re more into a traditional air fryer, check out Instant Pot’s new Instant Vortex Pro ($140) air fryer, which gives you the ability to bake, proof, toast, and more.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Omorc Habor Air Fryer; $100

Omorc Habor/Amazon

With a 5.8-quart capacity, this air fryer from Omorc Habor is larger than most, giving you the flexibility of cooking dinner for two or a spread for a party. To give you a clearer picture of the size, its square fryer basket, built to maximize cooking capacity, can handle a five-pound chicken (or all the fries you could possibly eat). Plus, with a non-stick coating and dishwasher-safe basket and frying pot, this handy appliance practically cleans itself.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Dash Deluxe Air Fryer; $100

Dash/Amazon

Dash’s air fryer might look retro, but its high-tech cooking ability is anything but. Its generously sized frying basket can fry up to two pounds of French fries or two dozen wings, and its cool touch handle makes it easy (and safe) to use. And if you're still stumped on what to actually cook once you get your Dash fryer, you'll get a free recipe guide in the box filled with tips and tricks to get the most out of your meal.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Bella Air Fryer; $52

Bella/Amazon

This petite air fryer from Bella may be on the smaller side, but it still packs a powerful punch. Its 2.6-quart frying basket makes it an ideal choice for couples or smaller families—all you have to do is set the temperature and timer, and throw your food inside. Once the meal is ready, its indicator light will ding to let you know that it’s time to eat.

Buy it: Amazon

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

Slow-Motion Picture: Netflix Is Rolling Out New Playback Speed Controls

You can stay in the Daredevil universe just a bit longer with the slower playback options.
You can stay in the Daredevil universe just a bit longer with the slower playback options.
Netflix

Netflix is now letting some users adjust the playback speed of its content, meaning you can finish The Irishman in a mere fraction of its 3.5-hour run time (or make it last even longer).

As The Verge reports, viewers will have the option to watch videos at 0.5, 0.75, 1.25, or 1.5 times their normal speed, and the feature will be available for regular streaming content and offline downloads. So far, Netflix is only offering it to Android mobile users, but tests are in the works for iOS devices and the web app, too.

When Netflix shared plans to develop playback speed controls back in October 2019, some leaders in the entertainment industry voiced their opposition. Filmmaker Judd Apatow, for example, took to Twitter to explain that distributors like Netflix shouldn’t be allowed to alter content created by others. The streaming giant didn’t abandon the idea, but it did take the negative feedback into consideration. In a July 31 press release, Netflix explained that it was limiting the number of speeds to just four, and each program will always start playing at the normal speed—that way, viewers will have to consciously choose to speed up or slow down videos on a case-by-case basis.

And while content creators may dislike the thought of having less control over how people experience their work, it’s not a new concept. As Netflix pointed out, DVD players and DVRs have long included playback speed options—the feature has also been available on YouTube for years. More importantly, speed controls give users with vision impairments the opportunity to accelerate the audio—since some can process audio faster than sighted folks—and it gives deaf and hard-of-hearing users the chance to slow down the subtitles. Both the National Association of the Deaf and the National Federation of the Blind have endorsed Netflix’s new feature.

While you’re waiting for Netflix to expand the offering to iOS and web users, here are 25 other hacks to enhance your Netflix viewing experience.

[h/t The Verge]