In 2018, Child Genius opened us up to families across Australia who share one thing in common – scarily smart kids. More than a quiz show or documentary, the series combined these elements to bring a fun, positive set of stories into our homes. And now, they’re back, led by Dr Susan Carland and her team of panellists. We caught up with Warner’s Head of Television, Shaun Murphy, to find out what the team learned from making the first instalment, and what’s different this time around.
Season 1 set the standard
This time around, parents and kids have a better idea of what they’re in for. Being able to watch the high level of competition and how the show works means that season 2 applicants came armed with information. “The children coming in series two realise that they couldn’t just be, ‘Okay, I’m not bad at maths,’” Shaun says. “They had to be really, really clever across the board in their subjects.”
It’s more about the parents
“I think for some of the parents, the biggest thing is, ‘My child’s going to be exposed to children that are quite similar to him or her, this will be exciting for me.’ Rather than, ‘I hope Billy gets in there and he wins this thing and takes the crown,’” says Shaun. Family interaction was always a big part of Child Genius, but it’s become even more prominent this time around.
“We put a little bit more focus on the mums and dads this year because we found that that was the fascinating driving story behind the kids. Personally I think the parents’ side of it is as interesting as the kids’, if you find the right ‘characters’. From an adult viewing audience perspective, that’s what you want to see. You need a good 50/50 split on it, and we weighted a little more in the kids’ direction last year.”
The gameplay has tightened up
With four episodes instead of six, this season has become more laser-focused, and that’s especially true of the actual competition side of things. “The gameplay perspective – the anagrams and the spelling and general knowledge – we put a bit more focus on those,” Shaun explains. “We changed the set-up a little bit more just to make it a little bit more children-friendly.”
They’re more aware of the community that builds up
In season 1, the kids had a “secret” WhatsApp group to discuss what was happening and generally chit-chat. Shaun and the team noticed this camaraderie, and leaned into it this time. “It’s quite fascinating,” he says, “because a lot of the children are at their school, like hey they’re the brainiac and while it’s great for them to be clever, they are going to think ‘I’m not a footballer, I’m not the cricketer, I’m not the netballer, I’m not the fast runner’ – they can be outsiders. It’s only when they walked in that door for Child Genius, to be talking with other children that can speak with them on the same intellectual level… they find it freeing. And the boy that won last year, Nathan, his life changed.”
Four-part season 2 of Child Genius premieres on Wednesday, 20 November on SBS at 8.30pm. Episodes air weekly, and you can catch up at SBS On Demand any time after broadcast.
If you missed it or want a refresher, season 1 is now streaming at SBS On Demand:
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