Season two of “Superhuman” begins with several masters of memorization and a mathematician who solves complex equations in less time than it takes a person using a calculator. The game show is a celebration of the extraordinary in the ordinary as regular people demonstrate uncommon abilities for the chance to win $50,000. Host Kal Penn spends much of his time on stage looking at the audience with wide-eyed amazement as the contestants compete challenges that highlight their skill. It’s hard not to feel the same way as you watch. That’s the show’s charm.
And there’s also Mike Tyson, who has his own kind of charm. Tyson, along with singer and actress Christina Milian and neurosurgeon Dr. Rahul Jandial, forms the panel of judges who watch and comment on the five contestants as they complete challenges designed to test their ability. The panel chooses the top three and the winner is declared by audience vote.
While Dr. Jandial (who looks like he stepped out of the pages of GQ) is there to provide the scientific explanation behind the contestants’ abilities, example: “Alex is transferring numerical and visual information from his occipital lobes and frontal lobes to his hippocampi,” Tyson is there for the average Joe reaction. Watching Amy, who performs a human version of a match game by putting 20 pairs of doctors and nurses back together after seeing them for less than a minute each, he says: “You’re kicking butts!” And then expresses his awe at her ability to memorize by joking that he sometimes forgets his kids’ names. Christina’s role is primarily to gush over the participants and talk about what great energy they have and how amazing they are.
Along with playing card memorizer Alex and people recognizer Amy, there is David who Kal calls a human GPS. David can quickly study a map and then tell you the best route to get anywhere you need to go. His challenge is to guide Kal step by step through a maze he has quickly memorized, which he does while wearing a cheerful orange bandana around his forehead and sitting on the show’s “superhuman chair.” Surely, David’s next stop should be “The Amazing Race.”
Contestant Andrew goes head-to-head solving equations with Dr. Model who mans a calculator. Andrew solves the first problem before the doctor has time to press two numbers on his tablet. He stumbles on the second equation but only because he mistakes the plus sign for a division symbol. He redeems himself on the final problem and gives the correct answer more than six numbers past the decimal point. Andrew is followed by Courtney who transformed her passion for geography into the ability to recognize any country in the world by its shape. Only looking at the outlines of countries, she must choose the correct two shapes from 10 possibilities, then 25, then 50.
A light hearted look at fantastic skills, “Superhuman” is a family friendly show and a nice reminder that people can do remarkable things.
Season two of “Superhuman” premieres on June 19 at 9 p.m. EDT on Fox.
— Melissa Crawley is the author of “Mr. Sorkin Goes to Washington: Shaping the President on Television’s ‘The West Wing’” and the recently released “The American Television Critic.” She has a Ph.D. in media studies and is a member of the Television Critics Association. To comment on Stay Tuned, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter at @MelissaCrawley.