Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
We may earn a commission from links on this page

Jane review: A kids' show that could teach adults a thing or two

Inspired by Dr. Jane Goodall, the Apple TV Plus edutainment series raises eco-awareness one pleasant episode at a time

We may earn a commission from links on this page.
Mason Blomberg in Jane
Mason Blomberg in Jane
Photo: Apple TV+

If Apple TV+’s eco-downer Extrapolations (a “bloated, boring anthology,” as we called it) fails to shock viewers into action on climate change, maybe the network can get ’em while they’re young with Jane. This playful mixture of F/X-heavy fantasy and wildlife trivia, which premieres April 14, aims to inform kids while engaging their imaginations, making science an adventure and conservation a superpower.

Each episode follows a pleasant formula. It starts out with 9-year-old, wildlife-obsessed Jane (Ava Louise Murchison) and her wisecracking friend, David (Mason Blomberg), in some exotic location tracking tigers, whales, or even butterflies in every manner of vehicle—jeep, bathysphere, or flying pod that can be shrunk to the size of, say, a bee. When the field work becomes hazardous or spins out of control—poof!—our heroes are shown to be play-acting in and around their apartment complex, dashing about and shouting orders. Accompanied by Jane’s stuffed chimpanzee, Greybeard—who comes to frisky CGI life in their minds—the kids navigate uncooperative beasts and exasperated adults as they unlock secrets of endangered species: what they eat, how they communicate, and, presumably, which streaming service they prefer.


“Why does everything we try to save attack us?” David asks quite sensibly as he and Jane run screaming from a swooping megabat—or Acerodon jubatus, more commonly known as the giant golden-crowned flying fox. Commonly is doing a lot of work in that last sentence. Jane is not an ordinary tween; she idolizes her namesake, the revered primatologist and conservationist Dr. Jane Goodall, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of the animal kingdom as well as the man-made dangers facing it. While the kids are wowed by the majesty or strangeness of the creatures, they are constantly reminded they are wild, so there’s a lot of hairbreadth (playground) escapes. In the first episode Jane and David chase a polar bear around a pool to put a tracking collar on it. The conundrum: Why do polar bears pursue solitary patterns?


Created by J.J. Johnson, Jane is “inspired by the mission of Dr. Jane Goodall,” and it’s a clever sugar-coating of televisual medicine. By blending YA buddy adventure with monster thriller, it conjures up the excitement of learning and the youthful joy of teaching elders a thing or two. Jane urges her long-suffering but indulgent mom, Maria (Tamara Almeida), to switch off lights to save energy and exhorts the grumpy widower next door to separate his plastics and glass.

Indeed, the little prodigy would be a pill if she weren’t played with such humor, poise, and thoughtfulness. Murchison is sweet without being cloying, her acting confident without turning canned. She makes for a Gen Alpha hero we can get behind. “We shouldn’t let [sharks] disappear just because we’re scared of them,” Jane says in frustration as she and David chase one through a supermarket. “People are the apex predator of the world—which means it’s our job to keep the chain from falling apart. Which we’re not doing.” Sign us up, Jane.

The takeaways each episode are concrete and actionable: Recycling can help reduce Arctic ice loss, which affects polar bears; eating sustainable fish will cut down on food scarcity for sharks; bees are only a nuisance if harassed by humans, and they are integral to plant life.

JANE Trailer (2023) Apple TV+

For parents watching along, the occasional celebrity cameo adds spice. The Kids In The Hall’s Mark McKinney drops in as Jane’s stuffy school principal after she tackles a classmate throwing rocks at a beehive. The tart, arch Mary-Louise Parker pops up as a cranky lady in a spooky old house whom Jane convinces to stop using pesticide on her fruit trees. Tellingly, many of the adults in this world are divorced or widowers, stressed or depressed, which feeds into their lack of eco-awareness. (One exception is David, who has two dads.) “Why are some people so angry?” Jane asks her mom. “Life’s not easy, sweetie,” Maria replies. “Sometimes, it’s easier for people to be angry at the world instead of doing something to change it.” You could dismiss such lines as reductive—if they weren’t basically true.


Time will tell if Jane joins the distinguished company of 3-2-1 Contact, Bill Nye The Science Guy and Dora The Explorer, classics in kids’ edutainment. In terms of production values and visual ambition the show’s an evolutionary leap beyond those; the flora and fauna are rendered by executive producer Matt Bishop and his VFX team with Spielbergian awe and granular precision.

At the end of each action-packed day, Jane video chats with a scientist in the relevant field (bats, bees, tigers, whales). After the call, she transfers the scientist’s photo from her scrapbook to the “hero wall” in her bedroom. Oddly, the end credits don’t mention the scientists or plug their websites, a missed opportunity. At any rate, Jane may inspire kids to learn more about climate change and natural sciences. As Goodall has said: “Only if we understand, will we care. Only if we care, will we help. Only if we help, can they be saved.” Let’s hope they includes we.


Jane premieres April 14 on Apple TV+.