Plot: This series takes us inside some of the popular toy lines ever created, with first hand accounts of how these iconic toys were brainstormed, designed, and created, as well as the cultural impact involved. Each episode focuses on one line and is packed with interviews, vintage marketing materials, and of course, ample footage of the actual toys, giving us an exhaustive look into the entire process.
Entertainment Value: This first season of The Toys That Made Us only runs four episodes, but delivers massive entertainment and insight. This season offers inside, full access retrospectives on the toy lines of Star Wars, Barbie, He-Man, and G.I. Joe, each given a full episode to shine. The nostalgia value is of course through the roof, for those who grew up with any of these toys, but the appeal is far beyond just those who owned or collect these creations. This series gives us a candid, first hand account of how these lines came to be, from the original inspirations to the trials of the design process to product launches, marketing strategies, downfalls, and how these toys impacted pop culture, so this is in depth stuff. In addition to the deep dive into how the toys were brought to life, we learn about the real people involved, some colorful and others, well, even more colorful. I honestly expected a nostalgia slant here and there is one, but the show is so much more as well.
The episodes are loaded with first hand interviews, so we listen to those who were directly involved in the process, which is invaluable. Being able to hear war stories from the actual people involved adds so much to this series, as it is from the source, not just second or third hand memories. Some of those interviewed include executives, R&D experts, marketing officials, designers, lawyers, and some collectors and super fans, including some who would work in the toy business themselves thanks to the impact of these toys. I admit I had the least interest in the Barbie episode, but wow, it was a wild one and perhaps the best of this first season. The pace of the episodes is brisk, but not rushed, so a lot of information is relayed. The show keeps a light tone, but pushes the humor too much at times, with lame reactions that seem unrelated to the topic at hand and some other overly forced comic moments. But overall, these are four excellent episodes that have nostalgia, depth, and a world of insight about these iconic, timeless brands.