Only in fifth grade, but ready to rule the world

Hartford Courant

Is there any question that fifth grade now is the peak of childhood?

Sixth-graders these days are not the kings they once were. They’re often shuffled off to middle schools -- back at the bottom of the social order again -- leaving fifth-graders top dogs at elementary school.

More than just untainted by adult concerns, fifth-graders are also seen almost as oracles -- poised, brainy, accomplished seers with the power not only to embarrass parents at games of Cranium but to do so in the national spotlight.

No, Abigail Breslin didn’t win the Oscar for best supporting actress for her work in “Little Miss Sunshine.” But the 10-year-old was a nominee.


The biggest spotlight for the class of 2014, though, comes in the highest-rated new show of the season, “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” Thursday nights on Fox.

The rare game show whose premise is succinctly encapsulated in the title not only pokes fun at adults who seem to have forgotten everything they learned in elementary school but also elevates those in fifth grade as a group of smiley, fresh-faced geniuses.

Sitting among school desks and all too eager to raise their hands with invariably correct answers, the half a dozen kids recruited as the test group on the game show seem so whip-smart and infallible that they should be quickly recruited to be part of the White House cabinet.

They are described by the network as merely “real grade-schoolers who have hit the books,” but at least three of the five kids enlisted for the show are regular actors with agents.

Jacob Hays and Alana Etheridge, both of San Diego, share the same agent.

Jacob, who laughs so heartily at everything game-show host Jeff Foxworthy says, has appeared in “Disney’s Really Short Report” on the Disney Channel.

The two hope someday to have the resume of their fellow fifth-grader on the show, Laura Marano, who has appeared on TV and in movies since she was 5 in roles that include Anthony LaPaglia’s daughter on several episodes of “Without a Trace,” a younger version of Sarah Silverman and, later, Silverman’s adopted “daughter” on half the episodes of the recently concluded Comedy Central show “The Sarah Silverman Program.”


She’s also been seen in other, equally edgy cable fare, including “Dexter” and “Huff.”

On “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” she looks like a well-adjusted and exceptionally bright student, the flowering example of the best grade ever.

Or she could be acting.