A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Overall, the series communicates the importance of teamwork, creativity, athleticism, and organization when it comes to producing a successful circus.
Positive Role Models
At least one "bad apple" gets tossed out of the circus for allegedly making a bomb threat, but most performers and organizers are passionate about what they do, striving for a blend of professionalism, safety, and showmanship.
Violence & Scariness
Humans and/or animals occasionally suffer injuries involving small amounts of blood. A few verbal sparring matches get pretty heated, too.
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Some bleeped language (including "f--k" and "s--t"), plus infrequent audibles like "hell," "bastard," "balls," etc.
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Products & Purchases
The series as a whole promotes the Big Apple brand, but the warts-and-all approach is hardly a glossy advertisement.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A few characters smoke on camera.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that, overall, this six-part PBS docuseries is an exceptionally well-made and educational choice for family viewing. But along with that, there's some bleeped swearing (including "f--k" and "s--t") and iffy audibles like "bastard," "balls," and "hell." There are occasional onscreen arguments, too, along with at least one character who smokes cigarettes -- and some subtle promotion of the Big Apple Circus brand. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
This docuseries is entertainingly real. There's a lot we think we know about the circus, whether those assumptions come from observations we've made while sitting in the audience or from movies like Big Top Pee-Wee. But, for some, the most surprising lesson of this warts-and-all PBS documentary will be that circus life isn't always fun and games. Turns out, clowns can, indeed, be rather depressing, and a few circus folk are running from the law.
That's not to say the series unduly highlights these less-savory aspects of circus life, but it doesn't shy away from them either, even building the bulk of one episode around a young circus worker's arrest (and eventual release) for making an alleged bomb threat. (His response to the charges? "Tell them all to f--k off. They can all go to hell.") Thanks to amazing performance footage -- and the impossibly cheery antics of the company's can-do director (a real-life Corky St. Clair if there ever was one) -- there's plenty of razzle dazzle, too.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.