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21 Jump Street
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that 21 Jump Street is basically Law & Order for teens, and much more serious than the 2012 theatrical release of the same name. Battle lines are drawn clearly: The show's police officers are on the side of good, the criminals on the side of bad. There is very little moral ambiguity; it is easily evident who viewers are supposed to root for. This is a police procedural show, so there is a "crime of the week" on each episode; parents may be concerned about some of the crimes spotlighted, such as one episode where a young baseball player is menaced by villains out to murder him, as well as one where one of the show's officers is named in a paternity suit leveled by a high-schooler. Many kids will find the dated fashions, music, and expressions hilarious; parents may find themselves explaining outdated slang.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
A group of baby-faced city cops are recruited for a special assignment: Working undercover out of the chapel located at 21 JUMP STREET and infiltrating groups of young criminals. "Kinda like Fast Times at bust-your-buddy high," quips the soon-to-be-a-giant-star Johnny Depp, who is recruited into the titular squad in the show's pilot. Yeah, Johnny. Kinda like that. Kinda like that, crossed with any of the police procedural shows currently on television; only back in the '80s when this show premiered on the then-fledgling Fox Network, it was unique. Each week the squad tackles a crime in a different milieu (high school, a bar that serves underaged drinkers); by the end of the episode, the crime is solved.
Is it any good?
It's a little dated (oh, those '80s hairstyles and fashions!), and will probably look pretty silly to teens who have already gobbled up teen-detective fare like Veronica Mars. After all, it was created to be ultra-hip in a different era; that's always a recipe for later goofiness.
But it's also kinder and gentler than many modern shows, created in a time before school shootings and well-publicized teen gang activity and crime. The violence is muted (although deaths do occur, mostly offscreen), there is no blood, and teens are presented as mostly respectful to adults and law-abiding. Some of the themes are mature (child abuse, rape, suicide) putting this off-limits to little siblings, but this would be a good, relatively safe choice for teens who are interested in police shows, mysteries, or just getting a look at the young, stunning Johnny Depp.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the crimes that occur on the show. How likely is it that the crimes depicted on the show to affect you in real life? What are some ways your family stays safe?
What would you do if you witnessed a crime? Whose responsibility is it to stop crime? Are bystanders who watch criminal activity and do nothing responsible for what happens?
The police officers on the show pretend to be younger than they are in order to go undercover. Is it okay to pretend to be someone else for a good cause?
Themes & Topics
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