A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Positive Role Models
This family loves one another, but the behavior exhibited by nearly all of them isn't anything to aspire to. The closest the series comes to having a positive role model might be the FBI agents, who keep trying to convince the Brobergs to pursue justice.
The show's milieu is Mormon-heavy Pocatello, Idaho -- a town which even to this day is comprised of approximately 92% White people. The most "diversity" we see is during a short stretch of time spent in Mexico, and the Mexican characters barely speak.
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Violence & Scariness
The scare factor here is mainly psychological, without a lot of onscreen violence. There are creepy discussions about pedophilia and a character's obsessions with young girls; he plots to isolate and control a girl. A brief scene where a pre-teen is handcuffed in a motor home. Two characters are shoved around roughly by police officers. A character fakes a head injury, there's a bit of blood on his forehead. A character buys a gun that's seen in a paper bag at his side but isn't used. Another character has a gun tucked under his mattress.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Two adult characters sit in a car as one manually stimulates the other; nothing graphic is seen but there's a lot of moaning. A husband performs oral sex on his wife -- he's under the blankets and there's no nudity. Some scenes with adults kissing and making out.
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Expletives are infrequent. "F--k" pops up once or twice, a character says "s--t" once. There's some discussion about certain sex acts and classifications of sexually based mental disorders.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
An adult character regularly drugs a child with sleeping pills. In another scene, he appears to be drinking something alcoholic that is disguised as coffee.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that A Friend of the Family is a nine-episode docu-drama inspired by the real-life kidnapping saga that was previously depicted in Netflix's 2018 true crime doc Abducted in Plain Sight. The limited series is produced in part by the victim of the kidnapping, Jan Broberg, and her mother, Mary Ann. The subject matter concerns a pedophile who manipulates a family's weak spots to gain control of their young daughter, kidnapping her not once but twice. A child is drugged with sleeping pills, an adult man repeatedly and obsessively declares his love for and intention to marry and impregnate a 12-year-old girl. A husband and wife have sexual experiences with the same man (at separate times). Subjects discussed and portrayed include kidnapping, brainwashing, mental illness, sexual disorders, and blackmail. One character purchases a gun to protect his family, and another keeps a pistol under his mattress. This is a lurid, yet true story best left to older teens who can discuss and process the topics addressed with their parents or caregivers.
Is It Any Good?
In terms of helping to justify the jaw-dropping naïveté and recklessness shown by Jan Broberg's parents, the series utterly fails, but for pure entertainment value, it's engrossing as heck. A Friend of the Family is introduced by Jan herself, who advises viewers to keep in mind that these events took place "in a different time" -- which reads like a pre-emptive attempt to blunt a repeat of the strong criticisms leveled at her family when the documentary about this case was released on Netflix in 2018. And while the person who ultimately deserves the harshest judgment here is obviously Bob Berchtold (portrayed by Jake Lacy, who also blended surface charm with sinister creepiness in The White Lotus), extending this story to nine hours might give us a bit more background on the Brobergs' family dynamics, it does nothing to make their pliant acquiescence any less baffling.
Given the details of this case (Aliens! Kidnappings! Multiple affairs!) this could have been played purely for camp, but thankfully they don't go that route. The 1970s production design is all harvest golds and period hairdos, but doesn't ever look silly. The outstanding Hendrix Yancey plays young Jan with a guileless authenticity, which is well-matched by McKenna Grace playing the teenage Jan, who does a terrific job conveying the mixture of vulnerability and growing dread her character is experiencing. Another standout is Lio Tipton, who gives Berchtold's wife Gail real depth, convincingly depicting a troubled woman frozen between shame, despair, and codependent permissiveness. As far as dramatized retellings of true crime stories go, this is a solid, if not exactly needed, offering.
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.
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