Parents' Guide to

A Friend of the Family

By Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 15+

Creepy, well-acted drama details a real-life kidnapping.

TV Peacock Drama 2022
Poster art for the Peacock drama series A Friend of the Family. Parents and their teenage daughter are pictured standing, with a rip superimposed over the image with a man's face peeking out with a sinister look.

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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.

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