TV review by
Matt Springer, Common Sense Media
Alcatraz TV Poster Image
Dark, supernatural drama with strong violence, some humor.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

A small group of protagonists stands up against a shadowy, evil organization in an attempt to protect others and serve the greater good. But the show's tone is dark, and there's the sense that evil lurks everwhere.

Positive Role Models & Representations

All of the protagonists stand out as positive role models with a clear sense of good and bad. One of the main characters is a smart, creative doctor who has clearly used many years of study toward becoming accomplished in his chosen field.


Frequent scenes of both hand-to-hand and gun violence. Many murders, and several of the shootings feature clear, explicit gore. Overall, there's a generally ominous tone.


Occasional flirting and mildly suggestive dialogue.


Occasional use of language like "damn," "hell" and "ass."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Sequences taking place in the 1960s (when the prison was still active) occasionally feature characters smoking or drinking, which reflects typical behavior of that era. One of the modern-day supporting characters owns a bar, and scenes occasionally take place there, with characters engaging in social drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this dark crime drama has significant supernatural elements and occasional moments of suspense that will definitely frighten younger viewers. In addition, the level of violence is sometimes heavy and includes weapon use (shootings, etc.) and occasional scenes of explicit blood and/or gore. Language is relatively sparse but does include "ass," "hell," and "damn."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byLianab April 18, 2012
Adult Written byCharles H. March 10, 2012


If you've been watching/keeping up with the newer episodes, you will notice that they are getting progressively more violent. In one episode, there are ref... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMovieReviewGuy January 28, 2012

Good for 14+, Pause for 13

I think the CommonSense content summary above is pretty inaccurate. There is plenty of violence, no doubt, and a fair amount of blood. However, nothing takes it... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byocie14 January 22, 2012

Interesting show, pretty violent

This show is actually a little more violent than I expected. And the violence all seems very real and sort of upsetting, considering a lot of it has to do with... Continue reading

What's the story?

Taking its name from the infamous island prison near San Francisco, ALCATRAZ centers around a massive mystery: How did more than 300 prisoners and guards disappear from the facility just before its closing in the 1960s? What happened to these men, and why are they now appearing again 50 years later, seemingly unaged? After following a seemingly routine murder case, Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) is recruited by the enigmatic Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) to help track down and investigate these missing people, who have begun appearing out of nowhere back in the prison they once called home.

Is it any good?

Fans of Lost who are still looking for a series to fill its void might find something appealing in J.J. Abrams' dark police mystery drama. Alcatraz has the vibe down -- the pulse-pounding music, the moments of surprise and suspense, the enigmatic figure of authority who seems to know far more than he's letting on. (Plus, Lost's Hurley -- Jorge Garcia -- is one of the show's stars.)

On Alcatraz, the central conceit borders on the ludicrous: 300 criminals and guards disappear from the prison in the 1960s, but no one knows how or why, and now they're coming back unaged and ready to be evil again. It's like elements were drawn from a fish bowl and glued together on a sheet of paper. What makes Alcatraz watchable are the occasional flashes of wit in the scripting and some classic scenery-chewing from Neill, a longtime master at sideways glances that imply more than you can ever hope to understand.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Alcatraz's violence. Does it aid or detract from the story?

  • Do you expect all mysteries to be resolved? Or is there room to leave audiences guessing even after a show ends?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mystery

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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