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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Alexa & Katie is a dramedy about two teen best friends, one of whom has cancer. The show doesn't dwell on the scarier aspects, concentrating instead on problems that are relatable to young viewers, such as Alexa's agony over losing her hair post-chemo. Her friendship with Katie is loving and strong, a positive representation of loyal female friendships. The friends can occasionally be unkind to others: They mock their new high school principal and call her "Ugly Trugly," and Alexa has a rivalry with a classmate and calls her evil and empty-headed. Katie has a crush on Alexa's slightly older brother; there's talk of crushes and dating. Language is mild, with no cursing but the occasional iffy word: "farts," "sucks." Teens sometimes prank others, such as when Alexa and Katie toilet-paper their principal's house, or Alexa puts dye in the hospital's liquid soap dispenser.
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What's the story?
It's hard enough starting out as a freshman in high school. But to make things even scarier, ALEXA & KATIE have secrets: Alexa (Paris Berelc) has cancer, and Katie (Isabel May) isn't sure how to be there for her longtime best friend and is terrified she's going to lose her. But time waits for no girl, and so these two teens have to face what comes -- together. Tiffani Thiessen stars as Alexa's scared-but-supportive mom.
Is it any good?
With a sweet teen-soap tone that lightens up the heaviness of a main character in cancer treatment, this dramedy goes down easier than you'd expect. Supportive (and believable!) female friendships are rare on TV; more often than not, female characters are in competition or just co-existing on the same screen. So when Alexa and Katie show their friendship in tangible ways, like when Katie shaves her head in solidarity with Alexa's chemo hair loss, or when Alexa tags a sign "Alexa + K8tie 4ever," viewers with their own real-life sisterly friendships will feel a tingle of recognition -- and the thrill of seeing part of themselves represented.
When other characters show up on the screen, things are a little less fresh. Alexa has a mean-girls rivalry with classmate Gwenny Thompson (Kerri Medders); Alexa's brother Lucas (Emery Kelly) is a textbook big-brother hunk who Katie predictably pines over; the girls' parents are more types than people and they don't speak, they quip. The show's visuals, too, have a bright and artificial look that may remind some viewers of Disney Channel sitcoms -- fittingly, since creator Heather Wordham worked on Hannah Montana. Alexa & Katie, like Montana, is a sanitized but better-than-it-has-to-be series for tweens -- if you have some at your house, see what they think.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Alexa's fear that her peers will react differently to her when they find out she has cancer. How can we be true to ourselves and also feel like we're fitting in and part of a peer group? What would you do in Alexa's shoes? Would you feel the same urgency to keep your illness secret?
Families can talk about how friends relate to each other. Kids: Do you think the characters' relationships in Alexa & Katie are realistic? If you have a best friend or a group of friends, how are the show's characters similar to you and friend? How are they different?
Kids: What do Alexa and Katie do to model compassion or to show kindness and caring? What are some ways that you show your kindness and caring? How can you grow or better show your compassion -- can you think of more people you can show concern for or more ways that you can help out? For example, are there any kids in your school who could use a good friend? What kindness could you show them?
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