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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 this somewhat dry documentary series focuses on criminal cases, most of which feature violent acts and/or sex crimes -- including mass murder, rape, and pedophilia. While the acts themselves are never shown, the discussions of the events are often graphic and explicit (and occasionally include bloody crime-scene photos). Expect some bleeped cursing and talk of drug and alcohol abuse as well.
What's the story?
Documentary series AMERICAN JUSTICE offers an insider's view of the U.S. justice system, focusing on the legal challenges presented by landmark, high-profile criminal cases -- from the Hillside Strangler to the Boston Archdiocese pedophile scandal. Narrated by journalist Bill Kurtis, the show chronicles both the events leading up to the crime and the ensuing trial (or trials), turning to survivors, victims' families, law enforcement officials, and reporters for interviews and information. On rare occasions, the perpetrators themselves offer their own insight into what took place.
Is it any good?
Unlike many crime-related documentaries, American Justice focuses on how criminal cases are handled by the various parts of the criminal justice system (including local, state, and federal branches). The series looks at each case from a legal perspective, offering explanations of some of the more challenging -- and often frustrating -- rulings based on the existing laws at the time. It also examines some of social implications of America's current laws, including the problems with trying youth offenders as adults and the racial and gender biases associated with the death penalty.
Also unlike other crime documentary series, American Justice doesn't use re-enactments to tell its stories. While crime scene photos are sometimes shown, interviews and trial footage are the primary information sources. As a result, the show is sometimes a bit dry, oversimplifying sophisticated legal processes. But it does successfully touch on moments in legal history that have changed the way lawmakers think about criminal justice and led to some fundamental changes in the legal system. The teens mostly likely to enjoy the show are those interested in pursuing careers in law or criminal justice.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the American justice system. Is it always just? Are there times that the system fails? How is the legal system usually portrayed in movies and TV shows? How accurate do you think that is? How do you think this show's featured cases are chosen? Why do you think one case would be chosen over another?