Very high concept elevates somewhat violent cop procedural.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The show features police detectives who work hard to solve crimes at personal expense. The idea that people deal with grief in different ways comes across, as does the importance of loved ones.

Positive role models

Characters respond to difficult circumstances with bravery and strength. The lead character and his colleagues in the police department are good examples of hardworking, honest cops.


Occasional moments of graphic injury as part of murder investigations and autopsies. Some violence when crimes are depicted. The lead character is significantly impacted over the course of the series by a violent car crash, which proves fatal to one of two passengers.


Two married lead characters have sex; there's no nudity, but there are some suggestive movements.


Occasional use of "damn" or "hell"; rare use of "pissed."


Microsoft's sponsorship is made obvious by clear appearances of their logo on the back of all computers seen on the show.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some social drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this high-concept police drama features occasional criminal violence and scenes of graphic injuries. The plot revolves around the main character's grief after losing a family member (or two) in a violent car crash. The show also features occasional sexuality, including simulated sex between a married couple, and some mild language ("damn," "pissed," etc.).

What's the story?

As AWAKE begins, police detective Michael Britten (Jason Isaacs) has just suffered a catastrophic car accident. He survived, but he now lives an intense double life that defies explanation. In one reality, his wife has survived, but his son has died; in the other, it's just the opposite. Other details vary, such as his partner on the police force and the crimes he's investigating. Suddenly he notices unexpected clues in each reality that help him solve impossible cases in the opposite world. As he works with two different psychologists, Michael struggles to piece together what's a dream and what's actually happening, all while trying to preserve every second he can in each reality with both his wife and his son.

Is it any good?


As high concepts go, Awake has a doozy -- one man who lives dual lives after a tragic car accident, one in which his wife survived, and the other in which his son did. It's a fascinating psychological twist to unravel, and it's admirably executed by the show's producers and some top acting talent, including Harry Potter vet Isaacs and network TV stalwart Steve Harris.

Unfortunately, the show's ongoing mystery is bogged down by the need to fill an hour of airtime each week with relatively pedestrian police procedural storylines that might fit just as well on an episode of Law & Order or CSI. When the focus rests on its main characters and their extraordinary circumstances, Awake shines, but when it becomes just another cop show with an eccentric lead, the storytelling falters. Ultimately, Awake is worth watching for the quality of its actors and the moments when the high concept truly pushes through.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about Awake's approach to violence. Is it necessary to the story? Do all police procedurals handle violence in the same way?

  • How does this show set itself apart from other cop shows? Do you expect to find out the answer to the central mystery?

TV details

Cast:B.D. Wong, Jason Isaacs, Steve Harris
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:Streaming

This review of Awake was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

Find out more

About our buy links

When you use our links to make a purchase, Common Sense Media earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes. As a nonprofit organization, these funds help us continue providing independent, ad-free services for educators, families, and kids while the price you pay remains the same. Thank you for your support.
Read more

See more about how we rate and review.

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Parent Written byalicia37 March 20, 2012
age 13+

This show is great!!!!

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much consumerism
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Kid, 11 years old March 6, 2012
age 12+


Great show, even just judging from the first episode. Yes, there is a scene with sex, but it's short. The characters are married and there is no nudity. All we can see is their heads. A few mild cuss words. A bit of product placement. A substantial amount of violence. Still sound OK? This is a great series for teens and adults. Give it a try; you'll love it!


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?

Digital Compass