Benched

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Benched TV Poster Image
Strong female lead, adult humor in legal dramedy.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Discusses how justice and fairness are applied differently to people in different social classes, though from a comic standpoint.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Fish-out-of-water Nina grows as a person by learning lessons about kindness and compassion. 

Violence

Descriptions of crimes are played for laughs but may disturb young or very sensitive viewers. 

Sex

Kissing, flirting, references to sex; one woman calls another woman a "giant p---y" for being cowardly. 

Language

"Ass" and "s--t" frequently; gendered insults such as "giant p---y" and "bitch"; coarse language such as "piss up a rope." "F--k" and "motherf--ker" are bleeped. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many scenes take place in bars. Characters excuse poor choices with alcohol. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Benched is a legal workplace comedy with a fallen-from-grace female lead. Rough language includes frequent "ass" and "s--t" and other vulgar words such as "piss" and "screw." A man is referred to as a "goddamned Pollack," and there are gendered insults such as "bitch" and "p---y." Four-letter epithets like "f--k" are bleeped; hands of a character shooting birds are blurred. Frequent drinking, including scenes of colleagues flirting and schmoozing in a bar, coworkers having drinks at work, and characters excusing poor choices with alcohol. Expect flirting, dating, and references to sex.

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What's the story?

Nina Whitley (Eliza Coupe) was on top of the world at a high-powered corporate law firm. That is, until the day she was passed over for partner and dumped by her fiancé. One epic meltdown later, and Nina has a brand-new job in the public defender's office, working with the indigent and the friendless instead of with white-collar criminals. Her overworked, totally-stressed-out new colleagues are a motley crew: roguish Phil (Jay Harrington), idealistic Carlos (Oscar Nunez), far-out Cheryl (Maria Bamford), and hard-working intern Micah (Jolene Purdy), who occasionally reminds Whitley why she entered her profession in the first place. Nina's new clients repel her -- but even though she's spoiled and privileged, she can't help being moved by how much they need her. 

Is it any good?

The blueprints for BENCHED resemble those of a zillion other workplace/fish-out-of-water comedies, so this could have been just another bland and forgettable show. But Benched rises above its somewhat stale premise with bold, fresh writing and a cast with great comic timing, given lines with verve and crackle. Coupe is a sly and silly lead, able to walk the fine line of inhabiting a character audiences are supposed to love despite her many imperfections. She's a fine anchor to build the show around, particularly when the writing plays to her strengths: privileged-yet-frazzled line readings and goofy physical comedy, such as one gag where she has to climb over a locked office half-door in a pencil skirt and stilettos.

Female-led smash-hit shows such as Orange Is the New Black and Scandal show that there's an audience hungry for powerful, funny, complicated women. Nina Whitley is well set-up to be a fine example of this for the right audience.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why legal comedies are such a staple on television. What possibilities for ongoing comedy or drama do they offer? 

  • Name some other television shows that feature lawyers. Are they comedies or dramas? Both? How is Benched like these shows? How is it different? 

  • Is Nina Whitley wealthy or poor? How can you tell? Are her legal clients richer or poorer than she is, relatively? Do you think this economic disparity mirrors real life? 

TV details

For kids who love girls and boys

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