Big Lake

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Big Lake TV Poster Image
Unfunny sitcom can't wring laughs out of language, sex.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

There's not really an attempt here to convey a "message," but most takeaways are pretty grim. The only bright spot is that Josh's actions -- and corporate greed -- had negative consequences.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Josh grapples with guilt, and he is trying to pay back his parents' lost investments. That said, he lost $200 million and caused the collapse of the bank that once employed him. Other characters have major flaws (including drug dependencies, rap sheets, and gambling habits) that are played for laughs. A 13-year-old character lies to his parents and claims not to have been to school since sixth grade.


Occasional cartoonish violence. Josh's 13-year-old brother carries a handgun.


Lots of sexually charged terms are used -- like "vagina face," "d--k," "junk," "penis," "titty bars," and "numb nuts." Some blurred nudity in a few episodes.


"F--k" is used often for comedic effect, but it's bleeped. Audibles include "a--holes," "damn," "bitch," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A few characters have dependencies on prescription drugs, including diet pills and Vicodin. Some social drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this late-night sitcom leans heavily on bleeped language (mostly "f--k") and an arsenal of cheeky audibles (think "titty bar," "d--k," and "vagina face") for its few laughs. There's also some sexual content -- including blurred-out male and female nudity -- and some characters who have dependencies on prescription drugs. Another notable point for parents: A 13-year-old character who routinely lies to his parents and stays out from midnight to 5 a.m. says he hasn't been to school since the sixth grade. He also carries a concealed weapon, although that fact is played for humor.

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What's the story?

When financial "whiz kid" Josh Frankllin (Chris Gethard) makes a major miscalculation and misplaces $200 million, he loses his job and moves home to BIG LAKE, Penn., to live with his mother (Deborah Rush), father (James Rebhorn), and 13-year-old brother (Dylan Blue). But the millions he lost is nothing compared to his parents' now-squandered retirement savings, which amounts to some $385,000. In an effort to clear his conscience, Josh teams up with his former best frend (Horatio Sanz) and favorite teacher (Chris Parnell) and vows to pay his mom and dad back.

Is it any good?

Big Lake is so bad that you're left wondering what went wrong -- and whom to blame. Whether you love him or you hate him, Will Ferrell (who executive produced, along with longtime collaborator Adam McKay) can typically be trusted to deliver a laugh. But the only chuckles you'll find here are part of the show's ham-handed laugh track. How in the world did this make it on the air?

According to news reports, Napoleon Dynamite star Jon Heder was originally slated to play Josh but left the project just weeks before filming, citing "creative differences." The decision to cast a relative unknown in his role didn't help. But Gethard (a former member of the Upright Citizens Brigade and writer for Saturday Night Live and The Onion), is no slouch when it comes to comedy, and his presence alone can't explain away all the bad jokes and dead air. The only thing we can say for sure is that this one is utterly skippable.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the show's intent when it comes to comedy. Is it a satire of the sitcom format or a serious attempt to be funny? Does it work? Would another approach have been more successful?

  • How does this show compare with other sitcoms? What does it do differently, particularly when it comes to language and tone?

  • What are the potential real-life consequences of some of the behavior included in the show? What message does playing that kind of behavior for laughs send?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love comedy

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