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 Brand X is a provocative talk show/rant on sensitive topics such as politics and religion, conducted by British comedian Russell Brand who is himself a lightning rod for controversy (he's an admitted former sex addict and junkie, and was briefly married to singer Katy Perry). The show's talky format will bore younger kids and young teens. Those same kids will lack the cultural and political background to get many of Brand's jokes, or to understand what he's talking about. Parents may feel iffy about some of the comments Brand makes, such as referring to the Jewish tradition of circumcision by wondering why God would take the time to "cut off part of a baby's dick." Brand is also very flirty with female audience members, sitting on their laps to talk to them and making comments about their appearance, though it comes off as playful rather than sexist. Older teens who can handle Brand skewering beliefs and foibles and who can sit still through all the yakking may enjoy watching, and parents will want to watch with them to continue discussing Brand's points after the show has ended.
What's the story?
British comedian Russell Brand is famous in America for three things: he used to be a heroin addict, he went to rehab for sex addiction and later wrote about it in a bestselling book, and he was briefly married to singer Katy Perry. His half-hour talk show, BRAND X, is as ribald as his past befits, if a good deal more thoughtful than readers of celebrity scandal sheets may expect. On each episode, Brand picks a different topic to ruminate on, such as the Dalai Lama's role in world religion and who functions as the Dalai Lama in America. Brand then mostly commands the microphone in seemingly off-the-cuff commentary, with brief asides from his American co-anchor and from the audience. By the end of the show, many points have been raised and given rambling attention and the viewer may be left with some thinking to do.
Is it any good?
Brand X is fun in a Real Time with Bill Maher way. Both shows offer thoughtful political and sociological commentary wrapped in funny, so it goes down easily. Host Russell Brand has an engaging personality, impish and self-deprecatingly honest, which keeps viewers interested in where he's going with a topic. He's also clearly sharp and well-read, going both high- and low-brow by referencing such personages as Nietzsche and Shaquille O'Neal with equal gravity. Brand's Britishness is a boon to the show, too. If an American suggested Warren Buffet is a "priest of the religion of capitalism" it would come off as merely mean-spirited. Said with an English accent, the Buffet joke becomes a keen cultural observation from an outsider.
On the other hand, the show's decision to focus almost entirely on Brand at the microphone is a bit numbing. There are no guests, and Brand's American co-anchor only pipes up briefly. Brand does go some interesting places as he rants on topic, but listening to one person talk on and on is a bit reminiscent of a school lecture. It's a lecture from a very groovy professor, however, one with long hipster hair and tattoos, who says amusing things like "I don't agree with Mel Gibson doing that anti-Semitism thing, but Apocalypto, great film! He really created a mood there!"
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why FX hired a British comedian to do an American show that examines American behavior. There's an old saying: fish don't discover water. What does that mean? How does this relate to Brand X? How does being an outsider to American culture affect what Russell Brand discusses on Brand X?
On Brand X, host Russell Brand humorously wonders why we believe what we believe and act the way we do. Are there any parts of the show that make you uncomfortable, or make you question a belief you hold? Does that make you like Brand X or its host more, or less?
Does the fact that Russell Brand was married to a famous singer, Katy Perry, make you more interested in him and what he thinks? Will Brand's connection to Perry make him more interesting to young kids?