TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Breakthrough TV Poster Image
Fascinating docu series vibrantly explores science topics.

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Positive Messages

The show focuses on how curiosity, scientific exploration, and its subsequent discoveries can improve lives as well as technological developments created for the greater good. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Featured scientists commit to finding solutions to global problems.


Occasional disturbing media footage, dramatic reenactments, death and dying, other global issues; blood, needles, corpses visible.


The series is produced in partnership with General Electric.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Prescription, experimental drugs discussed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Breakthrough is a fantastic, highly visual documentary series that looks at various topics that affect the world around us through the lens of six Hollywood directors. Scientific exploration and discovery are major themes, and things such as technology, vaccinations, and other scientific discoveries are considered positive contributions to global society. Some episodes contain media footage and reenactments of ill and dying people as well as other disturbingly dramatic images, but all are offered in context. Teens who aren't science-inclined may not clamor to see it, but those who do will be surprised by what they learn.

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What's the story?

BREAKTHROUGH is a documentary series that highlights some of the cutting-edge projects scientists are currently working on that could potentially result in major scientific breakthroughs. Directors Peter Berg, Angela Bassett, Ron Howard, Paul Giamatti, Akiva Goldsman, and Brett Ratner each produced individual episodes that explore topics that have a global impact. They feature interviews with pioneering scientists, and dramatic reenactments plus archival media footage help round out their stories. From looking for medical treatments to fight pandemics such as the Ebola virus to understanding how technology is merging with human life, each episode offers an in-depth understanding of some of the world’s most pressing issues and how science is addressing them.

Is it any good?

This thoughtful, intelligent, and highly visual series offers perspectives on some of the scientific topics that affect global society. But what adds interest to these discussions are the ways they're presented, thanks to the unique, individual style of each director, as well as the scientists' personal stories. 

Each installment addresses complicated issues, but it does so in a way that makes sense to a non-scientific community. As a result, viewers may be surprised by how much they learn from them. Whether or not you're a science buff, it's easy to appreciate how scientific explorers are consistently striving to achieve breakthroughs that will positively change the world.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about some of the major scientific breakthroughs that have made a major difference in people’s lives over the years. The development of penicillin to fight infections, vaccinations to eradicate diseases, and the technology that led to the creation of cell phones are all results of major scientific breakthroughs. What would our lives be like if these breakthroughs never happened?

  • Why would successful Hollywood directors choose to produce a documentary about science and discovery? Is it for the artistry? The commitment to the issue they're addressing? Are documentaries supposed to be creative and entertaining like Hollywood films?

  • How does Breakthrough promote curiosity? Why is this an important character strength?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love science

Character Strengths

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Themes & Topics

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