Intense and intriguing, but not OK for kids.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series explores the murky distinction between "good guys" and "bad guys," blurring the lines between heroes and villains. Virtually no character serves as a completely positive role model, although several characters are undeniably negative.


Real, explicit violence is a regular part of the plot, with graphic depictions of a woman having a dangling earring ripped out of her ear (and her attacker having his own ear cut off as punishment) and two innocent people getting brutally beaten on the street. One mentally challenged character is manipulated into playing Russian roulette with a loaded gun. Another is brutally murdered in public with a shovel. One male character threatens a female character with rape.


One character is engaging in an ongoing extramarital affair with a former high school flame, a storyline that often includes partial nudity and, in some cases, male and female frontal nudity. The tip of a man's penis is visible while he pees over the side of a boat. One male character is shown receiving oral sex from a scantily clad young woman.


Both swear words (including "bastard," "piss," "p--sy," "bulls--t," and several variations of "f--k") and hate words ("darky," "spook," "nigger," "fag") are used liberally.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Bars occasionally serve as backdrops for important scenes. One character is a recovering alcoholic but still frequents bars to test his strength; other characters are mostly shown drinking socially. Two characters are occasionally shown smoking marijuana.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this Showtime series was written and produced for adults and isn't appropriate for children of any age -- not even most older teens. The first line of audible dialogue in the pilot is "I say pull your pants down 'cause I wanna f--k you up the ass." And it only gets worse from there, since that line is soon followed by a grisly scene of a man being beaten to death with a shovel. In addition to the serious language and graphic violence strewn throughout the series, there's also occasional drug use and explicit sex, including more than one shot of male frontal nudity.

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What's the story?

Set in a fictional Irish neighborhood in Providence, R.I., known as \"The Hill,\" BROTHERHOOD begins with state rep. Tommy Caffee (Jason Clarke) -- a hardworking, ambitious family man -- fielding rumors that his wayward brother, Michael (Jason Isaacs) -- a former gangster with blood on his hands -- is back in town after seven years on the run from the FBI. When Michael finally shows up, claiming he's changed his ways, Tommy and his wife (Annabeth Gish) remain wary, while the Caffee boys' mother (Fionnula Flanagan) is just happy to know he's alive. But it doesn't take long for Michael's presence to start stirring things up on The Hill, engaging Tommy in a precarious dance between family loyalty and the law.

Is it any good?


Brotherhood packs a wallop in terms of foul language and graphic violence, but it also offers complex characters whose motivations run deep. Critically speaking, this gritty Showtime drama scores big points for nailing the complexities of the American Dream and taking the time to develop characters who are both good and bad at the same time. But on the road to exploring the theme, too much blood (and sex and verbal carnage) is spilled along the way. The result is an intriguing study of the gray area between good and bad and the age-old theme of sibling rivalry in the vein of Cain and Abel. But make no mistake: It's a show for adults only; this is probably one of the worst shows kids could watch -- so parents should plan to enjoy it on their own time.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the moral extremes of "good" and "bad" -- and the gray areas lurking in between. Why do we as a society often have the need to label someone as "good" or "bad"? Can a person be both? For example, can a good person have serious flaws and still be considered good? And do good deeds done by a bad person make him any less bad? What are some of the causes of sibling rivalry? And do childhood power struggles ever really go away?

TV details

Cast:Annabeth Gish, Jason Clarke, Jason Isaacs
TV rating:TV-MA
Available on:DVD

This review of Brotherhood was written by

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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.

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Teen, 15 years old Written byBouncingOffClouds April 9, 2008


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