City Confidential

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
City Confidential TV Poster Image
Overdramatic docuseries looks at urban crimes.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The series provides an analytical look at crimes (mainly homicide) and the resolution of those crimes. The criminals and their victims are of various ages, races, and socio-economic backgrounds. Different cities of varying demographic makeup are also featured.


Frequent descriptions of violent crime, including murder and sexual abuse. Bloody crime-scene footage is sometimes shown. The victim is occasionally visible in these pictures.


Frequent references to sexual behavior, including prostitution. The discussions usually aren't explicit.


Mostly mild -- "damn," "hell," etc. Stronger swear words (often from recorded evidence) are bleeped out.


The show highlights various American cities, mentioning some of their local attractions.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

References to drug and alcohol abuse. Occasional references to drug trafficking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this sometimes-overdramatic documentary series focuses on murders committed in North American cities. Due to the subject matter, there's plenty of discussion of topics like violent crime, drug trafficking, and sexual abuse, and some photos and footage show bloody crime scenes. What makes this show different from other crime documentaries is that each episode also showcases the city in which the crime is committed, offering some history and other information about the community.

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What's the story?

CITY CONFIDENTIAL is a documentary-style series that examines crime and its impact on communities. Each episode focuses on a particular North American city, looking at each place's unique characteristics, providing some background on its history, highlighting some of its local celebrities, and also recounting the tale of a murder committed within the city's limits. While the show follows a typical documentary format -- relying on news footage and police photos to flesh out the stories -- it also offers a local point of view about the crime and the subsequent courtroom drama. Interviews with a variety of community leaders provide an interesting perspective on the impact the crime has had on the city's residents.

Is it any good?

Because City Confidential attempts to be both entertaining and informative without damaging the reputation of the featured cities, it isn't particularly thought-provoking. And it often seems a bit contrived when the crimes are introduced as local secrets -- when, in fact, many of the cases have received national attention. As a result, the narrative is a bit overdramatic, taking away from the true tragedy that occurred when these crimes were committed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the impact that crime has on local communities. How can a crime change the way people feel about an area, the people who live there, or how safe they feel living in that community? Families can also talk about what makes each American city unique. What's your favorite city? What about that city makes it stand out for you? Do you think your opinion would change if you heard about a violent crime taking place there?

TV details

  • Premiere date: November 7, 1998
  • Cast: Paul Winfield
  • Network: A&E
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-PG
  • Available on: DVD
  • Last updated: September 19, 2019

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