Cobra Kai

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Cobra Kai TV Poster Image
Reboot of the very-'80s karate franchise is a total kick.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 16 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

At heart, this drama is about redemption, and ultimately cooperation is championed over rivalry. But there are some iffy messages about masculinity and violence: a man calls a group of teens "ladies" after a fight, Johnny says he wants to teach old-school karate to Miguel's "pussy generation." 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Johnny is not a great role model -- he drinks, he's thoughtlessly aggressive, and he's racist, calling neighbor Miguel "Menudo" and an "immigrant." Daniel is a better father figure and a kinder character in general, though Johnny can bring out the worst in him. 

Violence

Expect frequent hand-to-hand combat, including competitive martial arts battles and street fighting. Problematically, violence is presented as a way to solve problems and gain power, like in an early scene when a down-and-out Johnny begins an upward self-esteem spiral by beating up a gang of surly teen boys. When combatants hit and kick each other they frequently go flying, but there's no blood or gore and they go down and stay there or get up and seem to suffer no real injury. 

Sex

Expect talk about sex, like when a group of teens loudly says they should buy condoms at a convenience store. Teens date, flirt, kiss, have romantic complications. 

Language

Language is frequent, and used both to add emphasis and to insult others: "piss," "s--t," "hell," "damn," "a--hole," "bitch,"  "goddamn," "bulls--t," woman calls Zabka "dummy" and "idiot," a man tells another man he has a tiny "wang" (he calls it "pinga" in Spanish), a group of cruel classmates calls Miguel "loser" and "rhea" (short for "diarrhea"), while Johnny calls him an "immigrant" (even though he's from Riverside) and "Menudo." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man waking up takes a swig of a beer, then holds his head as if it hurts, then drinks more beer in a "hair of the dog" manner. A teen vapes (presumably nicotine) and tries to buy beer at a store. A man guzzles beer and vodka while alone, and drinks out of a bag while driving. 

What parents need to know

Families need to know that Cobra Kai is based on the original Karate Kid movie series, and features two of the lead actors from the first movie. Not only does this drama have vintage stars, it has questionably vintage-level violence -- lots of fighting in the ring, as you'd expect from a show about a martial arts dojo, but also street fighting and bullying: a gang of three teens sets upon another, pours Pepto Bismol on his head, call him "loser" and "rhea" (short for diarrhea) and then shove him violently into a bush; a fiftysomething man then uses karate to violently subdue these teens. There's no blood, gore, or visible injuries, but characters often hit first and talk later. Language is frequent and often insulting: characters call each other "a--hole," "bitch," "dummy." A Latino teen is called "Menudo" and an "immigrant." There's also other cursing: "s--t," "damn," etc. A character drinks while driving, guzzles beer and vodka alone in his living room. However, there are lots of messages about perseverance, friendship, and the value of hard work; parents who remember the original series will probably enjoy this update along with their teens. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBeth S. May 6, 2018

language and sexual content

I grew up watching the Karate Kid movies and my children have seen them all so we were excite to watch the this spin off. After watching the first 2 (free) epis... Continue reading
Adult Written byJenny S. May 8, 2018

Not for kids

Like other viewers have said, as the episodes go on, the swearing and sex talk get worse. I had hopes for this show, as it started out interesting, but I am dis... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byLeftySkates June 19, 2018

Great show, could have less bad stuff

In my opinion this show was probably the best I've seen in awhile, but I saw so many things wrong with it that shouldn't have been in it. 1. Everybo... Continue reading

What's the story?

Continuing the story that began with 1984's The Karate Kid, COBRA KAI picks up with present-day Daniel LaRusso (Ralph Macchio) and Johnny Lawrence (William Zabka). Daniel's now a successful auto dealer, with plenty of money, a beautiful family, and a starring role in his businesses' TV commercials in which he threatens to kick prices into submission. Johnny's life has taken a more serious turn -- he's out of work and out of luck when a chance cash infusion and a scuffle with some rowdy local teens intent on roughing up his sensitive new neighbor Miguel (Xolo Maridueña) convinces him that the youth of today needs his brand of old-school karate. But when Johnny's rejuvenated Cobra Kai dojo starts interfering with Daniel's family life, the old rivalry is reignited, and it's anyone's guess who'll end up on top this time. 

Is it any good?

The original Karate Kid leads have not lost their charm, and this well-written reboot of the franchise is way better than you'd expect. One of the great things about Cobra Kai is how lived-in it feels. When we catch up with them, neither Johnny nor Daniel is doing particularly well. On the surface, Johnny seems to be more on the skids -- he's just lost his dead-end job, he's estranged from his teen son, and he doesn't seem to have any friends, unless you count the beer bottles littering his bedside table. For his part, Daniel's a successful So-Cal businessman, but he also relives his glorious past to to make up for his lackluster present and has dad issues of his own (not to mention a hole in his life where Mr. Miyagi used to reside). These feel like realistic turns from characters we knew a long time ago. 

Meanwhile, the drama pleasantly stokes Gen X nostalgia with Poison and Foreigner on the soundtrack and plenty of flashbacks to clue in new watchers as to what came before -- plus a fresh-faced cast of young'uns who are ready to carry on the rivalry between Cobra Kai and...well, everyone else, though ironically this time Johnny's new dojo is trying to empower the misfits and losers of the cast, even if Johnny goes about it in a fairly abusive way. When Daniel's wayward daughter becomes the pointy part of a love triangle between Johnny's protege and his rival, the old enemies are bound to clash again -- and against all odds, it's a delight. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about reboots and remakes. Why are so many new movies and TV shows continuations or re-dos of old dramas or comedies? Why would people want to see characters again? Is it unusual that a reboot uses the same actors as the original? Does it make you want to watch it more? 

  • The original Karate Kid was an underdog story. What other movies fit into this genre? What are some similarities between the main characters' journeys? Who helps them? Who are their rivals?

  • How do the characters in Cobra Kai demonstrate perseverance and courage? Why are these important character strengths? Which characters demonstrate these strengths?

TV details

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