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