Criminal

TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
Criminal TV Poster Image
International cop drama has unique format, formulaic cases.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Each episode features a different criminal interrogation, most of which are successful. There are positive messages around persistence and creative problem-solving under pressure.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The show features an international cast. However, the heavy procedural format makes it difficult to get a read on any of the recurring characters, other than that they're successful at their jobs.

Violence

Violence is limited to the discussions of crimes, but those include murder, sexual assault, poisoning, domestic abuse, human trafficking, and acts of terror. Crime scene photos are shown in some episodes.

Sex

One of the episodes centers around the sexual assault and murder of a teenager by her stepfather. Nothing is shown, but the interrogations are often blunt when discussing sex.

Language

Profanity includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "ass," etc.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters occasionally smoke during breaks. There's no drinking or drug use shown, but some of the crimes are drug-related, including a cocaine dealer suspected of a terrorist affiliation.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Criminal is a procedural police drama with a unique format. The show is broken up into four individual series, Criminal: UK, Criminal: France, Criminal: Germany, and Criminal: Spain. However, the format is the same for each series, as police officers attempt to elicit a confession from a suspect over the course of a long interrogation. The crimes are often violent and upsetting and include homicide, hate crimes, domestic abuse, sexual assault, human trafficking, serial murder, and acts of terrorism, though they are only talked about and not shown (outside of some crime scene photos). One of the cases involves sexual assault and murder, and another crime is attributed to a cocaine dealer. Strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," and more.

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What's the story?

CRIMINAL is a Netflix police procedural show split into four different series, each taking place in a different country: Britain, France, Germany, and Spain. Each series includes 3 standalone episodes, which are all shot in a single location that shows 3 different areas of a police interrogation -- the interrogation room where the suspect is held; the room on the other side of the one-way mirror where detectives watch the interrogation unfold; and the hallway and stairs right outside the interrogation areas. In each of the 12 episodes, a team of police officers from their respective country interrogate a suspected criminal until they elicit a confession. 

Is it any good?

As a formal exercise in police procedural television, this could be very exciting. Seeing police work under similar circumstances in different countries opens up a lot of possibilities for either character studies (as in Columbo or Law & Order: Criminal Intent, where we already know who committed the crimes) or illuminating cultural differences in justice systems. However, Criminal opts for neither of those possibilities. Instead, the show drags out run-of-the-mill setups similar to those that have been used on police procedural shows for the last 20 years. Though it's entertaining, the viewer ends up learning next to nothing about either the characters or the different country's settings. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about interrogation. What kind of tactics do the police use to elicit confessions in Criminal? How do the police officers adapt their tactics to different suspects?

  • Why do you think Criminal creators chose to break up the series into different countries? How do the interrogation practices differ by country? Do you think these differences say anything about the cultures of those particular countries?

  • Could you predict the outcome in any, or all, of these cases? What are some of the things the writers could have done to make the stories less predictable? 

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love detective dramas

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