Dark Days in Monkey City

TV review by
Anne Louise Bannon, Common Sense Media
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Docuseries veers more toward frightening than informative.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The show captures the normal/natural behavior of its primate subjects -- which in many cases is constant fighting. The conflict and violence aspects of the serires are played up in the voice-over narration.


There's no evil intent here -- all of the fighting is natural behavior for these animals. But they do fight constantly, sometimes to the death (in one episode there were at least three separate shots of dead monkeys, two of them of babies). The violence is emphasized with the use of red "blood" splatter graphics during the opening credits, plus occasional shots of bleeding monkeys.


This is the natural world -- there's some mating going on, even if it's not usually seen.

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What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this isn't a warm, fuzzy Animal Planet series. The featured primates aren't nice, happy little monkeys -- they're seriously mean, and the narration's tendency to give them personalities and motivations makes them seem even meaner. They fight constantly, sometimes to the death -- it's all natural behavior, but it can gert pretty intense (sometimes even bloody). Animated graphics also include blood "splatters." Bottom line? Teens and mature tweens should be able to handle this look at the darker side of nature, but it's too intense and scary for little kids.

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What's the story?

What Animal Planet did for meerkats and lemurs, they're now trying with toque macaque monkeys in the Sri Lankan jungle. Edited together using footage from the Smithsonian Primate Project, DARK DAYS IN MONKEY CITY is basically a soap opera -- stylistically presented as a graphic novel/comic book -- revolving around the relentless power struggles within and among four monkey tribes.

Is it any good?

The show's comic-book style is enormously effective in creating a dark, brooding atmosphere, and actor John Rhys-Davies (Gimli from the Lord of the Rings movies) delivers the overwrought, heavily anthropomorphized narration with such gusto that he sounds like William Shatner with a British accent. You get the sense that these monkeys really are mean little beasties -- from their abusive caste system to constant infighting.

But the narration doesn't quite get around to mentioning that when things like this happen in nature, it's because they evolved that way as a survival mechanism. Overall, like many live-action reality series, conflict is emphasized over information -- and there's lots and lots of conflict.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what they think this series is trying to accomplish. Is it trying to educate and inform or shock and entertain? Or both? Does editing the monkey footage together in a way that creates a narrative help viewers understand the animals or make it harder? Why? Families can also discuss using animation as part of a documentary. Does it help tell the story more accurately or obscure what's going on?

TV details

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