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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this reality show glamorizes the difficult -- and very dangerous -- job of a Drug Enforcement Administration agent. Team members are shown breaking down the doors of drug dealers' homes and rushing in, guns drawn, to arrest suspects. Viewers see plenty of real dealers, real deals, and lots of real drugs. The series makes the agents' day-to-day activities seem exciting and important, but the show makes little effort to discuss the big picture -- such as why so many of the dealers are poor, or whether arresting them will actually have much impact on the international drug trade.
What's the story?
Few programs on the reality-show spectrum seem as real as DEA, an in-depth look at the day-to-day activities of a Drug Enforcement Administration task force trying to stem the flow of illegal substances in Detroit. The camera crew rides along with real-life agents as they interview confidential informants, go undercover to make buys, and raid suspected dealers' homes. Once a suspect is in custody, the agents try to convince them to help snare their suppliers, and the process begins again one step up the food chain.
Is it any good?
The show focuses on the street-level agents and makes their very dangerous job seem both exciting and important. Certainly the agents seem to get a rush from busting down a suspect's door and rushing in with guns drawn; knowing that these raids are the real thing can make them seem more thrilling to viewers than similar invasions on fictional cop shows.
DEA does an admirable job of explaining how the agents navigate the complicated world of the drug trade, collecting evidence and building cases. It's a gripping look at a world that few people get to see. But by focusing on low-level dealers, the show fails to explain the larger context. It doesn't address the ideas behind the government's drug policies or question whether there may be better approaches to fighting the "war on drugs."
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about drugs and how they're depicted in the media. How do the dealers and users in this show compare to the ones portrayed in fictional TV shows and movies? Does the life of a drug dealer seem glamorous or dangerous? Do the DEA agents seem to enjoy their job?