By Will Wade,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Intense ride-along glamorizes a very tough job.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The show draws very clear lines between the "good guys" (the agents), and the "bad guys" (the dealers) and shows the two sides in very confrontational situations. The agents first document the dealers' crimes and later storm their homes to arrest them. Once suspects are in custody, the agents try to convince them to turn in their suppliers, and it's clear that many of the dealers are very conflicted about whether to cut a deal. The agents often show contempt for the criminals when speaking to the camera and can seem a bit two-faced as they try to sweet-talk the suspects into setting up other dealers.
Violence & Scariness
Though there are few fistfights or gunfights, the DEA agents are often shown raiding suspects' homes. These raids typically start by battering down the front door and rushing inside with guns drawn and are quite intimidating. Suspects are later shown in handcuffs, sometimes on the ground.
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Both the agents and the suspects frequently swear in everyday conversation, but the strongest words are bleeped. Some conversations appear in subtitles, with some of the words marked with dashes, including "s--t" and "f--k."
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Products & Purchases
The show glamorizes the job of DEA agents to the point that it could serve as a recruiting film.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
The DEA's mission is to eliminate drug trafficking, and every episode focuses on finding and arresting dealers. There's plenty of discussion of drugs, and the real thing is often displayed after raids on suspects' homes, sometimes in very large quantities. As part of their investigations, the team must document deals, and some are shown on camera. Many of the suspects are high when the agents burst in on them.
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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.
Where to Watch
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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?
- Premiere date: April 2, 2008
- Cast: John Greer, Justin Mohr, Rick Gatewood
- Network: Spike
- Genre: Reality TV
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: February 24, 2022
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