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 Dolly Parton's Heartstrings is an anthological series with a different story in each episode, making it difficult to predict what the content might be from one to the next. Some episodes deal with decidedly mature issues like rape and marital infidelity, but always in insightful ways with ultimately positive and heartwarming messages. Likewise, the use of strong language ("damn," "dammit," "a--hole," "titties," etc.) varies from one episode to the next, and violent content, firearm use, stereotypes, and gender roles change to reflect historical and societal norms of the respective settings. The stories are inspired by the lyrics of several of Dolly Parton's most famous songs but often approach the telling in unexpected and original ways. An all-star cast and exceptional writing, plus the recurring presence of Dolly herself onscreen, help make this series truly compelling drama.
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What's the story?
The stories in DOLLY PARTON'S HEARTSTRINGS are inspired by the lyrics in several of the country musician's iconic songs, including "Jolene," "These Old Bones," and "If I Could Fly." The tales span different time periods and in some cases, center on characters loosely based on acquaintances from Parton's own life experiences, but themes of forgiveness, love, faith, family, and hope mark all of them. The cast changes with each story, counting among its stars the likes of Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Kathleen Turner, Delta Burke, Camryn Manheim, and Dolly Parton herself.
Is it any good?
Compelling and dramatic, this series will reach far beyond the country music fan pool for its audience. The stories are wonderfully written and expertly acted, and despite their roots in the words of well-known songs, they never feel formulaic. Often the plots veer from the expected while still staying true to the prominent themes. What's more, even though Parton introduces each episode herself and acts in several, you never get the sense that the show is an advertising tool. Even the songs that inspire the stories themselves serve to complement rather than to overwhelm the content.
Dolly Parton's Heartstrings is wholesome, heartfelt -- and yes, sometimes soapy -- entertainment, but because each story is so unique, it's difficult to predict the issues that might arise as it evolves. Where one episode brims with mostly family friendly content and themes of respect, honesty, and compassion, another delves into more mature subjects like marital infidelity and sympathizes to some degree with "the other woman." As such, if you're hoping to watch with your tweens, be sure to preview the episodes to select those that are most appropriate for general family viewing and save the others for grown-up TV time.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Dolly Parton's Heartstrings presents family relationships. Is the drama that exists between family members in these stories believable? Does it for make appealing, relatable stories? Do the characters experience realistic changes of heart? Does entertainment always have to be applicable to our lives to be compelling?
What instances of forgiveness stand out to you in this series? How do the characters demonstrate compassion for each other even when differences threaten their relationships? What other strong qualities do you notice in the characters?
Does this show's unique format that uses songs to inspire the stories work well? Are some episodes more successful than others? Were you familiar with Dolly Parton's music before watching? Are you any more or less inclined to seek it out after seeing the series?
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