Edge of Existence

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
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Globe-trotting adventures will fascinate families.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Cultures usually have definitive gender roles that seem antiquated but are essential to the survival of the group. The host is respectful of all cultural and religious customs and explains those that may seem foreign to Western viewers.


Occasional scenes of slaughtering animals are brief but bloody.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this eye-opening documentary series is a great introduction to the world's cultural diversity. Different customs and religions are explained respectfully, casting light on the featured societies' remarkable survival skills. That said, the show is probably best suited for tweens and teens, since younger viewers won't fully understand the practices and beliefs and may well be upset by occasional scenes of ritualistic animal sacrifice.

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What's the story?

Thrill-seeking Irish journalist Donal MacIntyre travels to the remotest corners of the globe to get an insider's view of life in some of the world's most primitive societies in the remarkable documentary series EDGE OF EXISTENCE. His travels take him from soaring dwellings in the mountains of Bolivia to the coastal home of Borneo's sea gypsies. At each stop, he immerses himself in the local residents' culture and customs, living among them to learn firsthand how -- and why -- they maintain their traditional survival in a world full of technology that could easily make their struggles for basic human needs obsolete.

Is it any good?

MacIntyre definitely gets his share of thrills from the many firsts he experiences among his hosts. For example, in a segment filmed in Oman -- where he spends a few memorable weeks with the Bedouin nomads of the Sahara Desert -- he learns the finer art of riding a camel and tending to the family goat herd. He also tags along on a 100-mile trek through the blazing desert heat to the Arabian Sea to trade dates for coveted dried fish, and he assists in the ritualistic slaughtering of a goat for a family feast. MacIntyre also talks with his hosts about their extreme lifestyle choice in a world that offers them so many other options. It's fascinating to see how a newfound reliance on global technology has actually allowed these traditional peoples to maintain their way of life with the small-but-significant safety net of communication.

This eye-opening series takes an insightful, respectful look at life in societies so remote that most viewers likely haven't heard of them. It's exactly the kind of captivating, globetrotting trip that beckons to families of tweens and teens. But younger children may be more confused than intrigued by the unfamiliar cultural practices and could get upset by occasional scenes that show animals being slaughtered for food.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the cultural differences among the featured societies. How do factors like geography and natural resources affect the residents' lifestyles? What role, if any, does religion play in their daily lives? Does this series offer an unabridged glimpse at life within these societies? If not, what do you think is missing? Families can also discuss the role that technology plays in life around the world. How has technology made our lives better (and/or worse)? How do the featured societies use technology to maintain their standard of living?

TV details

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