Expedition Africa: Stanley and Livingstone

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Expedition Africa: Stanley and Livingstone TV Poster Image
Adventurers follow in history's footsteps in exciting show.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The series celebrates the adventurous human spirit and people’s ability to conquer extreme elements and overcome challenges. The explorers’ commitment to teamwork is challenged again and again, and egos often clash in tense situations, but they usually talk their way through the tough times and remain focused on their collective goal. Only one team member is a woman, and she admits to feeling disrespected by other explorers because of her gender.

Violence

Plenty of tense exchanges and heated disagreements -- a la most reality TV.

Sex
Language

Sporadic instances of “f--k” and “s--t” are edited out.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this compelling nature/adventure reality series includes plenty of tense exchanges and disagreements. As tempers flare, so does the strong language ("s--t" and "f--k," for example), but it's mostly edited and sporadic. The series shows great respect for both the natural splendor and inherent dangers of Africa and celebrates the adventurous spirit of explorers past and present.

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What's the story?

In EXPEDITION AFRICA: STANLEY AND LIVINGSTONE, four modern-day adventurers embark on a 30-day, 970-mile journey into Tanzania in the footsteps of famed explorers Dr. David Livingstone and Henry Stanley. The travel journals of Stanley -- an American journalist who traveled the same route in 1871 hoping for the scoop behind Dr. Livingstone's disappearance -- now provide direction for navigator Pasquale Scaturro, wildlife expert Mireya Mayor, survivalist Benedict Allen, and journalist Kevin Sites. Together with a team of hired porters and under the protection of two Masai warriors, the team must conquer the extreme African elements and overcome dangers like dehydration, wild animals, and disease.

Is it any good?

It's tough to miss the similarities between this series and the groundbreaking reality hit Survivor, which originally made a household name of Expedition Africa producer Mark Burnett. The four-person cast appears to have been assembled not just on their individual merits but also on the powder keg potential of their collective egos. The explorers often take breaks during intense situations to sound off about their peers for the camera in confession-style asides (a staple of modern reality TV) -- which makes for plenty of personal drama but also detracts a bit from the show's central purpose of documenting a re-enactment of one of history's most remarkable journeys.

That said, Expedition Africa has a lot to offer those who can handle the cast's frequent conflicts. There's plenty of more truly realistic drama as the explorers routinely face dangerous wildlife and the possibility of disease. Their travels offer viewers a look at stunning beauty of Africa's landscape and its diverse population, and the cast's passionate respect for both is inspiring. But even that pales in comparison to the show's celebration of the human spirit and quest for adventure.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why shows about survival are so popular. Do you think most people would enjoy finding themselves in similar circumstances, or is it just vicarious living? What special skills do the explorers in this show have that keep them safe in the wild?  Why is it important to have people with different specialties (wildlife, survival, navigation) on an expedition like this? How do they work as a team for a common goal? What skils could you contribute to a team like this?

TV details

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