By Melissa Camacho,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Compelling legal drama has violence, drugs, mature themes.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Seeking justice is central to the show. Themes range from freeing the wrongfully convicted to shedding light on the problems in the penal and legal systems. Friendship and parenthood are also themes.
Positive Role Models
Aaron Wallace is smart and determined, exhibiting courage and perseverance throughout his ordeal. Lots of people have broken the law, but many are serving longer sentences than warranted, or serving time for things they did not commit. Administrators of legal and penal systems are often focused on political ramifications of having their convictions overturned.
Violence & Scariness
Violent crimes, ranging from sexual assaults to murders, are frequently discussed, but in limited detail. People on both sides of prison bars frequently threaten and yell. Screaming and brawling is commonplace in prison. Suicide is referenced.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some mild innuendo. Crude sexual references, like "banging." Teen pregnancy is a theme.
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Words like "bastard," "damn," "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
References to drinking and drug use, including crystal meth, Oxycontin. Syringes are visible, people are shown under the influence, and overdosing is discussed. Cigarette smoking is also shown.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that For Life is a legal procedural inspired by the true story of Isaac Wright Jr., who became a lawyer while in prison in order to overturn his life sentence. It underscores some of the ongoing problems with the criminal justice system, ranging from wrongful convictions to a failure to invest in prison reform. There are lots of discussions about violent crimes, and arguments, shouts, and brawls are frequent. There's also some strong language ("bastard," "damn," "hell") and crude sexual references. Drug use and overdoses are discussed, and occasionally drug paraphernalia is shown. Teen pregnancy is also a theme.
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What's the Story?
Co-executive-produced by rapper Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, FOR LIFE is a legal drama about a man who becomes a lawyer and litigates cases for inmates while trying to overturn his own life sentence. The series, which is loosely based on true events, stars Nicholas Pinnock as Aaron Wallace, a former club owner serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole after being wrongfully convicted for drug trafficking. In an effort to clear his name, Wallace earns his law license behind bars, and represents fellow inmates in court. Occasionally helping him with cases is fellow inmate Jamal (Dorian Crossmond Missick). He also gets some support from prison warden Safiya Masry (Indira Varma), who wants to see more prison reform. Negotiating the system's politics is a challenge, especially since Masry's wife, Anya Harrison (Mary Stuart Masterson), is running for district attorney, and prosecutor Glen Maskins (Boris McGiver) is determined to keep him incarcerated. It doesn't help that Aaron's wife, Marie (Joy Bryant), has moved on and is now in a relationship with a former friend. But Wallace's daughter Jasmine (Tyla Harris) continues to believe in him, which keeps him fighting.
Is It Any Good?
This compelling series is inspired by the true story of Isaac Wright Jr., who successfully had his drug trafficking conviction overturned after serving seven and a half years of a life sentence. It centers on Aaron Wallace's efforts to help inmates who are victims of the institutional flaws inherent in the criminal justice system, which requires him to work alongside the same people who are intent on keeping him locked up. It also weaves in family narratives to underscore the collateral damage caused by his wrongful incarceration. Like many police procedural TV shows, there are some predictable dramatic moments. But the show's quiet subtleties, ranging from calls to action written on papers hanging from cell walls, to Wallace wearing a small smile and a prison uniform while handcuffed to a bus seat after successfully winning a trial, highlight the difficult and dangerous metaphorical tightrope that he walks every day. These are the details that make For Life worth watching, regardless of how frustrated the story may make you feel.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the way For Life portrays the criminal justice system. Do you think the problems associated with wrongful convictions and prison reform are overdramatized for entertainment purposes? Or is there truth in what is being shown?
When a TV show or movie is based on a true story, what makes it a work of fiction? Is it the changes made to adapt the narrative for a TV or movie format? Or is the screen version simply "borrowing" some true facts in order to tell a more interesting story?
Who is Isaac Wright Jr.? What makes his story so compelling? How does his journey compare with that of the character of Aaron Wallace?
- Premiere date: February 11, 2020
- Cast: Nicholas Pinnock, Indira Varma, Joy Bryant
- Network: ABC
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: December 18, 2022
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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