Frayed

TV review by
Mandie Caroll, Common Sense Media
Frayed TV Poster Image
Funny, edgy riches-to-rags dramedy has some teen appeal.

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

Positive Messages

Any positive messages are undermined by morally flawed but likable characters. Support your family. Do the right thing. Take responsibility when you've messed up. Learn to forgive. But most of the characters don't practice them, or they try to but end up making more problems for themselves, like when Sammy attacks her son's bully.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Tess, Sammy's daughter, is a social reject at her new school but knows (and does) right from wrong, has good intuition about others, is confident. Jean, Sammy's mom, is a recovering alcoholic, and is caring and vulnerable. Sammy, Lenny (her teenage son), her brother Jim, neighbor teen Abby, and several other supporting characters are generally mean, selfish, vindictive, angry, or abrasive, though they all have good moments, too. One character is Chinese and is the subject of racist comments. Everyone else is White.

Violence

Physical and verbal bullying, with no to minimal consequences for the bullies. Sammy and Jim fight and call each other names, as do Lenny and Tess. One minor character dies via gunshot, but viewers only briefly see a dead, bloody body.

Sex

Sexual intercourse between adult characters is shown several times (in bed, in an alleyway, in a car). One interrupted attempt at masturbation (again, no nudity). Frequent, crude sexual talk throughout.

Language

Lots of swearing, including "f--k," "s--t," and variants, and "bitch." Aussie/British swears like "wanker" and "piss off" are also used frequently. Some racist comments and jokes toward the sole Chinese character. Some derogatory remarks about women.  

Consumerism

Uncle Jim is protective of his Choco-Bombs cereal and drinks the same kind of beer, but they are fictional brands. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults sometimes drink to excess, experience hangovers. Adults and teens smoke cigarettes and pot. References to heroin and other drug use.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Frayed is a dark Australian comedy set in 1989 about Sammy Cooper, a rich housewife from London who returns with her teenagers to Australia after her husband's embarrassing death reveals that the family is broke. Sammy and her brother, Jim, fight incessantly, as do Sammy's kids, Lenny and Tess. None of the characters are very nice to each other, but they do love each other. Characters experience verbal and physical bullying and abuse. A minor character dies by gunshot, but the scene shows only brief glimpses of a lifeless, bloody body. There is sex between adult characters and masturbation (no nudity), and lots of crude sexual talk. Profanity includes frequent uses of "s--t," f--k," "bitch," "wanker" and "piss off." Racist comments toward the sole Chinese character and derogatory remarks about women are also a concern. Several times, adults drink to excess and have hangovers. Adults and teens smoke cigarettes and pot. Whether teens watch alone or with adults, there are opportunities to talk about the bullying/abuse, racism, and sexism in the show.

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What's the story?

FRAYED begins with Sammy Cooper (Sarah Kendall), a wealthy housewife in late-1980s London, identifying her dead husband at the hospital. She learns that her husband had committed fraud, leaving her and their kids penniless. Under the lie of "complications with the estate," she moves in with her mother, Jean, and man-child brother, Jim, in her hometown of Newcastle, Australia. There, Sammy must face all those she hurt by disappearing 20 years before, as well as get a job and pay off her debts. Multiple storylines tell this family's story: Uncle Jim is prickly and crude, but has a soft spot for his sister's kids. Jean is a recovering alcoholic, has a love interest, and struggles to stay sober. Sammy's kids, Lenny and Tess, are shocked to learn their mother's life in London was a lie -- they didn't even know her real name or that they had an uncle. They also struggle to adjust, and bullies target them both. The shocker Season 1 finale leaves lots to resolve in another season.

Is it any good?

This Aussie import charms and disturbs with its creative twist on the "homecoming" story. Sarah Kendall, who wrote Frayed and plays Sammy, delivers a story that feels real and absurd. A self-centered liar, Sammy fled a broken heart when she first left Australia. Her plotting to return to London, though, feels like a ridiculous pursuit, stalling reconciliations she wants at home. Uncle Jim is sadly one-dimensional, and the butt of many jokes -- he's dumb, racist, and sexist, though his soft spot for his sister's kids can be endearing. Jean and Tess's storylines are the most satisfying to watch as they struggle to adjust and stay true to themselves.

Though a dramedy, the show can feel disjointed when drama overshadows humor. The racism is pointless beyond cheap laughs, and the show offers weak commentary on women's equality. Still, the multiple storylines leave viewers with plenty to explore. Teens will enjoy the young people's stories and seeing parents struggle to grow up, and adults will laugh and cringe as Sammy gets herself into absurd situations. A solid pick for older teens and adults.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the morally flawed characters in Frayed. What actions and decisions come back to haunt the main characters? How do these affect your opinion of the characters? What makes them likable? What makes them unlikable?

  • Both Tess and Lenny experience bullying at school. Does the bullying they experience feel realistic? How does it compare to bullying you see these days? What would you do, and who could you talk to, if you were being bullied?

  • What do the racist and sexist jokes and comments say about the year this film is set in (1989)? Are things better now, or do people still talk this way? What can you do to address people who say racist and sexist things?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dark comedies

Themes & Topics

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