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 Freakshow is a fairly mild reality series set in a working freakshow in Venice Beach. Viewers will see unusual and sometimes unsettling acts, such as sword swallowers, glass eaters, people with genetic differences, the heavily pierced and tattooed, and so on. Many of the women on the show wear revealing outfits: bustiers, garter belts. There are mild curses: "Hell, yeah!" and some sexual innuendo too. Nonetheless, the show has genuine charm and sweet, if eccentric, characters, and should be fine for teens (and their parents) to view.
What's the story?
Todd Ray had a good career in the music business, but he gave it all up to follow his dream: Running a real, working FREAKSHOW. Now his Venice Beach show pulls together oddities both human and animal, self-created and genetic, and celebrates their differences. Viewers learn about historical freakshows through Ray's curation of his extensive collection of artifacts, and look in on the day-to-day challenges at the Venice Beach Freakshow, like the search to find a bearded lady with truly luxuriant face-hair. A cast of unusual characters, including the very large and the very small, magicians, fire-eaters and other performers, keeps things lively.
Is it any good?
A show that just invited people to gawk at different-looking people would never work: The modern viewer can pull up page after page of human oddities on the Internet and get an eyeful of the most unusual performers in history. But Freakshow works because not only do we get to see weird stuff (like a spooky-skinny performer bashing a nail into his nose and pulling it out his mouth), we get to know the people themselves, and see them being supportive of each other.
It can't be easy being a young lady with a long, thick beard. The viewer already knows that. So listening to Jessa talk about growing up poor in Texas and learning to embrace her beard, and thus herself, will make sensitive viewers cringe. But watching her fellow performers embrace and support her is positively heart-warming. Freakshow doesn't shy away from showing strangeness. But its real winning quality is finding the sweetness beneath.
Talk to your kids about ...
Which of the characters on Freakshow chose to be unusual? Which were born that way? Do you think differently of either character due to these differences?
Read a little about historical freakshows, such as that by circus impresario P.T. Barnum. How is Todd Ray's Venice Beach show different from these shows? How are they alike? Are the performers in Freakshow treated better or worse than their historical forerunners?
Why would a network want to set a television show in a working freakshow? What aspects of that workplace might interest viewers?
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