Hard-hitting news documentaries for teens and up.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series is intended to provide thorough coverage of all aspects of a particular issue. Many of the stories focus on the plight of the underserved, as well as bringing attention to controversial issues of our era -- including AIDS, abortion, and sexism. Multiple points of view are presented.

Positive role models

The reporters featured on the show are some of the best in the business and are seen asking tough questions and getting to the bottom of important stories. But they're not the focus of the stories. Instead, viewers will see examples of people who have done things both very wrong, and very right.


Some episodes discuss violent events, such as war, terrorism, and rebellion. The accompanying images can be harrowing, but there's no active violence, per se.


Some of the installments discuss issues of a sexual nature (sex-slave trade, etc.). These discussions are presented as informational content.


Occasional mild language, such as "damn."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Drugs, alcohol, and tobacco products are sometimes visible as part of the documentation of events. Addiction and drug/alcohol-related deaths are sometimes discussed. Use of legal and illegal narcotics, such as treatments for AIDS and cancer, are also talked about.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this news documentary series provides thoughtful, provocative insight on current events as a way of raising public awareness of contemporary issues. While the series overall is educational, some installments include in-depth interviews and video footage that may be too strong for younger viewers. (Of course, chances are that most kids -- including plenty of teens -- won't really be clamoring to see a news-focused series anyway.)

What's the story?

FRONTLINE is a hard-hitting, magazine-style documentary news series that looks at contemporary, often-controversial issues, focusing on the people who work on the frontlines of the major events of our time. Considered PBS' flagship public affairs series for more than 20 years, Frontline follows the time-honored tradition of broadcast news by telling stories that objectively explore present-day topics in the United States and abroad. Sept. 11, the war in Iraq, the global politics of AIDS, and the controversies surrounding abortion are just a few of the many issues that the program has delved into.

Is it any good?


The winner of many major journalism awards -- including a Peabody for excellence in TV broadcasting -- Frontline stands out among other prime-time programs of this genre thanks to its in-depth research, solid reporting, and strong narrative. As a result of the producers' commitment to journalistic excellence, the series offers unflinching examinations of different, often-conflicting viewpoints, allowing viewers to experience for themselves the complexity of many of life's multifaceted events.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about current events. How do these events impact the way we look at the world? Who are the people involved in these events, and what are their roles? What specific issues do you feel strongly about? Families can also talk about the differences between broadcast news and public affairs documentaries. What do documentaries offer that news stories don't or can't? If you were asked to make a documentary about an important issue, what would it be about? Who would you interview? Parents can find more discussion topics in Frontline's Teacher Center.

TV details

Cast:Will Lyman
TV rating:NR
Available on:DVD, Streaming

This review of Frontline was written by

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 15 years old Written bySynchronicity March 18, 2009

Just like any other PBS late-night series: excellent!

Into current events? Well, this show is for you. Frontline is basically a newsmagazine that covers diverse topics. A few: the media industry and teenagers, the use of psychoactive drugs in children, so-called "safe" alternatives to cigarettes, the Iraq War, international healthcare systems, and our bad economy. The appropriateness of Frontline depends on the topic. Some episodes are benign but intense; others are not for anyone under 14. One example of an episode of this caliber is The Merchants of Cool, about the media industry's marketing tactics towards teens like me. Since the entire episode has to do with the teen media of that time period (late 2000-early 2001, I believe), the episode has some pretty offensive content, such as 3 f-bombs (rare for PBS) and some pretty disgusting sexual content. But it's not out of context. That's the thing; any Frontline episode with offensive content never takes it out of context. It's not supposed to titillate the viewer; it's supposed to inform them. Frontline is a good show, and I highly recommend it.
Adult Written bySamanthamaster1 December 8, 2014

Great educational documentary.

This is a great show, because, they show every topic from poverty, teen pregnancy, high school drop-out, wars, politics, economics, business, etc. I recommend this show for adults and children 16 years of age and older. Children younger than 16 probably won't understand the topics they talk about in the show. When they talk about teen pregnancy and high school drop-outs, at-least they show the REAL harsh reality of making those poor decisions, unlike any of the junk "reality" shows on MTV, this is why Frontline is recommend for ages 16+.
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models


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