Gap Year

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Gap Year TV Poster Image
Travel mishaps, drugs, drinking in this easygoing comedy.

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

Positive Messages

The value of loyal friendship is underlined -- sometimes by friends first mistreating each other before they decide to do the right thing. Tolerance of others with difficult customs or viewpoints is another positive theme that shines through, typical of the worldliness that's a common side effect of travel. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

All the characters have good and bad sides and can act with shocking selfishness and then turn around and do nice things for others; they all show growth over the course of the series. One character's struggle with her ethnic identity is highlighted: May is called a "banana" i.e. an overly assimilated Chinese person, yellow outside, white inside. 


Violence is generally introduced to amp up mayhem, like when a hurled banana milkshake is the genesis for a bar brawl. A sudden death of a character with a terminal illness is played for laughs. One man punches another.


Sex is frequently a complicating factor in this group's misdeeds. One character sleeps first with one man, then another, and the two men fight over her. Sex can be casual and no-strings, or the prelude to love, and characters are often over confused which one they're having. There's no nudity or sex onscreen; characters kiss passionately and then the camera cuts away. There are references to "threesomes," including a married couple who hope to seduce a single man together (they are unsuccessful). 


Language includes "f--king," "s-t," "a--hole," "dick." Vulgar slang is often British and American viewers may not know what it means: "arseholes," "bell-end" (a vulgar term for the end of a penis). 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink, sometimes to excess, which makes them make questionable choices. There are references to getting "smashed" and "lashed." One character smokes cigarettes frequently. Illegal drugs play a part in several scenarios including one in which a character is unknowingly given a drug by a friend hoping to change her mind about something. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Gap Year is a comedy about twentysomethings backpacking through Asia. The vibe is light and comic, and so are the plotlines, but there's still plenty of mature content. Characters drink frequently, and make iffy choices; they also buy and use illegal drugs. One character smokes cigarettes. Both men and women have casual sex, though there are emotional complications, including infighting amongst the group. At other times, sex is a prelude to a committed relationship. There are references to "threesomes," including a plotline where a married couple attempts to bring a single man into their sex lives, but no nudity or onscreen physicality beyond kissing. Language can be vulgar: "s--t," "f--king," "a--hole." Racial/ethnic/cultural stereotypes are addressed for comic effect -- one Chinese-American woman is called a "banana," and it's assumed that English and American characters are dumb and clueless. Violence is generally cartoonish, like when a bar brawl begins over a hurled milkshake. Characters show growth over the course of the show, and the value of remaining loyal to friends and sticking with those who have your back is underlined.

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What's the story?

GAP YEAR centers around a motley group of backpackers who casually decide to travel together through Asia, and find that their foibles follow them everywhere. Dylan (Anders Hayward) is a university student trying to get over his difficult ex, Lauren (Rachel Redford), and hopes he can find the answers in an international trip with his longtime best mate Sean (Ade Oyefeso). By chance they meet up with Greg (Tim Key), a feckless older man who's inserted himself into the travel plans of buttoned-up May (Alice Lee), in China to meet her extended family, and careless Ashley (Brittney Wilson) who goes along on the trip because May's mom won't let her travel alone. All were hoping to see some sights, and have some fun; Sean defensively explains that he and Dylan chose to visit Asia because they both like "Kung fu...and rice." But trouble seems to find them wherever they go, and they're in for a lot more adventure than they counted on. 

Is it any good?

As loose, casual, and fitfully joyous as a rambling trip abroad, this comedy goes down easy, particularly for those who have had their own travel misadventures. Of course, missing a train or not knowing how to order food in the local language pales in comparison to what Dylan, Sean, and company get themselves into as they stumble from China to Southeast Asia in search of adventure -- and, in May's case, the Asian history and art that her strict mother has demanded she absorb and understand. Cultural and language barriers loom large as Sean is lost and found again, Greg just barely avoids contracting leprosy, and several of the number make a brief stay at a Nepalese jail. 

Gap Year has the vibe of other travel-misadventure narratives like The Hangover and Girls Trip, but the vibe is lighter and the action geared at teen and college-age audiences. These young travelers are looking for music festivals and white-sand beaches and love -- at least for a night -- and their mishaps are equally frivolous. Those who have spent long nights guarding their shoes in a hostel, or wandering around distant cities with a backpack will enjoy trekking along with this ragtag group of friends, even if their own gap year journeys are long since past. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about stereotypes. What kind of stereotypes about people of different nationalities appear in Gap Year? Is there anything harmful about portraying stereotypes this way? What function do stereotypes perform in our understanding of different cultures? Does this show subvert any stereotypes? 

  • What kind of relationships are on display here? Do these types of relationships seem familiar? Do the people in them seem happy? In this show, does traveling with friends bring them closer -- or ruin the friendships? 

  • Is the idea of a gap year familiar to Americans? What types of rituals do we have for taking a break in between major periods of our lives? Do we have such a ritual? Do we need one? 

TV details

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