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 the plot of this adult-oriented drama revolves around a series of unsolved kidnappings and a shockingly grizzly murder involving a stake that was driven into a victim's skull. In general, the mood is pretty intense, and there are some moments of sudden violence that could frighten younger viewers. There's also some gateway swearing ("damn" and "ass") along with some depictions of alcohol and drug abuse. Two of the main characters are teenagers engaged in a secret relationship that could eventually get sexual.
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What's the story?
When unattached newcomer Henley Boone (Lauren German) moves from the Pacific Northwest to the small town of Haplin, Minn. (affectionately dubbed "HAPPY TOWN" by the locals), the idyllic setting -- and the heavenly smells wafting from the town bakehouse -- seem too good to be true. But the truth is, years ago, the town was plagued by a rash of unsolved kidnappings, and now, thanks to a mysterious murder, something bad seems to be surfacing again. Is the so-called "Magic Man" at work, or is an unknown force to blame? The ensemble cast of colorful characters includes Sam Neill, Steven Weber, and Frances Conroy.
Is it any good?
Don't let the perky title fool you; Happy Town is a pretty miserable place. But the show itself is excellent, blessed with a well-casted ensemble of talented actors and clever plot twists that seem to drop at precisely the right moment. Just when you think you know the landscape and its inhabitants, something happens that changes everything -- and keeps you coming back.
Of course, Happy Town could prove too dreary for some. But for others, it could be another Twin Peaks, a darkly intriguing drama that's built around an ongoing mystery designed to develop and deepen over time. Twin Peaks was critically acclaimed and had people talking for years, yet it only lasted for two seasons before audiences tired of it. Based on that, a happy ending for Happy Town is hardly guaranteed.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the use of violence adds tension to the plot and contributes to the general mood. If the violence were toned down, would the series be as effective? Is the violence depicted realistically, or has it been exaggerated for dramatic effect?
Do the teenage characters act like "real" teens? What types of messages is the show sending about teen sex and its consequences?
Are any of the characters completely trustworthy? Is there a difference between keeping a secret and telling a lie?
For kids who love mystery
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