Happy Town

Common Sense Media says

Dark drama is intriguing -- but too intense for most kids.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The central message is rooted in a search for the truth, but murkiness and doubt tend to prevail.

Positive role models

Most main characters have serious secrets, and some secondary characters are unequivocally evil.

Violence

Some violent scenes involving torture, guns, blood, death and occasionally shocking violence; a man murders another man by driving a stake into another man's head, etc.

Sex

A teen couple are having a secret relationship that hasn't become sexual yet, but could. Some sexually charged phrases like "grow a pair" or "make sweet love."

Language

Some infrequent gateway words like "damn" and "ass."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One character's father runs a crystal meth lab; secondary characters drink alcohol, occasionally to the point of being irresponsible.

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.

Parents say

Not yet rated
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Kids say

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?

QUALITY
 

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.

Families can talk 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?

TV details

Cast:Lauren German, Sam Neill, Steven Weber
Network:ABC
Genre:Drama
TV rating:TV-14
Available on:Streaming

This review of Happy Town was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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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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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 14 years old Written bybubbleboy May 10, 2010
AGE
13
QUALITY
 

Is it Good? Not Really. Intriguing? Absolutely

"Happy Town" is that show that you won't admit that you tune into every week. It's like "The People's Court" or Twinkies...you know it's bad for you, but you just can't leave it alone. The ridiculously overstuffed story involves such elements as missing children, questionable identities, an elusive kidnapper, a romeo-and-juliet love story, and one darn creepy old lady. All of the stock cliches that you'd expect...and that you lap up every single time. If I explained any of this in detail, I would likely use up the majority of my computer memory, so I will refrain. What I will say is this: the show is horribly written. HORRIBLY. In the pilot episode, characters spew exposition in a foreign tongue that doesn't even slightly resemble the English language (I can fell safe saying no one has ever uttered the immortal phrase "I love you so much, sometimes I don't know what day it is." in a serious context) and in the second episode it is simply clunky. Then why, do you ask, the three star rating? Because I can't take my eyes off of it. Even as I cringe at the writing, I'm enthralled by the goings-on (Who is the "Mystery Man"? Why does he do this? Why are the birds so mean? Who is Chloe? What the heck is that hammer thing? Why is that realtor so darn perky?). The show knows how to end an episode leaving you wanting more. It's the ultimate guilty pleasure show--think a TV B-movie for today's day and age. (CONTENT: Very dark tone *Well atmoshpered, I might add* and occasional violence. Any teen should be completely fine.)
Kid, 10 years old January 12, 2015
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

HAPPY TOWN!!!

I have only seen the first episode of happy town and already i have thought about not watching episode 2. the beginning of ep1 is very shocking though i wont tell u incase u were thinking of watching it. just in ep1 there is a lot of violence so i say DONT let kids UNDER 9 watch this.
What other families should know
Too much violence

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