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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
In addition to revolving around the grim themes of murder and death, the show is filled with class resentments and simmering anger. For example, a working-class guy is about to marry a rich girl, and there's plenty of talk about the role of money in their relationship.
Positive Role Models
Most of the characters are one-note stereotypes ("good girl," etc.). One woman is revisiting the island where she grew up after a long absence, leading to several emotional reunions and a few arguments with people she hasn't seen in years. A child seems to have an unnatural fixation with death.
Violence & Scariness
Plenty of horror-film gore, muted only slightly to appear on television. For example, when a victim is being disemboweled, viewers see only his face -- but once he's clearly dead, the shot widens to show his bloody, dripping torso. There are also bar fights, some intense arguments, and lots of spooky imagery.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Characters are shown having sex, presumably naked and in bed -- though no sensitive body parts are visible. There's plenty of talk about sex and some suggestive comments. Female characters are sometimes shown in their underwear for no particular reason.
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Nothing bleeped, but audible language includes words like "damn," "hell," "ass," and "bastard."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Lots of drinking -- in bars, at parties, and privately. The characters drink heavily and talk about whether they're drunk. Some characters also smoke cigars and pop pills.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this gory murder mystery series -- in which one character is killed per episode until the murderer is finaly revealed -- has a lot in common with big-screen slasher flicks and is only slightly toned down for television. It's bloody and violent (victims are disemboweled and more), there's plenty of drinking and sex, and the show has a pervasive feeling of gloom. It's not meant for younger viewers, and any kids who do watch will likely be scared silly.
Is It Any Good?
HARPER'S ISLAND is the kind of show that a second-year film student might deliver. It's competently done; that is, the scenes are set up efficiently, the atmosphere of gloom and spookiness comes through clearly, and the actors deliver the generic emotions required by their clichhd roles and the sometimes-stiff script.
But don't expect to see anything original. Just about everything here seems like a retread of so many tired slasher film plots. There's a scary backstory in the Wakefield killings. There are ominous -- and obvious -- tensions between the working class townies and the wealthy members of the wedding party (AKA the pool of potential victims). And the characters are completely generic, from the good girl to the flirt to the brooding loner and the creepy kid. The murders are convoluted, gory, and sometimes a bit pointless. Why bother with an especially clever death when the victim, tied to the bottom of a boat, is never found and never missed? That's a lot of work for this mysterious killer and does little to advance the plot. The show's only "value" is to shock viewers, but anyone watching has almost certainly seen it all before.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.