A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
In an era when most people on the streets are heads-down on their mobile phones, Wilson shows viewers what they're missing when they ignore the world around them, as messy as it may be. Look up, he seems to be saying, take a look around, connect with the people here.
Positive Role Models
Wilson interviews a lot of people who, if encountered in the real world, we might scurry past -- the partiers at MTV Spring Break, the anti-circumcision activist, the "Mandela Effect" conspiracy theorists -- but he gives us glimpses into their lives that flesh them out.
Violence & Scariness
The visuals in the series are composed largely of candid shots on the streets of New York, which can get messy. In the first episode, we see police or other investigators collecting evidence from a bloody street scene, with no context. We also see a body bag being removed -- and dropped briefly -- from a building.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Though completely unsexy, we see an anti-circumcision activist try to "regrow" his foreskin, and Wilson showcases his cringy methods in lengthy shots in episode 4 ("How to Cover Your Furniture"). There are many tongue-in-cheek porn allusions and one actual porn scene (episode 2, "How to Put Up Scaffolding"). One man describes a sexual experience in detail in the same episode.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
"F--k" is both seen written and spoken, and "s--t" is used.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Products & Purchases
The messages here are largely anti-consumerist. Wilson gently pokes fun at the anxiety that owning expensive possessions can bring.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
In episode one, young people drink copious amounts of alcohol, and one young man smokes marijuana. Throughout the series we see people smoking or vaping, and Wilson talks about his own vaping habit and attempts to quit in episode six.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that How to with John Wilson is a six-episode series with deceptive titles. Filmmaker John Wilson's benign, monotone narration is set against images and interviews that can be jarring. In episode 1, "How to Make Small Talk," for example, Wilson makes observations that are often juxtaposed with images that contradict or are extreme versions of the narration. "Sharing your most intimate thoughts with someone can be a disturbing and messy experience," Wilson says, while showing police tending to the bloody aftermath of presumed violence in a subway station. Later in the same episode, Wilson travels to Cancun where MTV Spring Break is in full swing (expect copious alcohol consumption, provocative dancing in swimsuits) and he connects with a lonely young man who smokes marijuana and talks about his friend's recent suicide. In episode 2, a brief clip from a porno is shown, and in episode 4 a man who is trying to regrow his foreskin is shown in detail that leaves nothing to the imagination.
Is It Any Good?
Who will like this? Adults and mature teens who love or hate New York, people who miss human contact or interaction, people who want to move through the world with their eyes open. Who shouldn't watch How to with John Wilson? Viewers who just have shows run in the background (unless using it as a sleep aid), people who are averse to cognitive dissonance, literalists. Wilson's episodes only noddingly adhere to their titles in their first minutes -- from there, he takes viewers on journeys that can be shocking, heartwarming, illuminating, and just plain weird.
The "How to Cover Your Furniture" episode detours into a visit with a man trying to regrow his foreskin, and the "How to Improve Your Memory" episode veers into a "Mandela Effect" conference in Idaho that helps explain how conspiracy theories take hold. The final episode, "How to Make Perfect Risotto," shot at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, becomes a meditation on how much has changed during these times, and how important it is to maintain connections with the other people in our lives. This unique show, that fits into no existing boxes, seems particularly appropriate for a time when so many are rethinking where and how we fit in the world.
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.
Suggest an Update
Our Editors Recommend
Comedy TV Shows for Teens
Goofy Comedy Movies to Watch with Tweens and Teens
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate