In an Instant

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
In an Instant TV Poster Image
Harrowing survivor stories are scary and sensational.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Highlights how people survive catastrophic moments and how their lives change as a result. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Some people heroically help those in distress. 


Disturbing reenactments of final moments before tragic events; people shown struggling to survive. Animal attacks, fires, bloody wounds, and so on visible. Video and photos of actual accident scenes shown. 


"Hell." Occasional cursing bleeped with mouths blurred. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Bottles of alcohol visible in stores. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that In an Instant is a documentary series that focuses on how catastrophic events can lead to sudden changes in people's lives. It features disturbing reenactments and archival footage of bloody crash sites, fires, and violent animal attacks, as well as frightening accounts from survivors and witnesses. There's some occasional bleeped/blurred language and the show intentionally heightens tension in a sometimes sensational way. All of this is offered in the context of how life can change in an instant but can potentially be disturbing to young or sensitive viewers. 

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What's the story?

IN AN INSTANT is a documentary-style show that examines life-threatening and often tragic events that instantly changed people's lives. With the help of first-hand accounts, dramatic reenactments, and original photo and video footage, stories are told about what it was like for people to be thrust into situations such as plane crashes, bridge collapses, and animal maulings and how they found the strength and courage to make it through. Interviews with rescuers, medical professionals, and investigators offer details about what led up to the events, as well as the specific circumstances that may have helped people survive. At the end of each episode, survivors share the ways their entire lives have been changed by their experiences.

Is it any good?

The docudrama showcases the harrowing experiences of people who suddenly found themselves dealing with cataclysmic events that were out of their control and briefly recognizes the events' lasting impact. It also raises questions about how some people manage to survive against all odds and the heroic efforts made by fellow survivors, bystanders, and rescue workers to help their fellow humans. 

Most of the series details people's lives before a catastrophe and then contrasts those scenes with harrowing reenactments of what some people believed were going to be their final moments. It also details the agonizing minutes, hours, or days of suffering before their being rescued, which is sometimes over-the-top as the show tries to create tension. It's an interesting exploration of how one's worldview can radically change in a flash, but the lessons learned are sometimes overshadowed by the sensational storytelling.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the ways a life-threatening moment can potentially change the way we think about our lives. What are some of the lessons offered here about survival? 

  • Is it possible for a TV show to share survival stories without overdramatizing them? Are the moments they're reenacting true representations of what really happened? 

TV details

  • Premiere date: March 6, 2015
  • Network: ABC
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: NR
  • Available on: Streaming
  • Last updated: September 20, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love real-life drama

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