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 In the Dark is a dramedy about a woman who's jolted from a life of alcohol and casual sex by the disappearance of a young friend (who also happens to be a street-level drug dealer). The show's main character is a strong and relatable woman with a complex personal life, and her disability is used to make sensitive points about the way disabled people in general, and blind women in particular, are treated by those around them. We also see her in any number of risky and/or iffy situations: drinking liquor straight from the bottle, downing cocktails at the bar she hangs out in, going to the hotel room of a married new acquaintance, napping at work. Sex is represented by kissing followed by the removal of clothing (she gets down to her underwear), and the camera's focus on non-private body parts moving rhythmically while a man moans. We also see a woman buying morning-after pills and hear talk about virginity, a man not having "boned a blind chick" before, as well as other jokes about body parts. Violence is muted, but we see a presumed dead body wrapped in a sleeping bag, and there's lots of talk about murder. Cursing is rare ("ass") but there's other questionable language: "nuts," "horny."
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
Since her sight faded away in her teens, Murphy Mason (Perry Mattfeld) has been living IN THE DARK in more ways than one. Nearly friendless save for her loyal roommate Jess (Brooke Markham), she whiles away her time drinking, smoking, indulging in nonstop casual sex, and pretending to actually do something for the salary she's paid at the guide dog training sister operated by her despairing mom Joy (Kathleen York) and long-suffering dad Hank (Derek Webster). But when Murphy's young pal Tyson (Nambitha Mpumlwana) suddenly disappears and his shady cousin Darnell (Keston John) seems to know more than he's letting on, Murphy realizes it's up to her to find out what happened.
Is it any good?
This series is trying to be two shows, only one of which works: a sparkling dark dramedy about a relatably fallible heroine, and a blah murder mystery that should have been pronounced DOA. First, the good: Mattfeld's Murphy is an entertaining great big mess who viewers can't help liking, even though her character initially comes off as a high-concept gimmick: a blind woman who's a drunk, nearly friendless, and with a sexual addiction telegraphed by a drugstore employee greeting her familiarly and asking if Murphy's there for "the usual" -- morning-after pills, which Murphy apparently prefers as a method of birth control. Why? asks every viewer familiar with the pill's reputation for causing fantastic nausea, given that Murphy's in the same drugstore where many gentler over-the-counter methods are easily available. Okay, we can let that pass because the dialogue is pretty great, and Mattfeld is appealing delivering it, particularly during one of the many moments when a side character assumes something stupid about her blindness (when asked if her "other senses are heightened" she scoffs "That's not a thing. I'm not Daredevil.")
However, when Mattfeld's not living her louche and watchable ordinary life, things sag a little. The doomed Tyson is a type, and so are the no-goodniks who populate his big-city world (by the way, never has Toronto less believably played a large American city, supposedly Chicago in this case). It's not especially buyable that a teen street dealer and an adult woman are great pals, and Murphy's investigation into Tyson's death is even more challenging suspension of disbelief. A person with no training, no particular investigative skills, and a serious disability is gonna get those bad guys where the cops fail? Only on television would such a thing work, and even when Murphy's inquiry does go well, these scenes are no more animated than those in a dull procedural. At least said procedurals usually have a juicy case at the center; this one is painfully unarousing. Wrap up that murder quick and let's get back to watching Murphy against the world. Because that's a show that cooks. The mystery part of In the Dark is simply unappetizing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fact that Murphy Mason's character is played by a sighted actor. How often are characters with disabilities played by those who don't have that particular disability versus those who do? What examples can you think of each? Does this actor do a creditable job of playing a person who is blind? Do you wish the actor playing the character were also blind, or not? Why?
Dramatic television series often involve some sort of mystery: a person who is not what she seems, a crime to be solved, a disappearance or reappearance. Why? What dramatic possibilities are inherent in such a setup? Why would a series be more likely to need a mystery to solve than a movie?
In the Dark gives its main character habits that are considered unacceptable, but not so unacceptable that the character would be shunned by society. Why would the people making this show want to make its heroine "bad" but not too bad? What would be an over-the-top "bad" trait that would make this character not relatable to viewers?
For kids who love drama TV
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