Inside: Secret America

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
Inside: Secret America TV Poster Image
Undercover reporting covers edgy topics like sex, guns.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The series attempts to shine a light on how specific illegal subcultures function, what helps them thrive, and the overall efforts being made to stop them from engaging in specific acts.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Reporters work had to cover stories that are important, if titillating. They often attempt to commit illegal acts as part of their investigations, and they put themselves in danger to get the story.


Violent crimes are discussed; footage of bloody murder scenes and the slaughter of animals is also visible. The sale of illegal weapons is a topic in one episode; M-16s and other assault weapons are discussed and fired. The reporting duo is constantly concerned about their safety while undercover.


One episode specifically looks at the sex trade. Includes scenes of folks discussing specific sexual acts and negotiating deals.


Words like "crap" are audible; curses like "s--t" and "f--k" are bleeped.


Apple computers are visible. Restaurants like McDonald's and Taco Bell are sometimes discussed/are visible.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drug manufacturing, smuggling, and use is discussed. Images of various illegal narcotics, ranging from marijuana and cocaine to synthetic drugs like bath salts. The relationship between the drug trade and other crimes is discussed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Inside: Secret America is an investigative undercover docuseries that touches on some mature topics, like the sex trade, the illegal drug trade, and animal cruelty. The series contains images of bloody murder scenes and animals being slaughtered, and conversations about violent crimes, sex acts, etc., but they are offered in an investigative context. The featured journalists sometimes engage in illegal activities (like buying unlicensed guns) as part of their research. It has some strong vocab, too.

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What's the story?

The documentary series INSIDE: SECRET AMERICA features award-winning journalists Mariana van Zeller and Darren Foster as they go undercover to infiltrate some of the nation's most controversial underground subcultures. The investigative pair assumes different identities and works with experts, including law enforcement, private detectives, cooperative criminals, and victims of crimes, to be able to gather information and find ways to gain access to clandestine industries like sex slavery, illegal firearm sales, and synthetic drug production. They use a variety of hidden camera technology and advanced surveillance techniques to document their efforts. It's dangerous work, and by doing it they often put their lives at risk. But what they reveal shows how these subcultures operate, and illustrates the larger impact they have on America, and in some cases, the greater world.

Is it any good?

Inside: Secret America offers an interesting look at a variety of industries that have become part of a covert subculture as a result of laws and cultural factors that impact the way people think about their activities. It also shows some of the many ways investigative journalists go about researching their stories, and the process by which they go undercover to find information that wouldn't be available to them any other way.

The topics are interesting, and the voyeuristic nature of the work adds to the series' overall entertainment value. But some of the episodes address issues that have already been featured on shows like Frontline and 60 Minutes, and explored at-length by TV journalists like Lisa Ling. The result is a docuseries that explores things that aren't that secret, and that is as much about the reporters as it is about the subjects they are reporting on.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about investigative journalism. What are some of the ways that journalists are able to find out details about specific issues and/or events? Why are some reporters willing to put themselves in harms way to get it? Is it ethical for journalists to engage in illegal activities in order to get this information?

  • Should journalists ever be part of the story they are reporting about? Why or why not?

TV details

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