TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Instinct TV Poster Image
Silly, fluffy throwback mystery show goes down easy.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

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

Positive Messages

While there's plenty of violence, stealing, drug use, and allusions to sleeping around among suspects, the bad guys always get their due in the end. A running joke targets Dylan's weight (he does not have a large body type and appears to be a healthy weight). 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Women, a confident married gay man, and people of color occupy central roles in this dramedy. Characters are age-appropriate too -- they've reached a level of success in their career that's appropriate to the age of actors. Police officers/investigators like Lizzie and Dylan are intrepid and firmly on the side of law and order. 


This show revolves around murders: dead bodies with blood (but no gore) are shown, sometimes at length. A female victim is seen in her bra (male victims fully dressed). Police officers are armed; some shoot-outs. Violence often occurs offscreen but is sometimes shown, like when two men wrestle for a gun, and one man injects another with a syringe. 


Dylan is an openly gay and recently married man; expect to see him and his husband kissing. Lizzie is single and looking for love -- expect dating, flirting, kissing. 


Cursing and iffy language includes "hell," "balls" (meaning courage), "son of a bitch." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Dylan's husband, Andy, owns a bar; scenes take place there, and in one, Andy makes his husband a "Double Dark and Stormy" when he's had a bad day. Drug use plays a part in some murders, like when a killer offers a character "pulp" (seemingly a new club drug), which comes in a syringe (but it's poison, not a recreational drug). 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Instinct is a police procedural dramedy about a pair of murder-solving NYPD detectives. Murders, sometimes multiple ones, take place on each show, but violence mostly occurs offscreen. Exceptions would be shoot-outs between suspects and police, and scenes of murderers stalking, but not actually killing, their victims. Dead bodies with bloody wounds, but no gore, are shown, sometimes at length -- female victims may be shown in more revealing clothes than male victims. Police officers have guns and use them, though shootings are often not fatal. Drugs may play a part in crimes, and Dylan's husband owns a bar, so expect drinking. Dylan and his husband kiss and hug, and other characters are single, so expect flirting and dating. Cursing and language includes "hell," "balls" (meaning courage), "son of a bitch." Female characters, gay men, and characters of color have strong roles with agency, and are treated with respect and dignity. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bycharlotte s. April 10, 2018
Teen, 17 years old Written byBriana C April 9, 2018

A fun, easy to consume crime drama.

This is one of those shows to watch if you have some free time, and nothing to do with it. It's enjoyable, but not the best show I've ever watched. In... Continue reading

What's the story?

Former CIA operative Dylan Reinhart (Alan Cumming) is famous for his best-selling book on abnormal behavior, which revealed a powerful INSTINCT for criminal motivations. But now he's made a quieter life for himself, recently married to his loving husband, Andy (Daniel Ings), and with a job at a university teaching classes on psychopathic behavior. But when a serial killer starts leaving clues at the scene of his crimes that point toward Dylan, troubled NYPD detective Lizzie Needham (Bojana Novakovic) comes calling, and Dylan is lured back into his old investigatory ways. In the gritty city, a lot of murders need solving. Good thing this intrepid pair is on the job. 

Is it any good?

This not-too-violent murder mystery series is easy to watch, and in the same family as throwback shows like Murder, She Wrote and Hart to Hart. The victims (when we meet them, which we often don't before they're dead) are anonymous types: a drug-dealing club kid, a cheating couple, a con artist. No one cries over them, though we occasionally meet a bewildered family member. Criminal investigations are tidily wrapped up at the end of each episode, killers obligingly confess their crimes once confronted by cops, and Dylan is liable to make quips right there over a dead body: "We get to unravel the mystery -- figure out the rules of his game!" he says rather happily at the scene of one murder. 

As you may have guessed, it's all pretty cheesy, but harmless enough, for a police procedural in the era of seamy, over-the-top ripped-from-the-headline detective shows. It's enlivened by the twinkly presence of Cumming, too, and brief appearances by well-loved stars like Naveen Andrews and Whoopi Goldberg, who show up as Dylan's ex-colleague from his (shadowy!) past, and his agent, respectively. Instinct may make you roll your eyes at times, but it won't make you wince -- it's the television equivalent of comfortingly warm weak tea, and it goes down just as easy. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Instinct is similar to and different from more recent crime dramas. Why do you think newer shows have upped the blood-and-guts level? Are there any shows on the air today that are like this one, or are they all a lot more serious and graphic?

  • Families can also discuss the investigation process. Which clues help detectives find a starting point for their investigations? How do they narrow their searches for clues and suspects? Would it be typical for a police detective to seek help from a private citizen (even a famous author)? 

  • How do the characters in Instinct demonstrate communication and teamwork? Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love mysteries

Character Strengths

Find more TV shows that help kids build character.

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