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