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 this new spin on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic psychological thriller will captivate adults, but it's far too mature for kids. Bloody, graphic violence is common, as is the emotional trauma that Hyde sadistically inflicts on innocent victims. Strong language ("damn," "s--t," and bleeped uses of "f--k") is prevalent, as is drinking (especially when Hyde appears); sexual content includes discussions of Hyde's weakness for prostitution and implications that he enjoys forcing himself on attractive young women. Add to that the show's heart-pounding suspense, and it's easy to see why this one deserves a close look before teens tune in.
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What's the story?
In this modern-day version of Robert Louis Stevenson's famous dual-personality tale, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Tom Jackman (James Nesbitt) is struggling to keep his violent alter ego's rising power in check and is determined to keep his family a secret from Hyde. Tom has set up a regimen of safe havens (including a body-binding chair that he can strap himself into when he feels Hyde's presence surging), hiding places for clues to his real life (away goes the wedding ring and other traces of his wife and kids), and high-tech tracking and communication devices that allow him to relay messages to and monitor the movements of his other self. But despite Tom's efforts, Hyde continues to gain control over his host. Meanwhile, Tom's wife, Claire, has hired a private investigator to look into her husband's unexplained disappearances, and a team of mysterious strangers tediously watches his every move. Tom is at a loss for someone to help him. That is, until the shocking truth emerges from an unexpected source.
Is it any good?
With so many works already spawned from this one short novella, one would expect the creative well would be bone-dry by now, leaving little content from which to draw enough new material worth watching. But in the case of JEKYLL, a masterful team of writers, producers, and actors prove that a little ingenuity can go a long way. Jekyll blends a classic tale with equal amounts of psychological and conspiracy thriller; the final product is a captivating series that will keep you guessing with its multiple character and plot twists. Nesbitt is superb in the polar-opposite roles of family man Jackman and malicious, narcissistic Hyde, and suspense is the name of the game here, as surprises really do lurk around every corner.
That said, the show's violent and emotionally disturbing nature means that it's not for tweens, and it's worth a good look before allowing even teens to tune in. The same suspense that promises to entertain you may frighten them, and Nesbitt's mastery of Hyde's character and superb delivery give the show little of the hokiness that makes lesser-quality thrillers palatable for sensitive viewers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the prevalence of violence on TV. Why are so many primetime shows violent in nature? How does the violence vary between shows? What does this tendency say about society? Are we becoming immune to violence's shock value? And why do we enjoy dramas that delve into the disturbed psyches of deviants and criminals? Families can also discuss how this show compares to Stevenson's original novella. What liberties did the producers take in rewriting the tale? How was the story modernized? Does the show improve upon or detract from the original story? How do you think Stevenson would view this adaptation? How does it compare to others you've seen?
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