John Doe

Common Sense Media says

Sci-fi MacGyver solves crimes, searches for self.





What parents need to know

Positive messages

Although the main characters are generally moral, positive people on the right side of the law, every episode involves encounters with criminals or crime. The ongoing central mystery is shrouded in deception and manipulation.


Gunfire and gunshot wounds, fights, threats of violence, menacing acts, man hits woman in face (knocking her down), murder victims in various states, serial killers, swimming pool filled with blood in one episode.


Some dating and flirting, but nothing graphic; one episode discusses sperm bank donations.


"Hellhole," "crack heads," "whores," etc.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

References to drug use in context of investigations; some social drinking.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this sci-fi crime series can be quite violent. Characters often use weapons and get in fights; episodes have included hostage situations, gunshot wounds, a swimming pool filled with blood, a man knocking a woman down, and so on. Murder victims show up in various gruesome states (cut in half, brains removed, etc.). Discussion of criminal investigations include references to "whores" and "crack heads," and there's some other minor profanity. Some episodes include information about how to make explosives (combine drain cleaner and lemonade) and other potentially iffy material.

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What's the story?

At the beginning of the sci-fi/crime mystery series JOHN DOE, the title character (Australian actor Dominic Purcell) wakes up on an island with no memory of his former life. But he does have an encyclopedic knowledge of the world around him -- which he uses to assist police investigations, solving a crime per episode as he continues his ongoing search to unlock the mystery of his identity. An unusual scar on Doe's arm is the only clue he has to who he was or what happened to him before he woke up on the island, and though he often feels a sense of connection to people he meets, they never seem to recognize him. As the series progressed (it originally ran from 2002-2003 and still airs in syndication), more information about his past emerged.

Is it any good?


Doe is a sympathetic character with a gritty sexiness, a bit of wry humor, and a MacGyver-like ability to get himself out of any scrape. His capacity for acquiring knowledge is impressive -- which helps when he needs to escape handcuffs or pilot a helicopter.

Since John Doe is a crime show, it's not surprising episodes involve murder, guns, and violence. In one episode, for example, a rogue ex-cop and his crew take the police station hostage, threatening groups of people with automatic weapons and at one point opening fire and wounding someone. In another scene, the ex-cop strikes his former boss, Jamie Avery (Jayne Brook of Chicago Hope and Boston Legal), across the face, knocking her to the ground. Other episodes include some brutal killings, serial murderers, and even a swimming pool filled with blood. It's not as graphic as CSI, but it's definitely not for little kids.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the ongoing appeal of the science-fiction genre. What makes a TV show or movie "sci-fi"? Is it easier to accept violence in media that already has a basic need for you to suspend your disbelief? Why or why not? What purpose does the violence in this show serve? What messages does it send? Families can also talk about special abilities. Would you enjoy having John's encyclopedic knowledge of the world? Why or why not? What other special ability would you like to have?

TV details

Cast:Dominic Purcell, Jayne Brook, Sprague Grayden
Genre:Science Fiction
TV rating:TV-PG

This review of John Doe was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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