By Joyce Slaton,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Substance abuse, language, in sweet fable about stardom.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Values of hard work, believing in oneself, accepting support from family and friends are underlined frequently in show that rewards effort with success. "You know how much effort goes into being effortless?" asks a father of his daughter about a musician's work, pointing out how much hard work it takes to polish talent into expertise. Themes of compassion, empathy are clear.
Positive Role Models
Bess' life is lived within web of supportive relationships: loving if imperfect dad and brother, roommate, co-workers, friends. All are uniformly (and a bit unrealistically) pro on her talent and possibility of professional career. Characters are diverse in terms of ethnicity, race, intellectual and social ability, and age. A character with autism is played by an actor who's on the autism spectrum; the character is treated as a person who's a bit unusual but worthy of respect and love, and he receives both from his family.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
A love triangle is one of the anchors of the drama; expect kissing, flirting, dating, crushes, romantic complications. Graphic references to sex, like in an episode when a woman screams at her boyfriend that he let another woman "blow you in the bathroom."
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Cursing is not continual but includes "motherf-----g," "f--k," "hell," "s--t," "bulls--t," "a--hole," and "balls" (meaning courage).
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Two characters struggle with alcohol; one is shown actually drunk and sloppy after handling emotional issues by drinking. A character works in a bar and many scenes are set there, where patrons drink beer and alcohol; we hear the name brands of liquors asked for.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Little Voice is a drama about a young woman who's compelled to create music, yet fears she won't be able to find an audience and fills her life with other complications instead. Two main characters struggle with alcohol; we see one drunk and handling emotional problems by drinking, and another attempting to not follow in his footsteps. A bar is a main setting; we see patrons drinking and asking for alcohol by name. A love triangle is a dramatic center of the show; expect kissing, flirting, dating, and references to sex, some explicit, like when a woman refers to finding her boyfriend with a woman in a bathroom receiving oral sex. Cursing includes "f--k," "hell," "s--t," "a--hole," and "balls." The cast is diverse in terms of age, race, ethnicity, and ability; a character with autism is played by an actor who's on the autism spectrum, and the character is treated with love, good humor, and respect. Themes of empathy and compassion are clear, with supportive relationships and a main character who's frequently told she's talented and can be successful in the music business, provided she's willing to work hard and stick with it.
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What's the Story?
Co-created by singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles and director Jessie Nelson (the team behind the Broadway smash Waitress) and produced under J.J. Abrams' Bad Robot production label, LITTLE VOICE stars Brittany O'Grady as Bess, a young musician who's having some trouble finding her voice and convincing others to listen. She spends her days and nights working as a dog walker, a music teacher, and a leader of sing-alongs at senior homes, and bartending at a club with live musical acts. But in every quiet moment, she pulls out her notebook to record lyrics to songs she's afraid no one else will ever hear. Meanwhile, she helps care for her musical-obsessed brother Louie (Kevin Valdez), who lives in a group home with others on the autism spectrum, and her father (Chuck Cooper), a gifted musician who struggles with alcohol, while juggling crushes on caddish Ethan (Sean Teale) and sincere Samuel (Colton Ryan).
Is It Any Good?
It has heart, lovely visuals, a compelling lead in Brittany O'Grady, and beautifully catchy songs, but this sweet drama is stuffed with too many subplots and cringey dialogue. Question: When does Bess sleep? Because it appears as if she walks dogs in the middle of the night, teaches students all day, and then tends bar every night. It's definitely believable that a young woman living in an (improbably) large NYC apartment would have to work multiple jobs to support her (not very) rock 'n' roll lifestyle, but it's hard to escape the thought that the creators are more invested in coding its heroine as a plucky striving type than in presenting a well-thought-out portrait of a realistic life.
Then, in the moments that Bess isn't working her day (and night) jobs, she's rushing around to be with her dad and brother. That's not really a negative in the latter case, as Valdez, an actor with autism, is one of highlights of the show; he's quirky, and hilarious. If Little Voice had stopped right there, that would have been enough on the plot front, and would have given us more scenes with Valdez. But Bess also has to fit in dreams of stardom and a love triangle. She must be exhausted, and we feel a bit that way, watching. Still, Grady is lovely and luminous, and the Bareilles-penned songs that pepper the soundtrack are lovely too. If A Star Is Born-type drama or Bareilles' music are to your taste, Little Voice might also be.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the alcohol use in Little Voice. How is addiction portrayed? Are there consequences to the substance abuse? Why is that important? How do Bess' struggles mirror those of her father? Is that realistic?
Why do you think the show's producers chose to include original songs so prominently in the series? How does music enhance or detract from a TV show or movie?
How do the characters on Little Voice demonstrate compassion and empathy? Why are these important character strengths?
- Premiere date: July 10, 2020
- Cast: Shalini Bathina, Brittany O'Grady, Phillip Johnson Richardson
- Network: Apple TV+
- Genre: Drama
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Empathy
- TV rating: TV-MA
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
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