TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
Maniac TV Poster Image
Parents recommend
Futuristic satire is disjointed but entertaining.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Show is (loosely) about working through one's personal issues through therapy and other means, but characters go about this in the most unhealthy ways possible. It's more a satire of self-help and antidepressant culture. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main characters are essentially antisocial people; supporting characters are usually defined by their negative attributes. Positive characteristics are in short supply.


Gun violence, some gory deaths, vividly gruesome car crash, several verbal threats of violence. Levels of violence vary per episode as each one is set in a different fantasy world.


Sexual situations don't arise very often, but there is one with a sex-obsessed character, who has simulated sex with an animated being with nude female characteristics, and he has a machine that is designed to simulate sex attached to his private parts. So there's that.


Frequent cursing: "f--king," "bullsh--t," "bitch," etc.


There's a lot of consumerist satire, but show steers clear of actual product placement.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters are constantly smoking. Lots of casual drinking, as well as recreational drug use. A lot of the action takes place during a trial for an experimental prescription drug several characters are shown to be addicted to.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Maniac stars Emma Stone (La La Land, The Amazing Spider-Man) and Jonah Hill (Superbad, 21 Jump Street) as two troubled people who agree to participate in a risky experimental drug trial. Stone plays Annie Landsberg, a low-level con artist who is mourning the death of her little sister, while Hill plays Owen Milgrim, the black sheep of a wealthy family who is covering up his schizophrenia. The drug trial isolates them, along with four other participants, and forces them to deal with their most traumatic memories. The show portrays various forms of drug abuse, and also features a lot of cigarette smoking. There are few sexual situations, but the ones that exist are explicit and strange -- for example, one character has simulated sex with a computer program. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byHeather M. July 9, 2019
Parent of a 13, 13, 14, and 15-year-old Written byDio fry January 31, 2019
Teen, 13 years old Written byEmotionalHugger February 9, 2021

Like a hopeful black mirror

The show is really well realized, and has great morals about loss and substance abuse and almost anything between. Some viewers may be put off by Jonah Hill but... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old February 15, 2019

Five Stars!

"Maniac" is easily my favorite T.V. show. It's funny, clever, extremely unique, and also has some really great messages about dealing with loss.... Continue reading

What's the story?

MANIAC follows two people with social problems as they step out of their everyday lives and enter an experimental drug trial that forces them to confront their deepest trauma. Owen Milgrim (Jonah Hill) has schizophrenic qualities, not helped by how he's mistreated by his wealthy family. After getting fired from his job, he lies about his mental disorder in order to join the drug trial. Annie Landsberg (Emma Stone) cons her way into the drug trial because she's addicted to the same drug they're experimenting with and this is her only way to get more. The drug trial removes Owen, Annie, and their co-participants from society and observes them as they deal with their personal problems through drug-induced memories and fantasies.

Is it any good?

The two leads are great, and there are tons of fun guest appearances from the likes of Justin Theroux (The Leftovers) and Sally Field, but the breakout star is the show's director, Cary Joji Fukunaga. Maniac takes place in an alternate universe -- maybe the future, maybe the present -- and Fukunaga's direction is relentlessly creative and kinetic as he reveals the ins and outs of this unique world. The direction is so good, in fact, that it makes up for the fact that he seems to just be making the story up as it goes along; three or four episodes in, Maniac starts to feel directionless, like it's more concerned about simply generating content than telling an effective story. That said, the creative team is so good that Maniac is a mesmerizing watch, if ultimately a little shallow.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about mental disorders. What is Owen suffering from in Maniac? How does it affect his behavior and his everyday life? How does it affect his relationship with his family? Is there any sign of the cause of his disorder?

  • What is Annie suffering from? How does she deal with her trauma? How does it affect her relationship with her family? How does her drug addiction affect her life?

  • What's going on with the drug trial? What are the problems with it? How do they affect Annie, Owen, and the other characters? How does Annie and Owen's friendship develop? How does the drug trial affect them?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love sci-fi

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