Maniac

TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
Maniac TV Poster Image
Futuristic satire is fun but directionless.

Parents say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 2 reviews

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.

Violence

Gun violence, some gory deaths, vividly gruesome car crash, several verbal threats of violence.

Sex

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.

Language

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

Consumerism

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
Adult Written byninette2 October 1, 2018

Insanely violent.

I can't believe Commonsense Media called out the comical video game sex, and didn't mention the scene where a gangster tortures someone by DRILLING IN... Continue reading
Adult Written byTowers September 24, 2018

Loved it!

Loved the show. You had to pay attention pretty closely and it kept me thinking! Very different than anything else I've watched recently. The "scienti... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byb89 September 24, 2018

A Fantastical Tale of Hope

Because shows like this are so rare, Maniac shines as one of this year's best pieces of television. It is, overall, a story of friendships, and how much th... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byms1721 October 5, 2018

Great characters and boring moments create a decent but memorable show.

Maniac is a great show that plays with your emotions and makes you think about what problems you yourself create. Based around recreational drugs, this movie ha... 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

For kids who love sci-fi

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