Merlí

TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
Merlí TV Poster Image
Spanish series about high school teacher full of teen drama.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Each episode of Merlí is built around a philosopher's teachings, which are then put into practice in various ways, with Merlí's students learning moral and ethical lessons along the way.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Merlí and the other characters are flawed, but consistently trying to do the right thing, and using philosophy to figure out what that means.

Violence

Mostly limited to fistfights between the students.

Sex

Merli has relationships with several women. There's some making out and some implied nudity, but no simulated sex on screen. The high school students are also sexually active, though sex is talked about but not shown.

Language

The high school students curse frequently, even in class: "f--k," "f--king," "s--t," and many Spanish curse words (like "p--a") that don't make it to the subtitles.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There is some casual drinking (wine at dinner, etc.).

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Merlí is a subtitled Spanish drama set in a high school, where an unorthodox philosophy teacher (the title character, played by Francesc Orella) teaches a group of students about a different philosopher or tenet of philosophy in each episode. These philosophy lessons are put into practice and play out as we follow the students' and Merlí's everyday lives. However, aside from the philosophy lessons, the show is mostly a high school drama in the vein of The O.C. or One Tree Hill. All of the characters are sexually active, though sex is more talked about than seen. There are some scenes of Merlí making out with women and in various states of undress, but there is no simulated sex on screen. 

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What's the story?

Merlí (Francesc Orella) gets evicted from his apartment and has to move in with his mother. At the same time, he has agreed to take care of his teenage son, Bruno (David Solans) while his wife pursues a job and a romantic partner in Italy. Bruno is mortified when Merlí gets hired as a substitute philosophy teacher at his high school, as the father and son must now work through their complicated relationship both at home and at school. Merlí's relationships with his fellow teachers are similarly complicated, as he has very specific ideas about what makes a good teacher, and those ideas don't necessarily jive with the rest of the faculty. Every episode, Merlí introduces his students to a new philosopher, and those philosophies are put into practice as we watch Merlí and his students grapple with moral and ethical questions in their daily lives.

Is it any good?

It's rare to see a television show built around something as complex as philosophy, which makes the premise an exciting one. But Merlí doesn't really fulfill the promise of the premise, falling back instead on rote teen drama and depicting Merlí as the kind of well-meaning slob (and womanizer) that shows up in a ton of other TV shows.

The best scenario for Merlí would have been something like House, which used the format of a procedural as a window into a complex world that most viewers would have alienated most viewers if it hadn't been presented so accessibly. Instead, Merlí stays mostly surface-level with its philosophy.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about philosophy. Merlí is unique in that it builds each episode around a philosopher and a philosophical question. What are the lessons we can take from these philosophers?

  • How can philosophy be used in everyday life? Do you feel like philosophy is important to us as people and as a society?

  • Why is Merlí considered to be an unorthodox teacher? What do you like about the way he teaches? Do you think he is effective? Have you ever had a teacher that made a positive mark on your life?

TV details

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