A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Mob City is a dark crime series about gangsters in Los Angeles in the 1940s. The goings-on are extremely rough: Characters scheme and double-cross each other, shoot each other in the back, commit murder for hire, and kill people who are supposed to be on their side. The audience sees blood, gore, and dead bodies. Guns, including powerful machine guns, are very frequently on-screen. There are no heroes, only antiheroes, but characters are complex and interesting. They frequently drink in bars and smuggle alcohol; they also smoke constantly on-screen. There are few female characters; those who are in the series are often prostitutes or strippers. Characters of color are in short supply, and those shown are usually service people or entertainers. There are swear words and racial epithets.
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What's the story?
Based on true stories on the lengthy battles between the Los Angeles Police Department and the ruthless gangsters who sought to control the town, MOB CITY centers on the exploits of Joe Teague (Jon Bernthal), a former war hero turned cop serving under Police Chief William Parker (Neal McDonough). Parker considers public enemy No. 1 to be Mickey Cohen (Jeremy Luke), but his cohorts are equally dangerous: Benjamin "Bugsy" Siegel (Edward Burns) and lawyer/fixer/all-around dirty dealer Ned Stax (Milo Ventimiglia). These men inhabit a world of guns and schemes, power grabs, and sudden reversals, always trying to stay one step ahead of a corrupt yet canny police force. And it all takes place in a town where the movie business is its own force of nature, with godlike studio heads, glamorous movie stars, and its own grubby side.
Is it any good?
"This city," sighs one of the characters in Mob City's pilot, admiring a view of Los Angeles that prominently includes the vintage Hollywood sign. "It's so damned beautiful, like a sky full of stars, but only from a distance. Up close, it's all gutter." Thus he voices the overarching theme of the series: the city itself, and the people within it, look glamorous and successful -- but, under the surface, they're all grasping and scheming and climbing and, inevitably, falling.
The same style-hounds who revere the period clothing and settings of Mad Men will similarly appreciate Mob City: There are beaded curtains and hats with veils, complicated hairstyles, and hand-painted silk ties. Everyone and everything looks great, and both characters and story lines are suitably twisty and gritty. Series creator Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead) traffics a bit too heavily in mobster cliches, but Mob City distinguishes itself from other mob dramas with its LA setting. Swimming pools! Movie stars! And lots and lots of guns.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the history of gangsters in America. How did they come to power? What was the public reaction to their actions? What happened to most of the mobsters during the 1940s?
Does it look fun to be a mobster in the 1940s? Why, or why not? Do their lives look glamorous? What about the way in which they are presented in Mob City makes their lives look appealing?
Themes & Topics
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