By Emily Ashby,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Tense British crime drama is too violent for kids.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The main character is an undercover cop who assumes various false identities and tells plenty of lies to gather intelligence and gain criminals' and victims' confidence. Allegiances and assumptions of guilt often change multiple times throughout each episode, making it difficult to know which characters are good and which are bad.
Violence & Scariness
Violence is plentiful and graphic. Gunshot victims are shown bleeding and gasping for air, dead bodies are cut down after suicide by hanging, and fistfights result in cuts, bruises, and other obvious injuries. Kidnapping victims cry and plead for their lives.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some obvious flirtation among adults, but it rarely leads to anything physical.
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Fairly infrequent use of expletives like "ass" and "hell."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Casual and habitual smoking and drinking are common among adult characters, and some plots deal with drug use and the drug trade, so there's potential for onscreen substance use.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this British crime drama is full of mature content: suspense, frequent and bloody violence, kidnapping, references to drug use, and occasional strong language. The main character (an undercover cop) assumes false identities to gain the trust of criminals or victims and then exploits that trust to get the information he needs to put criminals away. Allegiances and assumptions of guilt often switch, so young viewers may be confused about whom to trust. Remind teens that Murphy's brash confidence in the face of frequent mortal danger (he's often confronted by weapon-wielding criminals) isn't an accurate representation of similar real-world situations.
Where to Watch
Based on 1 parent review
Way too much for the little ones.
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What's the Story?
In MURPHY'S LAW, James Nesbitt plays an unconventional undercover cop whose violent past continues to haunt him and affect how he does his job. As a husband and father in Northern Ireland, Tommy Murphy (Nesbitt) was faced with an impossible decision when his family was taken hostage by IRA terrorists: They made him choose between killing himself and hundreds of innocent people or watching his young daughter be murdered. After he was released -- and his marriage fell apart over the little girl's death -- Murphy joined the British police force as an undercover agent, determined to do his part to bring justice to the worst criminals.
Is It Any Good?
On assignment, hardheaded Murphy is unconventional and tough, but his rogue methods usually translate into victories for the law. As he seamlessly moves from one new identity to another to infiltrate crime organizations and gain criminals' confidence, Murphy displays moments of brilliance that amaze his colleagues -- and often blindside his enemies. Through it all, his wry humor and penchant for witty one-liners keeps everyone around him guessing about what's to come. Early seasons of the series featured contained stories that placed Murphy in a new scenario in each episode. Later, the series took on more complexity, with each season following a continuous -- and often much darker -- storyline, revealing a sinister side to the troubled main character and focusing more on his inner turmoil.
The show's five seasons brought many cast changes (Nesbitt is the only constant through the entire run), so continuity may be an issue for some viewers. But the show itself is an intense dramatic thriller that adults will enjoy, and Nesbitt is masterful in a role that was written specifically for him. That said, the prevalence of graphic violence and mature themes like kidnapping, drug trade, murder, and suicide ensures that Murphy's Law isn't a good choice for young or sensitive viewers. And you'll probably want to check it out before giving teens the go-ahead as well, since Murphy's unique brand of humor sometimes puts an unrealistically light spin on life-and-death scenarios.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how the violence in this series compares to that of American crime dramas like CSI and Law & Order. Does it seem more or less realistic? What kind of impact does realistic violence have on kids? How is cartoon violence different? For more on violence in the media, click here.
- Premiere date: September 24, 2001
- Cast: Claudia Harrison, Del Synott, James Nesbitt
- Network: BBC America
- Genre: Drama
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: March 22, 2023
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