National Treasure

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
National Treasure TV Poster Image
Rape charges destroy a beloved comic in riveting drama.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Justice is ultimately served in this grim drama and a guilty party given his due, but watching everyone on-screen fall apart emotionally is wrenching. The cast boasts extensive racial and ethnic diversity, with women and people of color given meaty, powerful roles. Law enforcement officers are dedicated and hardworking as well as being respectful to criminals and victims alike. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Paul Finchley is a pedophile and narcissist who is humanized, but his crimes are not made to look glamorous or acceptable. HIs wife Mari is a complex figure who alternately stands beside and harshly denounces her husband. 

Violence

The show's plot turns on a man accused of raping numerous minors. Rape and sexual abuse are referred to with the words "attack," "rape," and "sexual assault." Pedophilia also mentioned. Brief flashbacks show a man raping a woman on a television set; no private parts are shown, but her screams are heard by bystanders who do nothing.

Sex

References to sex, pornography, infidelity. A woman says ironically and graphically that she wants to provide oral sex to a priest. A man visits a prostitute, who is shown naked from the rear and the front.

Language

Multiple uses of "f--k," "damn," "hell," "s--t," "ass" (sometimes English-style: "arse"), "c--t," "piss."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One main character is an addict who is in recovery. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that National Treasure is a high-quality but grim drama centering on a revered English comedian who is accused of rape by numerous women, some of whom were underage at the time. His crimes are shown only briefly in non-explicit flashbacks, but there are numerous references to rape, pedophilia, pornography, and infidelity. A man visits a prostitute, who is shown naked from the rear and the front. A woman graphically tells her father she wants to provide oral sex to a priest. The accused man experiences consequences for his actions. There's strong language, such as multiple uses of "f--k," "damn," "hell," "s--t," "ass," "c--t," and "piss." A main character is a drug addict in recovery. The character accused of rape is played by Robbie Coltrane, better known to generations of young children as Hagrid in the Harry Potter series, which may be particularly jarring to young viewers. 

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What's the story?

Paul Finchley (Robbie Coltrane) has been a staple of English TV and movies for decades, one-half of a beloved comedy duo with his cohort Karl (Tim McInnerny), and considered a NATIONAL TREASURE -- until the day when the police come knocking on his door to question him about a rape accusation from an actress who worked on one of his movies over a decade ago. Suddenly, Finchley's future isn't looking too bright, as more and more women come forward to accuse him, including -- worst of all -- the teenage babysitter who used to watch Finchley's troubled daughter, Dee (Andrea Riseborough). Dee and Finchley's wife of more than 40 years, Marie (Julie Walters), are both horrified to see their loved one's name dragged through the mud. But as the evidence mounts, they can't believe in his innocence anymore, either. 

Is it any good?

Disturbing, wrenching, but impossible to look away from, this drama depicts sexual assault from an unusual point of view: the rapist's. Before we find out that a string of women are accusing Finchley of rape, we first get to know him as a loving husband and doting dad and grandfather -- up late at night Googling himself to see if anyone still remembers him, puttering around the house with his patrician, charity-minded wife Marie. But then the doorbell rings, with bad, bad tidings. The viewer, who gets to see Finchley's pain in private moments, is never unsure of his guilt; it takes Marie, Finchley's fragile adult daughter, Dee, and his other loved ones longer to grapple with the truth. What we have here is basically a portrait of a man self-destructing, no matter how much he denies the accusations. It's absolutely fascinating. It's also a major bummer. But National Treasure gets the details and the emotions right. This is gripping stuff, particularly if you've ever wondered what happens to the people whose sins are splashed across newspaper headlines.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why crime frequently figures in dramatic storylines such as National Treasure's. Why do you think people are interested in dark content? 

  • How does this drama view Paul Finchley? Are characters supposed to relate to him? Like him? Believe in his innocence? What about the way he's presented brings you to this conclusion?

  • Many English viewers believe that National Treasure was inspired by Operation Yewtree, a real-life criminal investigation that ultimately led to the arrest of a number of English male celebrities for child sex abuse. Read about Operation Yewtree -- do you think it has similarities to this TV show? 

TV details

For kids who love mysteries

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