No Activity

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
No Activity TV Poster Image
Star-studded crime comedy has language, easygoing laughs.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

There's a curiously democratic effect caused by watching people of all stripes bickering and yakking about mundane matters. Cops, criminals, and everyday working stiffs are, under the surface, pretty much the same, says this show's setup. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

None of these characters are particularly heroic, and they're cracking wise, so sincere moments are few and far between. But they're all ordinary folk, though some are on the right side of the law, and others aren't (we get to know a few criminals). 

Violence

There are sudden scenes of violence, but they are light in tone and played for laughs: A man is shot because he has a phone with a case that makes it look like a gun. We see the drawn guns, hear the report, and see a man fall to the ground, but no blood or gore. A man describes killing a snake: "You take it by the tail, you crack it like a whip, you break its spine and all its guts start shooting out of its mouth." 

Sex

Expect off-color jokes, such as when a character's mom misuses an emoji over text so that it looks like "she's telling us how wet she is," and a mom refers to her teen son "whacking off" with the help of online porn and says that if someone turned on a black light it'd show the presence of semen everywhere: "It's probably all over me right now. It's probably on you ... on your coffee cup, on your mouth ..." In other scenes, characters talk about how pornography depicts "finishing" on a woman's face or breasts.

Language

Cursing and strong language includes "f--k," "f---ing," "son of a bitch," "s--t," "Jesus Christ," "pissing," "shut up," and "shut the f--k up." 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character inhales something (unclear if it's tobacco- or marijuana-related) from a vape pen. Drugs play into some criminal cases.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that No Activity is a comedy about law enforcement officers and criminals sitting around waiting for something to happen. It's on CBS's streaming network, which means it has more language and sexual references than what you'd see on a standard network show. Though the show is essentially just pairs of people sitting in squad cars talking, that talk can get edgy, including discussion of masturbation, pornography, bodily fluids, and other mature topics. There's lots of cursingm, including variations on "f--k" and "s--t" in addition to "son of a bitch," "piss," and other vulgar language. One character inhales something (we can't tell if it's tobacco- or marijuana-related) from a vape pen. There may be sudden violent scenes, like when a character is accidentally shot for having a gun-shaped phone case, but it's played for laughs, and we see no blood or gore. 

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What's the story?

NO ACTIVITY is set in a high-stakes world, where a huge foreign drug cartel is trying to operate under a police sting, and officers grapple to bring down international outlaws. But in between the newsworthy moments, there's a whole lot of time sitting around waiting for something to happen. And that's where we find ourselves: on a stakeout with bickering detective partners Tolbeck (Tim Meadows) and Cullen (Patrick Brammall); waiting for a shipment of drugs with bored smugglers Marco (Jason Mantzoukas) and Angus (Jesse Plemons); getting to know each other while waiting for calls on a police dispatch line with Fatima (Sunita Mani) and Janice (Amy Sedaris). Based on the Australian comedy of the same name and theme (and also starring Brammall), this series finds its funny in the moments when absolutely nothing is going on -- and everyone's driving each other crazy. 

Is it any good?

Setting aside the cop-show cliché that only the breakthroughs are shown (not the long, hard work that made them happen), this fresh, funny series finds humor in all the tedious moments in between. No Activity is a fine idea, and the joke writers are crackling and inventive. Marooned in a smelly packing cube waiting for the drug cartel to show up, national treasures Mantzoukas and Plemons debate the best persona to adopt when confronting civilians. Is the wild-eyed, gritted-teeth "crazy guy" too cliché? Meanwhile, in the police car, Meadows' Tolbeck begs his partner to use a wire head massager on him. And in the dispatch center, new hire Fatima dreams of potential future careers: "Maybe I'll open a scuba shop or maybe I'll be a rap producer or I could own a juice bar." 

It's light, and frothy, and fun, and doesn't ask for anything more from the viewer than that you sit, watch, and laugh. If you have the time and inclination -- and a subscription to CBS All Access -- you could do worse than a little comedy cleanse like this one, particularly if you're a fan of the many, many famous faces to be found in the cast. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how No Activity compares to popular crime dramas like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Law & Order: SVU. What does it have in common with these serious series? What does it try to do differently?

  • How accurately does No Activity portray the work environment of real-life police officers? Does the use of comedy downplay the challenges those officers might face in the real world?

TV details

For kids who love comedy

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