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 Ozark is a downbeat drama about a man who launders money for a drug cartel who's forced to flee with his family to a small town in Missouri. The family is in league with gangsters; violence is a threat and often erupts on-screen. Characters are suddenly shot or plummet from a skyscraper; we see blood and dead bodies (some prepared to be dumped), and a family including teen children is threatened with violent death. Sexual themes are also common: a man covertly watches pornography with a man and woman having oral sex and intercourse with thrusting and groaning; no nudity is visible. In other scenes, a man is stopped when masturbating in his car, and a woman gives a man oral sex. Cursing includes "f--k," "s--t," and "goddamn," and "bitch" sometimes used to imply a man is a whiner. There are also racist statements, sometimes made by characters who should be admirable.
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I’m a big Jason Bateman fan. But After the Unecessary nudity I was
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What's the story?
In Netflix's mature drama OZARK, Martin Byrde (Jason Bateman) is a fake financial advisor and con man who's been laundering money for a decade for a Mexican drug cartel under the supervision of kingpin Del (Esai Morales). When Martin and Del discover one fateful night that Martin's longtime partner has been skimming from the till, Del sets Martin up with an almost-impossible challenge: launder $500 million for the cartel in just five years. And Martin has to do it from the Missouri tourist town Lake of the Ozarks, where he's immediately to move with his harried, double-dealing wife Wendy (Laura Linney) as well as their bewildered teen children, Charlotte (Sofia Hublitz) and Jonah (Skylar Gaertner). It's a lot to handle, but it's better than the alternative: no future at all for the Byrde family.
Is it any good?
Alas, this show is a bit of a grim slog, clearly hoping to borrow a little of the shimmer of Breaking Bad, but lacking that show's spark and quirky characters. Bateman, who oozes charm in just about every role he's ever played, is curiously opaque in Ozark, hard to relate to. Unlike Breaking Bad's Walter, a righteously furious man who makes the wrong choices for the right reasons (at least at first), Bateman's Marty already broke bad, a decade ago. This makes him a lot tougher to relate to, which muddies the central conflict: It's not as much fun to watch a creep wiggle through a tough situation as it is to see a good guy caught in the grip of something bad.
Linney's huffy, knowing Wendy is more interesting to watch as the Byrdes settle in to their new home and start questing for the next great money-laundering scheme. Will it be a strip club? A tourist resort? A local evangelical church? And how soon before the local lowlifes come crawling out of the woodwork to start creating their own complications? As the twists start piling up, viewers may find themselves pulled into the drama, despite the script's tendency to have its characters pause to make stentorian speeches about the American work ethic or the criminal activities of immigrants. Fans of Netflix's serious dramas (House of Cards, for one) should give this one a try, but the unconverted are unlikely to stick around.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why criminal settings, particularly ones connected with illegal drugs, are so common for modern television dramas. What dramatic possibilities does Ozark offer? Find out when your teens are ready for complex content like this show.
How is the viewer supposed to relate to the character of Martin Byrde? Is he sympathetic? A villain? A flawed hero? How can you tell how viewers are supposed to feel about him?
Movies and TV shows often communicate with a characteristic color palette: cheerful musicals will have eye-popping bright colors, horror productions will have lots of red and black. What's the color palette of this drama? Why?
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