By Ashley Moulton,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Charming nature docu has death, mating, cheeky language.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Teaches kids about the lives of penguins.
Some of the featured penguins are devoted parents and romantic partners, showing character strengths like courage and perseverance (amped up by the humanizing narration, of course).
Positive Role Models
Positive depictions of penguin conservationists caring for animals while rehabilitating an endangered species.
Violence & Scariness
Some scary moments in the animal kingdom, which are played up with music and editing for dramatic effect. Seals killing penguins (including a few graphic kills), baby penguins that are under threat from predators, a mother penguin that never returns to her family (with the implication that she died).
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A large amount of the plot focuses on penguins mating, and the narration anthropomorphizes the birds so kids may be able to draw parallels to people. There's some sexual innuendo that will go over younger kids' heads, as well as on-screen mating (with no sensitive penguin body parts shown). Some language like "making out," and "hooking up."
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No curse words (with the exception of describing the species with their "jackass penguin" nickname instead of their scientific name). Some mild rude language throughout and cursing-adjacent language (like the narrator saying "What the..." before it cuts to the next scene). Some language like "making out," and "hooking up."
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Penguin Town is a documentary series about the penguin residents of Simons Town, South Africa. The show includes some scary moments, like seals chasing penguins (and occasionally killing them), baby penguins coming under threat from predators, and a mother penguin never returning to her family (it's implied that she died). Much of the plot focuses on penguin pairs courting each other and mating, and the show is frank about the circle of life and the birds and the bees. There's on-screen mating and narration about penguins "making more penguins." Because the birds are anthropomorphized by narrator Patton Oswalt, older kids may draw parallels to humans. Language-wise, there's some rude and cursing-adjacent language, but no actual curse words (with the exception of describing the species with their "jackass penguin" nickname). A bit of sexual innuendo is likely to go over younger kids' heads; there's also more direct language like "making out" and "hooking up." The show is interesting and entertaining, but parents should be prepared for the perilous moments and potential questions about mating.
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What's the Story?
In Penguin Town, viewers get a glimpse into the lives of the cape penguins that live in Simons Town, South Africa. This reality-show-style nature documentary is narrated by comedian Patton Oswalt (The Goldbergs, The King of Queens), and follows the real life drama of several penguin families. The series starts with hundreds of penguins coming ashore in this tourist town and competing to find mates and nesting spots. The families are named after their nest locations, and so the show follows "The Bougainvilleas," "The Courtyards" and others on their quests to build their penguin families. Cape penguins are endangered, and so the series also follows several injured penguins like "Junior" who are taken into captivity and nursed back to health. Penguin Town shows the ups and downs of nature as penguins face dangers like seals, egg-stealing predators, and foul weather as they try to help their chicks grow large enough to thrive on their own.
Is It Any Good?
Penguin Town successfully uses reality-show-style storytelling that quickly gets viewers emotionally invested in the lives of South African penguin families. The narration anthropomorphizes the birds, making the drama feel very relatable to us humans. Kids will enjoy learning about the lives of penguins, and feeling like they're right there with the penguins as they hunt for fish or care for their eggs. The penguins are super cute waddling through the town where they live, and the fuzzy penguin babies will make animal-loving kids squeal with delight. Kids will likely become hooked and want to keep watching to find out what happens to their favorite feathered friends.
Grown-ups will enjoy this show too, and it may be useful for parents to watch alongside their kids so they can calm worries about scary moments or field questions about mating. Some grown-ups might be less-thrilled about the way the series talks about penguin romance and some of the cheeky language narrator Oswalt uses to tell the story. But overall, the show is educational and entertaining, and great for family viewing.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about penguin families. In what ways are they like human families? In what ways are they different? Do you have a favorite penguin family?
Did anything in this show surprise you or scare you? Is there anything you'd like to talk about?
The special penguin veterinarians help the sick penguins get back to the wild. Do you think you would like a job helping animals get better? Why or why not?
- Premiere date: June 16, 2021
- Cast: Patton Oswalt
- Network: Netflix
- Genre: Reality TV
- Topics: Ocean Creatures, Science and Nature
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Award: Common Sense Selection
- Last updated: February 18, 2023
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