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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 Rebel stars Katey Sagal as a fierce legal advocate who stops at nothing to defend her clients from corrupt corporations. A small number of sexual situations, such as kissing and a scene in bed, are shown, and mentions of sobriety are part of the main plot. Some profanity is used, but nothing too hardcore. Violence, including domestic violence and possible suicide, are referenced.
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What's the Story?
REBEL, loosely based on legal advocate Erin Brockovich's life, follows Annie "Rebel" Bello (Katey Sagal), who doesn't take no for an answer when it comes to helping her clients. But while she's like a bull in a china shop when it comes to bringing her clients justice, her personal life is up in the air. One of her daughters, Ziggy (Ariela Barer), is recovering from substance abuse and is dedicated to her mother's cause. Another daughter, attorney Cassidy (Lex Scott Davis), resents her mother for being more focused on her work than on motherhood and is being groomed by her father Benji (James Lesure) to work for him at his law firm defending the same corporations Rebel fights against. Rebel's son Nathaniel (Kevin Zegers), is an OBGYN who also helps his mother while trying to keep her from guilt-tripping him.
Among all of this are the men in Rebel's life -- her two ex-husbands, Benji and police officer Woodrow (Matthew Glave), current husband Grady (John Corbett) who is about to become ex number three, and friend and attorney Cruz (Andy Garcia). Her friend and Benji's sister Lana (Tamala Jones) is her right hand in legal advocacy and her personal life.
Is It Any Good?
Rebel is a series designed to be an instant ABC hit in the vein of Grey's Anatomy and How to Get Away with Murder. With a female lead, personal drama and intrigue, and legal battles, the series is a perfect example of the primetime TV formula. However, while Rebel does entertain, it has such a familiar pattern that if you've watched several of ABC's past hit primetime series, you'll feel as if you've seen Rebel before. Rebel might be trying to capitalize on the "I am woman, hear me roar" feeling of the 2020s, but it also feels rote and surface level. The series is filled with the same tropey aspects of other past "strong woman"-led shows like HawthoRNe, Saving Grace, The Closer, and Major Crimes. Like those shows, the woman in question -- this time being Annie Bello (Katey Sagal) -- is a firecracker who doesn't care about the rules. Of course, Annie's nickname is "Rebel," which is a little too on-the-nose. Also similarly to those aforementioned past series, Rebel has a complicated inner life, suggesting that dominance in her career doesn't always translate to having great familial relationships.
The series is very formulaic, but it also tries to convince viewers that it's cutting-edge and fresh. From Rebel's nickname and her motorcycle club-chic wardrobe to the show's soundtrack, which uses bluesy rock songs sung by brassy women, Rebel tries to force the belief that there's never been a show about a complicated, tough-as-nails woman until now. Yet, the show doesn't have anything new to say. In other words, it takes a surface-level approach to feminism that can feel exclusionary and incomplete, but paints that approach as if it's a deep dive. If you're just interested in being entertained, Rebel is good for that. But go into it knowing that it's just another typical primetime drama that has the air of being edgy without actually challenging viewers.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the moral character it takes to pursue justice. What are some of the traits Rebel has that makes her so successful at advocacy work? How does Rebel's incredible focus on empathy help her in her work?
What do you think of the extreme methods Rebel uses to get her messages across to corporations and the public?
Why does Rebel feel legal advocacy is important? Why does she feel compelled to help others?
Where does Rebel's laser focus in her career fail her in her personal life?
- Premiere date: April 8, 2021
- Cast: Katey Sagal, James Lesure, Ariela Barer, Lex Scott Davis
- Network: ABC
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Activism
- Character Strengths: Courage, Empathy, Perseverance
- TV rating: TV-14
- Last updated: October 24, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
How to Get Away with Murder
Tense legal procedural is steamy with some violence.
Heartfelt but mature drama from a nurse's point of view.
Tough female cop has problems only God can fix.
A strong female lead anchors gripping crime drama.
Riveting crime drama with a strong female lead.
For kids who love legal dramas
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