TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Riot TV Poster Image
Improv-under-pressure game show has laughs, naughty jokes.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The focus here is on silliness, not interpersonal relationships. The mood is giddy and lighthearted, but parents may wince at the occasional naughty joke.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A diverse bunch of comedians participates in the show and most are very talented. Some are more bawdy or rely on some stereotypes for humor.


Some gags emphasize very physical challenges: Mime Sweeper has contestants try to play Charades before they're swept off a tower by a giant wrecking ball. It looks scary and somewhat dangerous, but no one gets hurt.


Many jokes are bawdy, with references to sexual acts and body parts.


No cursing, but there's plenty of salty language like "humping" (referring both to a camel and to sex) and references to body parts: "boobs!"


Real-life celebrities like Tom Selleck and Michael Jackson are referenced during games.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some jokes reference drinking: comments that a contestant "needs a drink" or are acting like they're drunk.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Riot is a game show featuring professional comedians improvising comedy and skits under certain restrictions, such as on a tilted set, and can occasionally get bawdy. The mood is jolly and fun, but improvisation is an unpredictable medium: Some scenes will be clean enough to show to the whole family, others will turn on naughty premises, such as men shopping in a lingerie store. There are jokes about drinking, sexual acts, and body parts. No cursing is aired, but there is salty language that some parents won't appreciate (like "humping"). In addition, many jokes depend on sophisticated reasoning and understanding of language, so much of the humor will pass over the heads of young children. Parents of tweens and teens, however, may enjoy watching with their kids.

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What's the story?

Executive produced by Steve Carell and hosted by Australian comedian Rove McManus, RIOT brings together two teams of funny people in each episode to perform improvised skits and play hilarious games for a live studio audience. Each RIOT features famous faces like Carell, Cheryl Hines, and Jason Alexander, as well as lesser-known heroes of the improv circuit, like Rob Gleeson and Jessica McKenna. The comics have to try to spin comedy gold on the fly, given restrictions like being located on a perilously slanted set, or fitted out with a harness that pulls them up into the air if they make a mistake with their words.

Is it any good?

Fans of Hollywood Game Night and Whose Line Is It Anyway? should be on high alert: This high-concept game show has a similar fizzy, funny, anything-could-happen vibe of both of those shows. And the restrictions posed by the show, such as commanding the improvisers to perform a scene in which each line is a question, or asking them to spell out words using their bodies as letters, are pleasantly absurd and silly enough to be appreciated by most members of your family.

But Riot still exhibits the deficiencies of improv. When something's working, it really works, and you crack up. When it's not, there's dead air, awkward moments, comics talking over each other. Cringe! Some viewers may not be willing to wait out the not-so-good moments to get to the funny stuff. But there is funny stuff to be found here, indeed.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the art of improvised comedy. What is it? Why do some comedians practice improvisation? Do you like it? Does it make for a better or more interesting show than scripted jokes?

  • Some of the actors and comics who appear on each episode of Riot are familiar to viewers. Do you find the more familiar faces funnier or less so?

  • Though Riot is filmed in front of a live audience, it doesn't air live. Why? Does this have to do with editing out dull moments, or naughty ones? Or both?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love laughs and competition

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