A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Servant is a dark TV series about a couple who's suffered a tragedy and whose life goes from bad to worse when they hire a nanny to care for their infant son. The deaths of children drive much of the horror of this series, and though we don't see them depicted onscreen, children and other characters are in constant, often mortal, danger. We do see other violence: live eels are nailed to a cutting board in preparation for cooking, a character allows a baby's head to hit the side of a crib. Characters have an affair; we see them kissing before the camera cuts away; a woman is nude in a non-sexual context (taking a bath), but her private parts are covered; in another scene, a character kneads her breasts to help with a breastfeeding issue, but most of the breast is covered. Adults drink wine at dinners and don't act drunk, but in some scenes, drink more heavily and talk about the drinking helping with emotional pain. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "a--hole," along with crude words for sexual acts and body parts: "tits," "jerk off." A couple's wealth is underlined, but it's clear that their socioeconomic status doesn't bring them happiness.
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What's the story?
After a terrible tragedy and loss, a wealthy couple, Dorothy (Lauren Ambrose) and Sean Turner (Tony Kebbell) hire a young SERVANT to look after their infant son, Jericho. But all is not as it seems, with the Turners, with Jericho, or with Leanne, whose stilted speech and placid expression hides some very dark secrets. What are her intentions? And even stranger, just what kind of family are these people intent on making?
Is it any good?
Strange, eerie, and compelling, M. Night Shyamalan's buzzy series is simultaneously engrossing and leisurely -- one might almost say it creeps along while giving you the creeps. Viewers who have seen a scary nanny story before will guess right away that Leanne's "Up to Something" when she pulls up to the Turner's house in the driving rain, even before she gives strangely terse answers to their many questions, and sends off signals that she has an unusual bond with Jericho. For his part, Sean isn't a lot easier to like or to understand -- though he calls himself a "professional bon vivant," we witness a horrific part of his "consulting chef" work that involves nailing live eels to a board, and it's clear from his flat statement to his wife about Leanne ("She's staff") that he sees a great distance between himself and the humble young woman he's employed.
But though Shyamalan is judicious about how quickly he doles out his signature twists -- he's said in interviews that it'll take six seasons to tell Servant's complete story -- the atmosphere is chock-full of juicy tension, and the actors are more than up to the challenge of teetering on the edge between sympathetic and horrific. Speaking of sympathetic characters, Rupert Grint is a hoot as Dorothy's ne'er do well brother, nailing a spot-on American accent and a role so far away from Ron Weasley that viewers will quickly forget they watched Grint grow up onscreen. Servant isn't a hurry to get anywhere, but tenacious viewers will find their patience rewarded.
Talk to your kids about ...
How does Servant compare to Shyamalan's movies? How is it similar? How is it different? What is he known for? Does this series continue Shyamalan's traditions, or does it break them?
How does storytelling differ on a TV show versus a movie? What types of stories can be played out in longer segments instead of told all at once? Are series' intended to be just like long movies, or are they a different medium? Which do you prefer?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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