Single by 30

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Single by 30 TV Poster Image
Romantic comedy is sweet and charming but slight.

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Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

We think this TV show stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

At heart, this is a show about two responsible adults who are beginning a relationship on a foundation of friendship and slowly getting to know each other while working through complications, an example many parents would be delighted to have their children emulate. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Peter and Joanna both have jobs, friends, families, and responsibilities that they handle maturely. Teens may object to their advanced age -- after all, the show revolves around them both turning 30, and 30 is "so old!," as a teenage Peter says in the first episode -- but parents won't object to these good-natured characters.

Violence

The focus here is romance, not violence, but there is the occasional violent message, such as when Peter's pal Mark threatens to "put his foot" in a stranger's "ass" when the man cuts in line. 

Sex

Lines of dialogue and scenes reference sex and bodily functions: There are references to "pickup lines" and married life involving "scheduled sex"; a woman refers to her "cycles" syncing with her new female roommate's; two strangers have sex on a playground and Joanna and Peter briefly overhear them moaning. The show's main focus is romance, so expect many plot lines about dating, romance, romantic complications, kissing, and sex. 

Language

Cursing: "hell," "ass," "bitch." Characters say "shut up!" to express surprise, say things "suck," and can be verbally cruel to each other.

Consumerism

Brands are mentioned: Facebook, The Bachelor, Axe body spray. Numerous conversations revolve around apps, including dating apps in which would-be daters "swipe." 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There's a brief and noncritical mention of underage drinking; one character refers to being "stoned" while making a "stupid" decision, adults drink cocktails and shots of liquor at a bar, minor characters act drunk and say their drunk friends are "cut off" from having more drinks. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Single by 30 is a romantic comedy about a man and a woman who agree in high school to marry if they're still single at age 30, then actually begin a relationship after reaching that milestone. The show's main focus is romance, so expect many plot lines about dating, romance, romantic complications, kissing, and sex; however, there is no nudity or actual sex. References to "pickup lines" and "scheduled sex" are about as blue as it gets, though a couple is heard moaning briefly in one scene. Numerous conversations revolve around apps, including dating apps in which would-be daters "swipe" to express their interest (or lack thereof) in each other. Cursing includes "hell," "ass," and "bitch," and characters say "shut up!" to each other and that things "suck." They're sometimes cruel and insulting to each other, such as when a woman insults a man for having Axe body spray and tweezed eyebrows. Adults drink beer, wine, and liquor at home and at parties and refer briefly to drugs (a mention of being "stoned"), but main characters don't get drunk. All in all, this is a show where two responsible adults begin a relationship on a bedrock of friendship, an example many parents would no doubt love their children to follow. 

What's the story?

During their senior year of high school, Joanna (Kina Grannis) and Peter (Harry Shum Jr.) made a pact to be each other's backup: If they were still SINGLE BY 30, they'd marry each other. They lost touch after high school, but when they meet up by chance just as Peter turns 30, both brokenhearted over relationships that recently imploded, they decide to take that impulsive agreement a little more seriously. First, since Joanna's birthday is in a few months, they agree to help each other date. But as her birthday grows closer, and their romantic lives grow ever more frustrating and complicated, Peter and Joanna can see what the audience already knows: They're clearly perfect for each other. 

Is it any good?

Sweet, and occasionally even clever, this show unfortunately relies on a very clichéd setup: the couple who'd be happy together if they'd just succumb to love. Peter and Joanna grew up together, share friends, have interests in common, are both super foxy -- they're perfect for each other! If only they knew! Blergh. If only that premise had the crackle of some of Single by 30's lines, like when Joanna's flighty roommate Chloe (Hillary Anne Matthews) leads off a conversation by revealing she's "SWF, ADD, and ESFP on the MBTI" or when Peter says that by age 30 his dad had married, had two kids, and escaped a communist regime, yet his own biggest decision on his 30th birthday was whether to send back his burrito because it came with salsa verde. 

Joanna and Peter are easy to like, and the show does have a few things to say about modern love. Dating apps don't work for her or for many others, Joanna says, because there are so many choices that it's tough to "find the good ones." "We're a generation overrun by choice," muses Peter. "Seriously, have you seen how many types of Chex Mix there are now?" returns Joanna. They have chemistry together, and it's nice to see an Asian man as a romantic lead (extremely rare in American TV and cinema). But the setup? Cribbed straight from screwball of the '30s (or, given the age of Single by 30's creators, from 1980s TV comedies) and in need of an update. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Joanna and Peter show communication and teamwork in Single by 30 by building a romantic relationship on top of a layer of friendship. Why are these important character strengths? How do they communicate with each other when going through difficult times? How does teamwork help them muddle through adversity? 

  • Television shows and movies generally focus on new relationships rather than established marriages or relationships. Why? What's more interesting about people just getting together, or exploring a single life, than characters who are already settled romantically? Can you think of any TV shows or movies about already coupled characters where the focus is their relationship? 

  • Television shows filmed for nontraditional content providers such as YouTube are often made for less money than shows for established providers such as broadcast or cable networks. Do you think Single by 30 is a low-budget show? How can you tell? Does the lack of expensive touches such as custom-built sets, big scenes with lots of extras, and special effects make this show less interesting or appealing? 

TV details

Character Strengths

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