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, like Men in Black, this show mixes comedy with monster hunting. Though the show plays this concept for laughs, treating monster-hunting more as a sport than a dangerous avocation, many of the creatures can be quite scary, especially for young viewers (undermining all that work parents have done to convince kids that nothing goes bump in the night!). Some beasts take humans hostage, including children, which can make the situation seem even more threatening. Watch out for sci-fi weapons, a bit of language (mostly "ass" and the like), and some smoking.
What's the story?
When most people see something odd out of the corner of their eye, they look away and tell themselves that it's nothing. But Detective Kate Benson (Alexondra Lee) is the kind of person who keeps looking, who needs to know what's out there, and who instinctively understands that whatever it is may not be very nice. That's what makes her the ideal recruit for SPECIAL UNIT 2, a secret division of the Chicago Police Department assigned to investigate the supernatural. Benson is paired with Detective Nicholas O'Malley (Michael Landes), a veteran creature-hunter who has a snarky remark for every occasion, and Carl (Danny Woodburn), a gnome -- yes, an actual mythical creature -- with a penchant for burglary, who also serves as the unit's informant on the world of monsters.
Is it any good?
Monsters are very real in this show's universe, but on Special Unit 2 they aren't very scary because it's more of a tongue-in-cheek comedy trying to mine laughs from the undead. Basically, the series is Men in Black, right down to the secret headquarters -- just with ghouls instead of aliens. The problem is that while Men in Black charmed audiences by taking pains to develop the characters of even minor alien extras, Special Unit 2 skimps. The detectives are funny but flat, and the show gives viewers little reason to root for them: We're left watching smart-aleck cops chasing down smart-aleck creatures, with only the tediously long explanations from the unit's in-house, smart-aleck expert to explain why we should care. Even the monster costumes look cheap, an unforgivable sin for a show that depends on these beasts to make it interesting.
One place where Special Unit 2 doesn't skimp is its props; someone did a great job creating the team's arsenal, which is full of elaborate tools of mayhem, each one bigger than the last. This, too, is straight from Men in Black, but the agents in that much-superior film also had a device that could erase people's memories. After a few episodes of Special Unit 2, you might be wishing you had one, too.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the enduring popularity of monster movies and shows. This series takes a lot of liberties with classic monster legends, which may not sit well with purists. (Who knew that gnomes are all inveterate thieves, for example, or that werewolves can be cured of their lunar malady?) How do these portrayals differ from the classic legends? And since just about every other mythical bogeyman makes an appearance here, why does the show go to such lengths to make it clear that vampires are total fantasy? Families can also discuss whether it's OK to kill these beasts. Human murderers go to prison, so why is it OK to dispatch a non-human killer without remorse?