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 Spinning Out is a series about figure skaters struggling to reach the Olympics, and the heavy physical, mental, and emotional price they must pay to keep competing. Abuse figures largely into the drama: One character self-harms, biting herself until she bleeds when she decides she needs to be punished. A parent pressures her children to the point where they are deeply stressed, one winds up in an emergency room with an injury while another fights bitterly with her mother. Sexual abuse from coaches working with young athletes is also a part of this series (though we don't see children abused). Sporting injuries are frequent and gory: a bloody head injury, wounds on toes and heels, a skate blade impales a skater's foot. Athletes also show signs of eating disorders, binging and restricting. Competitors insult each other's abilities and bodies; one skater is called "fat," a character is repeatedly called a "bitch," and another a "c--t." Young adult characters have sex with noises and movements; we see their nude bodies from the side but see no private parts. Adults drink and take unnamed capsules on a night out, but no one acts drunk or high. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "goddamn," and "ass." Strong female roles form the backbone of Spinning Out and many characters are people of color; mental illness is taken seriously, and characters are encouraged to take prescribed medications. Athletes show considerable perseverance and courage in their sport, but they're so damaged by competing that it's questionable whether these character strengths are positive enough to recommend, or whether the athletes make good role models.
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What's the story?
A few years ago, Kat (Kaya Scodelario) had Olympic figure skating ambitions, but a head injury put an end to that dream and now it seems like her life is SPINNING OUT of control, particularly when a plan to move into coaching goes awry. Kat's little sister Serena (Willow Shields) is getting attention for her own skating -- and has a worrisomely attentive new coach, Mitch (Will Kemp). Meanwhile, Kat's mom, Carol (January Jones) has shifted her attention from Kat's career to Serena's, when she's not coping with her bipolar disorder. It seems like it's in the cards for Kat to give up skating altogether, until an offer to partner with spoiled rich bro pair skater Justin (Evan Roderick) arrives unexpectedly, in the form of Justin's enigmatic coach Dasha (Svetlana Efremova), who sees a talent in Kat she hopes she can bring out. Can Kat navigate the competition, her past trauma, and her own mental challenges to make a shot at the Olympic podium?
Is it any good?
When this involving drama focuses on a troubled family and the heavy price of Olympic-level ambitions it triple-axel soars, but it can also spend too much time bogged down in soapy cliches. Talented figure skater Kat has a mental illness, trauma from a sustained-on-the-ice head injury, a little sister whose talent seems to be eclipsing her own, and a disturbed bipolar mom who bitterly regrets not realizing her own skating ambitions. That's plenty -- Spinning Out didn't have to throw in love triangles and competition from a new skater in town to amp up the drama too.
Flaws aside, this engrossing series is at its best when it's most intimate, particularly when we follow the Bakers home. January Jones, so great at playing buttoned-down and frustrated in Mad Men, has another meaty role in Carol, whose decision to have Kat as a teen derailed her own Olympic ascent and put her on a skate-mom path. Seething in the toxic group of mothers who accompany their talented daughters to the rink every day, she's notably nasty to those she considers a rival, and supportive and abusive in turns with her daughters. And as viewers might expect, said daughters have been affected deeply by both the volatile parenting and the poisonous pressures of a sport that demands inhuman ability and effort to present a picture of ethereal perfection. The plot may not stick every landing, but with characters this sensitively drawn and compelling, viewers will want to put in the rink time to get to know them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how Spinning Out depicts the toll Olympic-level competitive figure skating takes on the athletes in the sport. In what ways are Spinning Out's athletes affected by their intense training and competition, physically and mentally? Is their struggle worth it? Can you think of anything hard to win that doesn't take so much out of those who compete to win it?
Are the athletes in this series good role models? Are athletes typically good role models for young fans? Who are some of the most upstanding celebrities you can think of? Who are some of the worst? What message does it send when a star athlete gets into trouble? What message does it send to see champion athletes drinking and doing drugs? Are you surprised by how competitive Spinning Out's athletes are, and how cruel they can be to each other?
Does Spinning Out glorify self-harm? Does the series make Kat's self-abuse seem glamorous or appealing? Would such depictions trigger viewers to harm themselves?
Our editors recommend
For kids who love figure skating
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