State of Play TV Poster Image

State of Play



Nuanced political thriller with occasional violence and sex.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The series unravels a complex conspiracy among the government and criminals that unfolds slowly over several episodes. While  characters display various shades of grey, there are fundamentally positive motivations underlying some of the series' key elements, such as truth-telling through the media.

Positive role models

The show's lead characters are a politician caught in an extramarital affair and a reporter with middling ethics desperate to unravel a major story. There are occasional glimpses of positive role modeling from supporting characters. Loyalty is at the heart of one of the series' key relationships.


Key moments in the show's plot are ignited by violence, depicted on screen but without significant blood or gore.


The show's story is driven in part by a past extramarital affair. This relationship is discussed frequently although not in explicit detail.


Words such as "damn" and "hell" are occasionally used, as well as the common British slang term "bloody." One character uses a two-finger rude gesture that in Britain is equal to the US middle-finger gesture.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Frequent smoking by both primary and secondary characters; social drinking occasionally takes place in bars and nightclubs.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this political thriller from the BBC operates at an intricate, highly sophisticated level that is only appropriate for teens who express an interest in following such a complex story. Mild violence and sexuality are key elements of the storyline, with occasional moments of more intense violence without significant bloodshed.

Parents say

Not yet rated
Review this title!

What's the story?

The 2003 BBC miniseries thriller STATE OF PLAY opens with two seemingly unrelated deaths -- the shooting of a teenage pickpocket and the discovery of a young researcher's dead body. The researcher was both employed by politician Stephen Collins (David Morrissey) and entangled with him in an extramarital affair. These two disparate acts of violence slowly converge into a single conspiracy revolving around Collins and other high-ranking British government ministers. It's up to reporter Cal McCaffrey with the aid of editor Cameron Foster (Bill Nighy) to untangle the intricate plot even as Collins' own life unravels at the center of it. If this sounds familiar, it was remade into a major motion picture starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck.

Is it any good?


Some entertainment demands attention -- a loud Michael Bay blockbuster movie, for example, or a deafening rock concert. Other works require attention, yours to give or deny, and your failure to concentrate is ultimately your own loss.

State of Play requires attention; it's an intricately plotted conspiracy thriller with an impeccable cast that brings nuance and tact to their roles. But it does not spoonfeed viewers, nor does it stop and linger over critical plot points so that everyone is sure to catch on. It's not designed for casual viewing while dinner's on the table or laundry is being folded. Instead, it's that rare animal -- a dramatic TV series that rewards close viewing, that does not wilt under attention but instead only flourishes when you're really watching and listening.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the show's use of sexuality. Is it necessary to the show's plot? How does it advance the story?

  • Does the show's storyline seem specific to the UK? Could it happen anywhere?

TV details

Premiere date:April 18, 2004
Cast:Bill Nighy, David Morrissey, James McAvoy
Network:BBC America
TV rating:TV-14

This review of State of Play was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.


Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

Find out more

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

About Our Rating System

The age displayed for each title is the minimum one for which it's developmentally appropriate. We recently updated all of our reviews to show only this age, rather than the multi-color "slider." Get more information about our ratings.

Great handpicked alternatives

  • Long-running British sci-fi series still thrills fans.
  • Excellent British cop series with blood and some intimacy.
  • Dark, bloody, but excellent British crime drama.

What parents and kids say

See all user reviews

Share your thoughts with other parents and kids Write a user review

A safe community is important to us. Please observe our guidelines

Teen, 14 years old Written byAwalkeratCSM December 29, 2011

Within excellent story, there's a lot of iffy content

This British, made-for-TV drama about politics, journalism, and crime is superbly complex, and engaging for the entire six hours worth of the show. In short, the story is about how a group of London-based journalists take on the stories of two deaths: a druggies' shooting and the mysterious death of a politician's researcher, Sonja Baker, also the politician's lover. As the journalists dig deeper, they discover that the deaths are connected, and that the case involves everyone from ex-military to a mountainous corporation to high-seated members of Parliament. How are they going to prove what is true? The entire cast was great, playing roles varying from pathetically childish, unhelpful source to sarcastic, resourceful editor with amazing acting ability. The political atmosphere was very realistic, crackling with tensions and secrets between members of Parliament which added suspense to the story, especially when you knew those secrets pertained to the whole Sonja Baker case. The large list of characters will help make complex drama-lovers love this drama more, even though some of the minor characters I wish they gave more closure to in the script. However, this drama contains content that even its superb acting and engaging mystery can't make up for; R rating-level language (something I wish the CSM reviewer had made more note of), moderate sexual content, very realistic violence, and inadmirable characters decorate the surface. This show highlights the terrible risks desperate journalists will take - in competition with other news sources - to get valid information and a good story. I would strongly recommend this show to kids who want to get into the media field, even if it's just TV reporting I'd still recommend it; the way these journalists break the law for the sake of getting information no doubt occurs in the real world of journalism. Over all, this show was excellent in the sense that the acting was good and the story exciting. But watch out for all the iffy content.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


Did our review help you make an informed decision about this product?