State of Play

TV review by
Matt Springer, Common Sense Media
State of Play TV Poster Image
Nuanced political thriller with occasional violence and sex.

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Kids say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

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 & Representations

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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

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

What 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.

User Reviews

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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, t... Continue reading

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.

Talk to your kids 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

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

Themes & Topics

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