Sullivan & Son

Common Sense Media says

Bawdy, broad bar comedy has iffy content, sweet family ties.

Age(i)

2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17

Quality(i)

 

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The core message is one of family and friendship and how slowing down and surrounding yourself with the familiar can be more rewarding that living life on the fast track. But humor that relies on stereotypes, ethnicity, and irresponsible drinking means iffy messages also come through.

Positive role models

The members of the Sullivan family clearly love and care for each other, and there is a supportive friendship among the barflies even if they are goofy and drink a lot. Steve Sullivan is hard-working and dedicated. Others, such as an unrepentant racist and a paramedic who downs shots of liquor on duty, are more cringe-inducing.

Violence
Not applicable
Sex

Some flirting and discussions of dating and marriage; characters refer to having sex offscreen, i.e. "let's mess up these sheets."

Language

Some cursing: "It'd be OK if you weren't up my ass!" Characters say things like "You suck!" to each other, but in a joking way. There are also a lot of racist insults played for laughs, as when one character calls a man of Arabic descent "sleeper cell."

Consumerism
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

The show is set in a bar, thus practically all the characters have drinks in their hands most of the time. Some characters smoke cigarettes at the bar as well. There are jokes about drugs: "Thank God for weed!" shouts one character proud of not drinking through her pregnancy.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Sullivan & Son is a bawdy, broad comedy that is set in a bar. Practically all the characters are cradling drinks as they sit on barstools and gossip, challenge each other to bar bets, and joke about blowing off their jobs. There are a lot of potentially offensive jokes, particularly from barfly Hank, an Archie Bunker style racist who says things like "Hey sleeper cell, English only!" to a man speaking Arabic as the laugh track hee haws. There are cringe-worthy sex jokes as well, and characters frequently joke about drinking before work or driving after drinking. Nonetheless, the characters are relatively kind and supportive to each other, and the jokes are so broad and characters so stereotyped that the ugliness doesn't seem as ugly as it would on a drama. Parents who watch Sullivan & Son with their kids will want to talk about drinking on the job, drinking and driving, and why hanging out in a bar all day probably isn't as fun as it looks on Sullivan & Son.

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

In the half-hour sitcom SULLIVAN & SON, corporate attorney Steve Sullivan (Steve Byrne) gets a new lease on life when he decides to leave New York City lawyering behind him to take over his dad's bar, a beloved decades-old institution in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dad would be Jack Sullivan, senior (Dan Lauria, the sweet/sour dad from The Wonder Years), who wants to retire with his stoic and hard-working wife Ok Cha (Jodi Long) and enjoy his golden years in the company of his daughter Susan (Vivian Bang) and son. The resident crowd of barflies is horrified to hear talk of Sullivan & Son going out of business, and thrilled when Steve takes over and they can go about their business of keeping the barstools warm as they quip about their families, jobs, and love lives. Speaking of love lives, Steve's old flame Melanie (Valerie Azlynn) is still available, and now that he's dumped his materialistic ex-girlfriend Ashley (Brooke Lyons, 2 Broke Girls), so is Steve.

Is it any good?

QUALITY
 

Bawdy but genial, Sullivan & Son is miles better than some other workplace comedies, even if it shares the same annoying laugh track. As Steve Sullivan, Steve Byrne is genuine and relatable, even charming, playing straight man to the broad comedy going on around him that it makes jokes like "Cockfighting? Oh, the one with the birds!" almost bearable. Steve says he wants a more genuine life than the one he has in NYC as a corporate lawyer, and that's why he's come back to the bosom of his family and the bar he grew up in. That's something relatable, too, and provides a core of sweetness to all the off-color humor.

It's nice to see a show built on a functional family, and the members of the Sullivan family, though they complain about each other constantly, are clearly there for each other when needed. The barflies too, are there for each other, one barstool over: stoner-type Owen (Owen Benjamin), fiftyish party girl on the make Carol (Christine Ebersole), well-meaning little-bit-racist Hank (Brian Doyle-Murray), and the rest. It's impossible not to compare the show to Cheers; it has the same "where everybody knows your name" vibe. This show is no Cheers, though; it's not as witty and a lot more broad. But it means well, and has some nice family moments, even if parents will want to talk about some of the iffier jokes with kids.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the characters on Sullivan & Son and whether they are realistic. Do the people on Sullivan & Son talk like real people and do what real people do? Why or why not? Which of the characters do you think are stereotypical?

  • Why is a joke like calling a Korean woman of "Oriental distraction" funny? Is the character who says this presented as an intelligent person or as a goof? Why would it be important to show the audience that this character is not being taken seriously?

TV details

This review of Sullivan & Son 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.

About our rating system

  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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Quality

Our star rating assesses the media's overall quality.

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Parent Written byEta North July 20, 2012
AGE
14
QUALITY
 

Seriously?

This is an awful show. The story line is preposterous, the banter is beyond weak. I'm also pretty sure that if I were Korean I would be personally insulted. As it is I find the show offensive. I could even get passed the rape joke if the rest of the show was funny. But it isn't. The jokes are pretty much non-existent and it's hard to choose what is worst, the unlikely story, the ridiculous stereotypes or the complete lack of humor. Bottom line is, it's just not funny.
Kid, 12 years old July 20, 2013
AGE
12
QUALITY
 

A Very Fun Tween-Young Teen Show.

I am twelve and I am fine with the content in this show. Even though the s word is unbleeped it is not said to often. My expectation were low for this show, but after watching it, I can say it is easily the funniest show on TBS. I expected lots of people to get drunk but nothing bad. Only some minor references are said to sex and drinking. No one gets drunk. Overall, Sullivan and Son is a hilarious show that is less raunchy than you would expect.
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

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