Surviving Jack

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
Surviving Jack TV Poster Image
Coming-of-age comedy has sex, slang, and some heart.

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 11+
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 central figure is a middle-aged dad who's taking charge as a father for the first time, with little initial success. His tactics are unorthodox (putting a surprise box of condoms in his son's backpack when he shows interest in a girl, for instance), but the more time that passes, the more it's evident that his heart is in the right place. The show touches on relatable coming-of-age issues for teens in a lighthearted way, but it also makes light of more serious issues such as family discord and absentee parents. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Jack's parenting style is an acquired taste, but that's the crux of the show's laughs. He's often insulting and standoffish and lacks sympathy for his kids' problems. On the other hand, he can impart some decent wisdom to his teens, and they seem better for it when the message gets through. Joanne is a great female role model, going back to school after years as a full-time mom and still putting out fires that Jack can't handle at home. Teens often test boundaries by breaking parents' rules, but there's no real harm done. 


Playful scuffles (hitting, slapping, playing gladiator) involve teens and adults. Rarely, there's visible blood.


Teens make out, sometimes partially undressed from the waist up, though sensitive areas are obscured. Sex is a frequent topic of discussion among teens and adults, with slang references to "boobs," "screwing," "woodies," the "lady cave," "nuts," "schwing," and "getting my rocks off." There are allusions to masturbation and mention of safe-sex practices. Teen sexual activity is considered the norm. 


Repeated use of "bitch," "hell," "damn," "a--hole," "suck," and "BS." Crude name-calling such as "slut" and "skanky" also is common. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Jack is often seen with a glass of what appears to be alcohol. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Surviving Jack often cultivates laughs from sexual themes, mostly related to teens' lives. Teen boys talk freely (and often crudely) about the issue, alternating between their desires and their anxieties related to it. Kissing and making out is shown with some upper-body nudity, but breasts are obscured. Adults and teens use a lot of slang when they talk about sex, including body parts ("nuts," "lady cave," "boobs") and the act itself ("screwing"). Other strong language includes "damn," "bitch," "hell," and "a--hole." Parents and kids exchange insulting banter and argue a lot, but underneath that is real affection among the family members. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent Written byTlon July 15, 2014

Great family based show

This is not a show of REAL dialogues, but inner dialogues,
it's how dialogues would go if people said out loud what they are really thinking/ wishing to s... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old May 20, 2014

Surviving Jack is good for 11+

I am 11 years old and I watch this show on Hulu with my dad and it's appropriate for any 5th grader and up.

Violence 0/10: This is a comedy.

Language 6/1... Continue reading

What's the story?

His wife's decision to go to law school leads Jack Dunlevy (Christopher Meloni) to trim his work schedule to handle affairs at home, which makes him the primary caretaker of their kids, Rachel (Claudia Lee) and Frankie (Connor Buckley). But weathering the storms of two teens' lives is a lot more complicated than this ex-military man anticipated, and his tough-love style isn't winning him any fans among the family. As Frankie faces the uncertainties of starting high school with unexpected popularity and a severe case of nerves, and Rachel uses her dad's hands-off parenting as reason to test some boundaries, Jack finds that he has some adapting to do as well. But with his wife, Joanne (Rachael Harris), as his mentor, there might be hope for him yet.

Is it any good?

Set in the '90s, SURVIVING JACK is a coming-of-age story with a unique twist; rather than focusing entirely on the kids' maturing process, it gives equal energy to the evolution of the parents, and to Jack in particular. In many ways, he has the farthest to go among the four, from a seldom-seen workaholic dad who's used to fixing problems his way to a more nurturing parental figure in the home. It's not an easy process, and the growing pains are no walk in the park, but the end result promises to be worth the effort. Despite his rogue parenting style, Jack endears himself not only to his kids and wife but also to many of their friends. The result is a funny commentary on the imperfection of family life and the reversal of traditional gender roles between parents. 

That said, what poignancy exists in this series definitely isn't meant for all your family members, thanks to its fairly ribald content and red-letter dialogue. Very little is off-limits among adults and teens, so if yours aren't quite ready for frequent sexual themes, slang references to body parts, allusions to masturbation, and widely accepted teen sexuality, then you might want to pass on it for them. Adults, on the other hand, will find plenty to chuckle about in Jack and Joanne's polar-opposite parenting styles and the mixed success with which they use them. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about their own relationships at home. Do you talk openly about what's going on in your lives? To what degree do your teens seek out advice from you or their siblings? How accurately do you think this show depicts relationships between teens and their parents?

  • Teens: Are your experiences with the subject of sex on par with what this show presents? Is it a topic of conversation among your friends? How much does the media's portrayal of sex influence your view of its conversational appropriateness? 

  • Teens: Why are role models important? Do good role models have to be perfect all the time? Who are some of the people you admire most?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love shows about family

Themes & Topics

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