Sweetbitter

TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
Sweetbitter TV Poster Image
Edgy coming-of-age story nails New York restaurant life.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive messages

Sweetbitter is a coming-of-age story, and though Tess makes plenty of mistakes, she is learning how to take responsibility for herself in an adult world.

Positive role models & representations

Tess earnestly wants to do the right things -- succeed at her job, treat people well, etc. -- even if she's not always successful.

Violence
Sex

Simulated sex is rampant, and sex is often a topic of conversation.

Language

Endless swearing. "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and all of the other swear words you can think of.

Consumerism
Drinking, drugs & smoking

Constant smoking and drinking to excess. Cocaine is used without any negative consequences.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Sweetbitter is a show about young woman who moves to New York City and begins working in the complicated restaurant industry. The sweet part: it's essentially a story about the main character, Tess, leaving home and growing up. The bitter: it's also filled with enough sex, drugs, and excessive drinking to make this a show for grown-ups only. There's nudity and simulated sex, alcohol and cocaine use, and cursing includes "f--k," "s--t," and everything in between. Though Tess seems to have a strong moral compass, she is constantly pushing her own boundaries, making mistakes, and learning how to take responsibility for herself.

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What's the story?

There are thousands of stories about leaving a small town for the big, bad city, but SWEETBITTER's twist is that the dark underworld of New York takes the form of a seemingly harmless downtown restaurant job. Tess shows up in Manhattan, sells her car, and tries to charm her way into a gig waiting tables. Howard (Paul Sparks), the well-groomed owner of an upscale establishment, sees through her facade, but decides to give Tess a chance, despite her lack of experience. When she starts training, Tess is surprised to find that her new coworkers can be edgy and mean; that her charm won't get her as far as she thought; and that restaurant work is more demanding than she could've ever expected. But, as she learns the ropes, Tess slowly warms up to her coworkers -- including her brusk trainer, Will (Evan Jonigkeit); haughty waitress, Simone (Caitlin FitzGerald); and moody, handsome bartender, Jake (Tom Sturridge) -- and finds that waiting tables is a gateway to New York's vibrant after-hours culture of booze, sex, and drugs.

Is it any good?

This series absolutely nails the gritty details of the New York restaurant industry: how it can be soul-crushingly lonely one minute and exhilarating the next. The show smartly uses Tess's learning the ropes as a prism through which to see her acclimation to the city. Though romances and friendships blossom on the show, they're grounded by the fact that Tess is always striving to master every aspect of her job. Each of the supporting characters, down to the hostile sous-chef and the over-it bartender, are incredibly well-defined and add something unique to Tess's growing perspective. All of this gives surprising new life to the age-old premise of the small-town girl moving to the big city, and though it's not hesitant to depict the many rough edges of Manhattan's night life, Sweetbitter also captures how quiet and magical the city can feel, even when everything seems to be going terribly wrong.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it means to leave home for the first time. Tess packs up her car and moves to New York City, without knowing anyone there. Is she in over her head? How does she cope with her new surroundings? How successful is she on her own?

  • Families can talk about adult responsibilities. What are Tess's responsibilities in New York? What are her priorities? What types of things does she have to do for herself that she might not have had to do before moving?

TV details

For kids who love coming-of-age TV

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