Swords: Life on the Line

TV review by
Will Wade, Common Sense Media
Swords: Life on the Line TV Poster Image
Close look at a tough, dangerous job is interesting for all.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The series doesn't shy away from depicting the fact that people can seem insignificant when compared to vast, limitless power of the sea. The humans sit at the top of the food pyramid here, and the swordfish, sharks, tuna, and other fish are no match for the determined fishermen. But when a storm comes, or engine trouble leaves a boat adrift, it’s clear how little control people have over the environment. The show doesn't address the controversy over possible overfishing of swordfish.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The featured swordfishermen work hard and generally seem to enjoy their career choice. They can be a bit rough around the edges, but they generally mean well and have a strong camaraderie.


The people on this show are often in danger due to their very risky profession. Frequent images of enormous swordfish being hauled aboard ship, sometimes bloody and always resisting. The crews sometimes land sharks as well, which try to snap at any nearby arms and legs.


Some words are bleeped.


Frequent mentions of The Perfect Storm, a nonfiction book that was later made into a movie about swordfishermen from the same region who were killed during a huge storm in 1991.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some of the sailors smoke.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this reality series -- which follows the crews of several commercial swordfishing boats -- doesn't hide the fact that this is tough, dangerous work; the cameras show what it’s really like to work 18-hour days at sea, in good weather or bad. Despite some bleeped swearing and a few fishing scenes that might be too graphic for the young or squeamish, it’s an interesting look at a rarely-seen profession.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byTerry W December 14, 2010

Accurate presentation.

I worked for 6 weeks on a commercial swordfisher, the TIKI XVIII, and it is an accurate representation of the business.
Parent of a 12-year-old Written byNorth.Western September 20, 2010

This is reality

This is one of the best shows I have seen in a good while. I got both my daughters watching this show and they are 11 and 14. The oldest one respects the fisher... Continue reading

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

Head to the Grand Banks off the coast of Newfoundland -- one of richest and most dangerous fishing grounds in the world -- to see what it takes to bring in a catch of swordfish. SWORDS: LIFE ON THE LINE follows four commercial vessels as they battle waves, storms, and exhaustion to fill their holds with these magnificent (and profitable) creatures. This is a tough, dangerous job, and the series shows the crews working to the point of exhaustion -- and sometimes beyond. Though swordfishing can be lucrative, a poor catch might not even cover expenses for these month-long trips, as the captains explain when detailing the economics of this demanding business.

Is it any good?

Viewers who know anything about commercial swordfishing have probably heard that it’s demanding and dangerous. But because the crews typically work far out at sea, few people have actually seen them on the job. The cameras here stay with the crews for the duration, showing the long days, the dangerous conditions, and the brutal, exhausting labor. The show also captures the excitement when a crew lands an enormous swordfish or giant tuna, with the men glowing with professional excitement and the knowledge that each pound of fish adds to their paychecks when they finally get back to port.

One angle the show ignores, for the most part, is the environmental impact of the profession. Though not officially considered endangered, many activists assert that swordfish are in danger of being overfished, a notion that’s hard to juxtapose with images of crew members high-fiving each other after landing a 150-pounder. The fishermen rarely discuss whether their profession could be contributing to a problem and instead are eager to catch as many as they can. But the Discovery Channel does add teasers encouraging viewers to visit its website for more details on the controversial issue.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about fishing and overfishing. What do you think of the techniques used here? Does it seem like a fair fight, or are the fish easily outmatched by human technology?

  • Commercial swordfishing can be a lucrative job. Does this profession seem interesting to you? How does it compare to other dangerous jobs you've seen on reality shows?

TV details

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