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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Teenage Bounty Hunters is a comedy about Atlanta high schoolers who develop double lives as bounty hunters for hire. The show's tone is light and fun, and iffy stuff is played for laughs, but some content is more intense than the show's breezy vibe might suggest. Teens use violence to subdue bail-jumpers, including hitting someone in the head with a gun and knocking him unconscious, hitting another person with a cane in his midsection, jumping on a perp's car while it's moving, and more. The teens also use and brandish guns. There's no nudity, but sexual content is frank, including scenes in which characters have sex with rhythmic movements and moaning and talk about body parts ("boobs," "t-ts") and sexuality (being "horny," "boning," "getting laid"). Expect both same- and opposite-sex kissing, flirting, and dating. Language includes "f--k," "s--t," "bitch," "a--hole," "c--t," "goddammit," "slut," and "whore." A sex worker is beaten by a client. There are at least two prominent Black characters, but a high school is mostly White, which is unusual for a diverse city like Atlanta. Christian and Southern characters are treated with dignity and respect and not mocked for their accents, lifestyle, or faith. Themes of compassion, empathy, and self-control are evident, with characters growing and showing their kinder, more thoughtful sides as the show goes on.
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What's the story?
When they crash Daddy's truck into a bail-jumper during a desperate attempt to get home on time for curfew, fraternal twins Sterling (Maddie Phillips) and Blair (Anjelica Bette Fellini) fall into a new opportunity as TEENAGE BOUNTY HUNTERS. As grizzled bounty hunter Bowser Jenkins (Kadeem Hardison) tells them, they have an odd talent for the work, and since the two need cash to fix up the truck, they set to work sleuthing during the off-hours from their private Christian high school. This comedy was executive-produced by Jenji Kohan (Orange Is the New Black, GLOW).
Is it any good?
Engaging, goofy fun, this easygoing comedy coasts on its premise and the charm of its two leads, who are aces as sweet, sincere teens exploring their badass streaks. Another thing that Teenage Bounty Hunters gets very right is its setting. There aren't many shows anchored in a conservative Southern Christian world, and still fewer that treat Christianity and Christians with dignity and respect. Sure, there are prigs and bullies around, like Sterling's early-season arch rival, April (Devon Hales), who threatens to expose Sterling's non-abstinent love life to the school and ruin her reputation. But though both Sterling and Blair tote guns, batter criminals, lie to their parents, and get enthusiastically physical with their significant others, their faith is genuine, and they spend a significant amount of time discussing with each other what's the truly right thing to do when faced with a quandary, rather than falling back on easy answers.
Teenage Bounty Hunters' Southern trappings are also spot-on. Whereas many movies and TV shows stereotype Southerners as yokels, this show is keyed into real life for a certain kind of Bible Belt living, with its lockups and bourbon, expensive hunting trucks, University of Georgia references (Go Dogs!), and everyone drinking out of Chik-fil-A cups. With that as a background, the fizzy chemistry between Phillips and Fellini, as well as between the pair and Hardison, is even more delightful. Teenage Bounty Hunters quickly settles into a perp-of-the-week groove, with longer arcs about the girls' school and home life and enough twists doled out regularly to keep things rolling along. It's lots of fun -- with an edgy streak that younger kids may not be ready for.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the idea of characters who have some sort of secret life. Why do writers so often turn to these types of characters for material? Why is a person with serious problems a more compelling character than one with a calm, "normal" life? What dramatic or comedic possibilities do life's ordinary challenges hold? Are they enough to make a TV show interesting?
Is some violent content better than other kinds in entertainment? Does it ever serve a valuable purpose? If so, what? In what other forms of media do you often witness violence? Is the violence in Teenage Bounty Hunters less shocking or disturbing because it comes accompanied by humor?
Is the audience supposed to sympathize with Sterling and Blair? How can you tell? How are we supposed to regard their many transgressions? How are sympathetic characters presented, and how is that different from unsympathetic characters?
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