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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this sci-fi drama series centers around the idea of being abducted and then returned to earth many years later. Younger viewers, if they're not bored by the adult-oriented material, may need reassurance that the concept is fictional. Some violence occurs, like when a criminal is wounded by gunshot or a fistfight results in near death. In one episode, a main character attempts suicide, though she's quickly revived. Several characters have special powers, some of which are creepy or scary -- like the pulsing gills on one character's torso.
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What's the story?
When 4,400 dazed people arrive near Seattle in a big ball of light from the sky, they don't know where they've been or how long they've been gone. Turns out, they've been abducted by humans from the future, and, viewers find out later, they're supposed to help save the world. But in the meantime, they struggle to sort out their lives, which have been cruelly disrupted. None of them have aged at all while they've been missing. As a consequence, for some, like Maia (Conchita Campbell) -- who was abducted as a child in 1946 -- returning to their families isn't an option. Others have been gone for only a few months or years, but making the transition back to normal life is still difficult.
Is it any good?
Complicating the abductees' reintroduction to normal life is the special powers some have returned with. For young Maia, it's the ability to know the future. For earnest 19-year-old Shawn Farrell (Patrick Flueger), it's the ability to heal and hurt with just the touch of his hands. As these abilities become known to the public, fears arise that the abductees will use their powers for evil. Taking a page from The X-Men, "The 4400" join together to protect themselves against an antagonistic and sometimes-violent public.
Quarantines, secret government plans, splinter groups, and the arrival of a potential messiah figure combine to make this dramatic series rich with sci-fi mystery and plenty of surprises. The acting is generally very fine, but occasionally the drama seems overwrought. Most teens will be able to handle the occasional violence and spooky overtones, but the general feeling of a planet in crisis may tap into anxieties about the real world.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what special powers they'd want to have -- and which they wouldn't. What's the burden of mind-reading or being able to foresee the future? What kind of similarities do teens see between the issues the show brings up and what's happening in today's post-9/11 world? What does fear of a specific group of people do to society as a whole?