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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
The show's messages are complicated, and there's no neat-and-tidy takeaway. But major themes include family, imperfect parenting, love, and loss -- not in the sense of a literal death but in mourning the loss of a dream -- the dream being a "perfect" childhood.
Positive Role Models
Most characters are flawed in some way and not everyone is wholly likable. But over the course of the series, this fractured family attempts to learn from its mistakes and do the right thing for Joe, whatever that may be. Characters learn and demonstrate compassion and empathy.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Implied and simulated sex (thrusting in bed, moaning, and so on) with no sensitive parts shown; subplots involve adultery, casual hookups, and teens in a relationship who are considering having protected sex.
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Audible words include "damn," "hell," "whore," "hooker," and "hard on," plus loaded terms such as "rapey."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Some characters drink socially and smoke cigarettes.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The A Word centers on a family living in England's Lake District that's coming to terms with the recent discovery that their 5-year-old son has autism. That said, the show also devotes a lot of screen time to adult problems such as adultery and casual sex (including high schoolers who are thinking about having sex, albeit with protection), so it's far from family fare. Characters use words such as "hell," "damn," "whore," "hooker," and "hard on," and you'll see scenes involving implied and simulated sex (thrusting in bed, moaning, and the like) but with no sensitive parts shown. Some characters also drink socially and smoke cigarettes.
Is It Any Good?
Though it takes on a worthy topic, this uneven drama ultimately gets in its own way with too many subplots that divert attention from the most important thing: Joe's autism. And these side stories aren't even all that riveting -- in particular, the aftereffects of adultery as explored through Joe's estranged aunt (Vinette Robinson) and uncle (Greg McHugh), who have conveniently moved back into town, bringing all their problems with them -- not to mention the odd comic relief of Joe's grandfather (Christopher Eccleston), who takes singing lessons on the down-low while dodging the sexual advances of his teacher.
Vento's affecting portrayal of Joe and his parents' imperfect handling of his diagnosis should be enough to sustain our interest for an entire season. But all the extra stuff going on just feels like filler that pushes this potentially poignant drama a bit too far off the mark. In the end, the best thing about The A Word is its infectious soundtrack, which not only is flat-out great but also fitting, considering music is Joe's preferred way to express himself. In those moments, when the volume's turned up, we can most clearly hear his voice.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
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Our Editors Recommend
Drama TV for Teens
Movies with Characters Who Have Learning and Attention Issues and Developmental Disabilities
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate