The Characters

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Characters TV Poster Image
Comedy sketch show ranges from brilliant to awkward.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Qualities such as ignorance, avarice, and arrogance are typically mocked on this comedy show. Female comics are featured in three out of five episodes, a far more gender-balanced roster than is typical in comedy.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters vary widely according to which comic is in the driver's seat, but many have a tinge of sweetness to them: A young man is touched to have a new dad, a partygoer makes a playlist he hopes everyone enjoys, and a woman wants to do her best at jury duty.  

Violence

Occasional scuffling, played for laughs. 

Sex

Scenes take place in a strip club with scantily clad women gyrating onstage. Strangers kiss with tongues fully extended. A woman calls herself a "slut" in a song. A man appears nude from the rear. 

Language

Vulgar words for body parts and functions: "ass," "butthole," "boners," "tits." Expressions for sex: "going down." Other cursing: "s--t," "s--tty," "f--k," "f---king." A character emits a string of curses.

Consumerism

Count Chocula, Dave & Buster's, Game of Thrones

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink beer and wine; references to getting drunk complete with hangovers. Characters smoke cigarettes on-screen. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Characters is a sketch-comedy show that allows up-and-coming comics to take over for a single episode. Some vignettes are just absurd; others can be vulgar: A depressed woman performs a striptease; a teenager is given permission to curse. Characters smoke cigarettes and drink beer and wine on-screen; afterward they refer to bad choices and hangovers. Cursing includes "s--t" and "f--k," and women are called "b---h." Expressions for sex and body parts include "boners" and "dicks." Many sketches deal with big issues, including racism, religious intolerance, sexism, and homophobia.

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What's the story?

Every comic thinks she's got a lot of great ideas; THE CHARACTERS asks them to prove it. Each half-hour episode of the sketch-comedy series has been turned wholly over to another up-and-coming comic; he or she is given complete creative control to write and star in a set of sketches. The result is a wildly divergent show centering on some of the most diverse characters comedy has ever seen: a snot-nosed but strangely wise toddler who dispenses advice to her mom's workmates; a Christian stand-up comic and stay-at-home mom who wrings a catchphrase out of her choice of jacket material; and a clinically depressed stripper, just for starters. 

Is it any good?

With sketches that run the gamut from sparkling to weak, this series is a bit of a mixed bag but has enough highlights to make it worthwhile, particularly for comedy fans. Funny actors frequently complain that they're offered material that's far less amusing than they are; giving comics the chance to create the material they want is an intriguing challenge. These people can act funny, but can they create funny? The answer is, mostly, yes! Though the episodes vary in quality depending on who's at the helm, there are more hits than misses. Natasha Rockwell's episode is particularly enchanting as she morphs into a series of characters, from a homeless woman who threatens subway riders with Game of Thrones spoilers to a woman who embraces her blandness with a rap called "Basic Bitch." But there are plenty of other gems here, from a dramatic groom commanding the attention at his wedding to the host of cable TV show Big Trucks searching for the Southern-fried woman of his dreams. If you don't like what you're watching, just wait a few minutes. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about sketch-comedy shows. Which others can you name? How is this like other sketch-comedy shows you've seen? How is it different? 

  • Parody is a classic subject for comedy, particularly sketch comedy. What's the difference between parody and character-driven comedy? Which segments that you've watched are satirizing something, and which are presenting an original situation? 

  • A comedy researcher once boiled all jokes down to one element: They're funny because they're a benign violation. What does that mean? Which benign violations can you point out on The Characters' sketches? 

TV details

For kids who love comedy

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