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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Dangerous Book for Boys, based on the same-named 2007 best-seller, is a series about a family that reconnects with a deceased patriarch through a mysterious book he left for his three sons. The dad's death isn't seen or dwelled upon, but his family's grief over his passing is a big part of the story. Kids may need to be reassured that their own parents aren't going anywhere; those who've lost a loved one may learn something about handling grief in healthy ways. A family is close and supportive, but brothers scuffle and fight, sometimes landing on the floor or punching each other. Two brothers in particular argue and call each other names: "nitwit," "moron," "troglodyte," "butthead." A boy filming a "challenge" video eats crickets; viewers see him gulping and handling crickets (and later hear him vomiting) but not actually putting them in his mouth. A grandmother vaguely refers to past drug use and casual sex; she mentions walking around naked, and when her grandson accidentally sees her nude, he faints. Young boys are each interested in girls; expect to hear them talking about dates and crushes.
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What's the story?
When the McKenna family lost father Patrick (Chris Diamantopoulos, who also plays Patrick's twin brother, Terry), his wife, Beth (Erinn Hayes), and three sons, Liam (Kyan Zielinski), Dash (Drew Logan Powell), and Wyatt (Gabriel Bateman) had to learn to go on without him. But it was only when the McKenna brothers discovered their father's legacy to them, a stuffed-with-adventurous-possibilities tome called THE DANGEROUS BOOK FOR BOYS that they began thriving instead of just surviving. Now, with the help of their mom, their grandmother, Tiffany (Swoosie Kurtz), and their goofy Uncle Terry, the McKenna brothers have found a mystical portal to new adventures -- right there in their suburban Akron family home.
Is it any good?
Based on the best-selling 2007 book of the same name, this warmhearted series assures viewers that you don't have to stare at screens to have fun -- you just need a book of adventurous knowledge bequeathed by your dead father. It's easy to discern a slightly scolding tone in creator Bryan Cranston's adaptation -- the three boys having the "dangerous" fun promised in the series' title are frequently told to put their phones or tablets away and experience what's all around them in this bright bold beautiful real world. They're also lectured by their mom, dad, and a passel of other adults to believe in themselves, try new things, be fearless, and learn lessons about life, and all the other things adults tell kids to do (but rarely do themselves).
Nonetheless, though the sometimes clichéd and often trite "very special lessons" the boys and their family learn detract from The Dangerous Book for Boys' emotional moments, enough of them land that viewers, even cynical ones, may find themselves misting up. Anyone who's lost a loved one can see the appeal of a mystical device that brings them back to you, even if only for a while. And when three boys who have lost their father find that he's still around, living somehow in the fantastical places he sends them to in the Dangerous book's instructions, it's nothing less than beautiful. "Dad? Dad? Are you still there?" says Wyatt, bouncing alone across the surface of some imaginary moon. "Always," says his dad with a steadfast, reassuring gaze fixed on his son. No, I'm not crying. You're crying.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can discuss how The Dangerous Book for Boys compares to the real world. What aspects of the McKennas' world are rooted in fantasy? Is any of it relevant to the real world? What place does fantasy have in entertainment? Does entertainment always have to have a strong message, or can it just be fun?
Children who have lost parents are common in kids' TV and literature -- why? What dramatic possibilities might there be in a child who is missing one or both parents that wouldn't be there if a child lived with both parents? What adventures are possible when parents aren't present? How does the presence of parents limit adventure for children?
- Premiere date: March 30, 2018
- Cast: Chris Diamantopoulous, Gabriel Bateman, Erinn Hayes, Drew Logan Powell, Swoosie Kurtz
- Network: Amazon Prime Video
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Brothers and Sisters, Great Boy Role Models, Space and Aliens
- Character strengths: Courage, Curiosity
- TV rating: TV-Y7
- Available on: Streaming
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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