The Family

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Family TV Poster Image
Dark, complex drama built around child rape and murder.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

A ruthless woman uses anything to get ahead politically; other characters rebuke her for it. Family members are not supportive of each other. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cast boasts extensive racial and ethnic diversity; women are in powerful positions. Characters are sympathetic but sometimes power-hungry.


Show revolves around a formerly missing, presumed murdered boy; description of kidnapping and injuries caused by shackles. A man describes his desire to strangle a little boy as revenge. 


A boy describes his childhood rape as "the man lies on top of me." A woman kisses a stranger in a bar. Subtle references to child porn and molestation; nothing shown on-screen. A man and a woman have sex on a table with moaning; she is seen in her bra.


Infrequent cursing: "what the hell."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character is a heavy drinker; other characters refer to him as a "drunk." Scenes take place in a bar with characters drinking beer and acting sloppy. A marijuana water pipe is seen briefly on-screen. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Family is a dark drama centering on a kidnapped child, family betrayal, and political ambitions. Expect references to child rape and murder; no molestation is shown on-screen. Family members treat each other with contempt, calling each other names. Ruthless individuals stoop to fraud to achieve their ends. Characters have hidden agendas and use others for political aims. One character is a heavy drinker; he drinks beer in a bar and acts sloppy. A woman kisses a stranger in a bar to convince a bunch of men she's off-limits. A man and a woman have an ethically questionable affair, including sex on a table; we see her in her bra and hear moaning before the camera cuts away. 

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What's the story?

Secrets within secrets and tension-filled twists are what you'll find in THE FAMILY, a dark drama that centers on Claire Warren (Joan Allen), a mother of three who lived through a parent's worst nightmare: Ten years ago, her kindergarten-age son Adam disappeared during a family outing. Hank (Andrew McCarthy), a creepy neighbor with a sex-offender background, was convicted of Adam's murder by crusading detective Nina (Margot Bingham). But now, mysteriously, a teenage Adam (Liam James) has reappeared, bearing stories of a kidnapping and a mysterious man who has held him hostage. Or is it Adam? His siblings, ambitious Willa (Alison Pill) and messy, traumatized Danny (Zach Gilford), have their suspicions -- and their skeletons in the closet. His parents, Claire and estranged husband John (Rupert Graves), are just thrilled to have their son back. Or are they? Claire certainly is willing to use his return to boost her candidacy for governor of Maine, while John isn't so willing to overlook everything that's happened in the last decade.

Is it any good?

Created by former Scandal co-executive producer and longtime Shonda Rhimes collaborator Jenna Bans, this drama bears the ShondaLand stamp in all the best ways. The writing is soapy and crisp, the characterizations deft, the acting five-star all the way, particularly on the parts of three-time Oscar nominee Allen and Pill as her hard-bitten daughter and chief political operative. Anyone who's tuned in to Scandal or How to Get Away with Murder will be familiar with the Shonda-like doling out of secrets, the sudden reveals, and the simmering intrigue. The central question of the show -- is the returned Adam an impostor or the real thing? -- is just one of the many mysteries to be slowly solved as the action flips from one well-drawn character to the next. This is appointment TV at its finest or binge-worthy fare you won't be able to stop watching. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the show's premise. If a family member came back after 10 years, would you recognize him or her? How would you know? 

  • Many dramatic shows employ what are known as "twists." The show leads you to believe one thing is true, then suddenly reveals the actual truth. How are twists different from regular plot turns? 

  • Are viewers supposed to like the Warren family? How can you tell? Which members are we supposed to sympathize with the most strongly? 

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