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 documentary-style series follows real criminal investigations. Crimes described and depicted include rape, murder, and kidnapping. Though the re-enactments aren't terribly graphic -- showing only some arguing and mild physical violence -- the descriptions offered by the narrator and during interviews are very vivid and explicit, including details like the duration of a sexual assault. Bones, teeth, blood, and other forensic evidence appear onscreen, though briefly and often not realistically.
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What's the story?
Much like its sister show The New Detectives, THE FBI FILES tells the story of real criminal investigations, using re-enactments to portray the details of each case. Though The FBI Files focuses on cases in which the FBI is the main investigatory organization, each case is tracked through its entirety, often beginning with local authorities. Investigators at all levels appear on camera to recall the elements of the case and the progression of the investigation. Along with re-enactments, in which some of the authorities appear alongside actors, episodes include interviews with victims, photos and video from the real case files, and descriptions and depictions of the forensic evidence collected.
Is it any good?
The show's interviewees are always serious, but sometimes their solemnity inches too closely to dull. And though the re-enactments are sometimes believable, for the most part they're poorly portrayed. Those with a more twisted sense of humor might enjoy imagining how different the real scenes would be from those acted out onscreen -- the actors' portrayal often seems much milder than what the narrator describes. For instance, participants are often described as drinking alcohol for long periods of time, but the actors never appear drunk. And because cases handled by the FBI are often high profile and frequently involve very dangerous criminals, the cases featured on the show are often grisly and involve scary scenarios. Re-enactments sometimes show blood, bones, and teeth, as well as scenes of mild violence.
Fans of crime shows both real and fictional may enjoy The FBI Files' detailed descriptions of criminal investigations. Teens who can handle the gory elements and graphic descriptions might find the process fascinating, and the show does a good job keeping sensationalism in check.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about safety. How do teens and parents keep themselves safe from crime? Do shows like this make you feel more or less safe? How much is safety a state of mind rather than a quantifiable element? What can teens and parents do to reduce fear but increase safety? How does the crime-fighting depicted here differ from what you see in TV dramas like Without a Trace?