The First

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The First TV Poster Image
Space exploration drama has language, strong emotion.

Parents say

age 16+
Based on 7 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

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

Positive Messages

Themes of heroism, commitment, courage, redemption run through this drama, though not every character acts heroically or follows through on commitments. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Women and people of color have strong roles with agency. Characters are complicated, particularly Laz, who lets business concerns intrude on her humanity. Tom Hagerty is perhaps the most noble character, yet he's made mistakes that have shaped the life he lives now. Characters frequently urge each other to make right, noble choices. 


Since plot concerns space travel, expect complications, sometimes fatal and with intense focus on after-effects, such as when a spacecraft explodes in mid-air, killing characters we've grown attached to. We see the victims' families watching in horror, screaming and sobbing, and then grieving at length. 


Some plotlines focus on marriage and romance; expect flirting, kissing, romantic complications. 


Cursing and language include "f--k," "f---ing," "damn," "s--t," "hell," "ass," "son of a bitch," and "bastards," generally used to emphasize a point and not to insult another character. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A man in emotional agony says he needs a drink and is given something that looks alcoholic; a character says he began smoking to deal with stress, brings something to smoke in tense situations. He then produces a vape pen and takes a puff. A character has an unnamed drug addiction that has transformed her life; she acts spacey and out of it and then vomits.  

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The First is an ensemble drama series about the first manned mission to Mars. This drama is largely free of issues that will concern parents, save for language: "f--k," "damn," "s--t," "hell," "ass," "son of a bitch," and "bastards" all make appearances. However, the themes are dark, adult, and subtle; this drama will probably not appeal to all but the most mature of teens. Violence is infrequent, but disturbing when it happens: We see a spacecraft blow up mid-air, and watch family members scream and cry, and then grieve at length. Subplots involve romance between adults. Characters talk about using alcohol or cigarettes to handle emotional distress; one character has liquor, and another smokes a vape pen. A main character has a serious drug addiction. Women and people of color have strong roles with agency, and talk to each other about doing the right, noble thing. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 16-year-old Written byJflones September 20, 2018

Sex and nudity not described at all in common sense review!

If you don't want your kids, or yourself for that matter, to watch a show that has sex and or nudity in almost every episode then this show is not for you!... Continue reading
Adult Written byTobiumn September 19, 2018
Teen, 14 years old Written byapple3.141592 October 17, 2018
most children over 14 have already heard the language in this show anyway. the sex part might not be approprate depending on what parents say. theres dinking bu... Continue reading

What's the story?

In a (slightly) futuristic world, the crew of the Providence hopes to be THE FIRST humans on Mars. But when the launch doesn't go as planned, it's up to aerospace magnate Laz Ingram (Natascha McElhone) and disgraced commander Tom Hagerty (Sean Penn) to pick up the pieces, figure out what went wrong, and, in the midst of personal conflicts, decide whether the mission can go on. 

Is it any good?

Viewers lured by this drama's space exploration angle may be disappointed to find a slow-burning character study instead of a zippy space epic, but that's not intended as an insult. On the contrary, the writing is good, and the acting positively terrific -- Sean Penn still has it, and Natascha McElhone is sublimely easy to watch as steely corporate queen Laz Ingram. Though Hulu's marketing of the show is heavy on the imagery of astronauts in suits and sunrises as seen from space, we spend a lot more time in Hagerty's house, watching him shave and pal around with his dog, and on hangar floors and corporate meeting rooms with Laz, which is where the real drama takes place. 

Like every compelling drama, The First picks up in the middle of something big, while secrets simmer in the background. Just what happened between Tom and his wife and daughter that left him living monastically solo? What series of decisions led to Laz okaying the Providence launch, and where will the Mars program go now that the mission's in tatters? Patient viewers who appreciate truly adult drama won't mind waiting for the answers. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why space exploration is such a popular topic for drama and fantasy. What about this setting intrigues? Why are filmmakers and TV creators drawn to it? What dramatic possibilities does it hold? 

  • How do the characters in The First demonstrate courage and empathy? Why are those important character strengths?

  • This drama is rated TV-MA for language. Is the language integral to the story? Is it realistic? Is this the way people really talk? Do you think this drama should be watched by mature viewers, or should it be watched by anyone? Why? 

TV details

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