The Great American Manhunt TV Poster Image

The Great American Manhunt



Fascinating look at forensic evidence -- without the gore.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Teamwork is required to complete the challenge and the investigators work together and share their knowledge in order to find the target. The show demonstrates the value of science, curiosity, and problem solving.

Positive role models

The three main investigators have extensive backgrounds in their areas of expertise. Bill is a retired detective; Daniel is a clinical psychologist; and Natalie is a forensic anthropologist. The three work well together and provide their own perspectives to the clues in order to help identify the target. Natalie in particular is a great example of a knowledgeable female scientist and could serve as a great role model for girls.


Some of the targets have evidence of injury and past violence on their bodies in the forms of scars and other visual clues. Occasional imagery of violent events such as 9/11, the Vietnam War, or car crashes illustrate how some of the forensic clues may have been caused.

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Drinking, drugs, & smoking
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Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Great American Manhunt is an educational and engaging docuseries inspired by dramas like CSI, Bones, and other forensic-oriented television. Unlike police shows where criminals and other unsavory types are being hunted down, the targets in The Great American Manhunt are regular (non-criminal) people. The experts explore their theories by learning about specific occupations and activities and matching them up with the clues. Tweens and teens interested in science and investigation will gain some insight into the tools these fields employ.

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What's the story?

A team consisting of a retired police detective (Bill Erfurth), a forensic anthropologist (Natalie Shirley), and a clinical psychologist (Daniel Shapiro) are challenged to track down a living mystery target somewhere in the United States. The team is not allowed shortcuts such as DNA, dental records, or ID databases, but is given clues such as medical and psychological tests, clothing, and surveillance video to help track down the target. Each episode begins with a viewing of the surveillance video and initial theories on the target's physical features, location, and occupation. Each theory is then followed up by the team outside the lab as team members interview and work with other specialists to determine how clues may have come about.

Is it any good?


While not as fast paced as a forensics mystery show, THE GREAT AMERICAN MANHUNT is a fascinating look at how experts might go about tracking down a target. The experts form a theory and then go into the field to test their theories. Sometimes their hunches don't match up with the clues as more information on the theory is explored. Not only do viewers learn about forensics and psychology, but also about various other occupations and activities and how they leave clues on a person's body. Some occupations and activities, such as boxing, leave obvious clues while, other activities such as being in a band, firefighting, or motorcycle racing are revealed to have surprising effects and injuries as well. It's possible to fracture your pelvis surfing, who knew?

It's fun to follow along with the mystery and form theories while viewing. The Great American Manhunt is a fun and educational show for mystery lovers, and a great choice for kids interested in forensic science, but who are too young or sensitive to handle the violence and gore that normally accompanies these televised investigations.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about what they learn from this show. Did anything surprise you? What do our scars and medical history say about us? How accurately do our clothing and other features reveal our occupations or personalities? What would investigators be able to tell about you by examining your body, etc.?

  • Talk about the different experts and targets that appear on the show and the various occupations they represent. Also, at least one target is a famous person who is a role model to many. Does someone have to be famous in order to be a role model? Are any of the experts on the shows role models?

  • Talk about the appeal of the crime shows that inspire this show. Why are people fascinated by crime and mysteries?

TV details

Premiere date:April 19, 2012
Cast:Bill Erfurth, Daniel Shapiro, Natalie Shirley
Network:National Geographic Channel
Genre:Reality TV
Topics:Science and nature
TV rating:TV-G
Available on:Streaming

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What parents and kids say

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Parent Written byazdan April 20, 2012

great show for kids 9 and up.

This program shows critical thinking, team work, and productive disagreements in the service of a team goal. There's mystery and it's fun to play along and try to figure out what the target will really be like.
What other families should know
Great messages