The Great Escape

TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
The Great Escape TV Poster Image
Teams break out of famous lockdowns in tense competition.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Contestants have to work together to progress, and reactions like anger and frustration slow them down.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Depends on the contestants -- some are more likeable and/or cooperative than others and some have personal stories that make them more or less admirable. They are all motivated to win the money.


Contestants under stress are sometimes rough with each other and objects: pulling each other back by the collar, punching walls.


Some audible language ("damn," "suck") and bleeped words ("f--k"). Contestants may curse at each other when under stress.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Great Escape is a tense competition show similar to The Amazing Race where  teams are under pressure, and sometimes curse ("damn, bleeped "f--k"), bang things around, punch walls, or blame their partner for mistakes. This may prove too stressful for younger or sensitive kids, who might also get overstimulated by the fast pace, creepy dark locations, and pounding, tense music. While making their escape, teams are always in danger of being captured by patrolling guards, which ratchets up the tension and could encourage a fear of law enforcement in younger kids.

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What's the story?

Produced by Ron Howard, Brian Grazer, and the people behind The Amazing Race, THE GREAT ESCAPE is a reality show in which a trio of two-person teams compete to see which can first break out of a famous locale, such as Alcatraz, or the USS Hornet. The teams start out in a locked room or cell that they must escape, then are led through a series of four challenges that will net them four pieces of a key, all the while trying to evade capture by prowling guards. If teams are captured by the guards, they are locked up again and must escape to continue with their challenges. When teams have gotten all four pieces of the key, they find host Rich Eisen, who is waiting with a locked box containing $100,000. The first team that reaches Eisen with the key wins. The others go home empty-handed.

Is it any good?

Stealthy escapes are a staple of action movies, and there's a reason why: it's exciting to watch people creeping past guards and solving clever puzzles. Even real people are fun to watch -- like the contestants on The Great Escape, who are always pairs of familiars: married couples, family members, friends. Each team explains why they want the Great Escape winnings, which adds a little pathos to the proceedings when you see people who obviously need the money struggling so hard to get it.

But there's not that much time to get to know the contestants, since each week features three new pairs, so the focus is rightfully on the action. There's plenty of it. Contestants have to solve puzzles, follow maps, use compasses, find keys cleverly taped to the insides of old guitars or pushed into a bar of soap. Then they have to sneak past guards with flashlights, tiptoeing past, clinging to walls. When they're captured by the guards, a loudspeaker blares out "Green team, captured" in a cool robotic voice. It's almost as exciting as a sci-fi movie like Escape from New York, or the other Great Escape, even though the stakes are a lot lower. Fans of reality adventure shows should, and probably will, tune to this in droves.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why it's interesting to watch people in stressful situations from the comfort of a couch. Would you want to be on The Great Escape? Would it be as much fun to go through the escapes as to watch them?

  • The Great Escape uses a lot of exciting music while showing footage of the teams, even when they're doing something as simple as running down an alley. Would the show be as scary and tense without the music? How does the music tell you what you should be feeling as you watch?

  • The teams on The Great Escape often fight with each other as they get more nervous. When teams fight, does it slow down or speed up their progress?

TV details

  • Premiere date: June 24, 2012
  • Cast: Rich Eisen
  • Network: TNT
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-14
  • Last updated: September 19, 2019

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