A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Social-emotional lessons about friendship and honesty await viewers. Is honesty always the best policy? Do you always hurt the ones you love?
The show's setup assumes that "tough love" and hearing unflattering things about yourself is a good thing -- some would disagree. However, the show's aim is redemption so each participant tries to improve herself and her life. Friends are sometimes harsh in their letters: "You're the laziest person I've ever met." "You're the epitome of a country bumpkin."
Positive Role Models
Each participant on the show is making efforts to improve her life, though not all viewers will agree that each change is positive or needs to be made.
Violence & Scariness
One participant says she wishes to hit whoever wrote her her letter.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
References to romance, dating, flirting, kissing, marriage.
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The occasional curse, four-letter words are bleeped: "What the hell?" "Are you f--king kidding me?"
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Products & Purchases
Some participants talk about the pleasures of wealth -- luxury vacations, fancy houses, expensive university training.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Participants are occasionally seen drinking beer or wine; no one acts drunk. References to smoking cigarettes (no one smokes onscreen).
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Letter is a reality show where four friends write anonymous letters to instruct each other on how to live a better life. References to sex, dating, flirting, marriage; occasional cursing ("Are you f--king kidding me?"); participants occasionally drink beer or wine onscreen (no one acts drunk); references to smoking cigarettes (no one smokes onscreen). Participants may react with pain to what they hear -- they cry, rail, argue with what's being said. Watching them undertake new activities intended to improve their character can be uncomfortable, and many get upset and cry. Redemption is the name of the game on this show, but not all viewers will agree that the changes participants are making need to be made, or that "tough love" from your friends is necessary or kind.
Is It Any Good?
Riveting and emotional, this show pushes change and redemption, but the assumption that "tough love" is always positive may be hard for some to swallow. It's difficult to listen to (and definitely even more difficult for the participants to read) things like "you are the definition of a small-town bumpkin" and "you're the laziest person I've ever met." It's even harder to watch long-time friends argue over long-held grudges. Participants sometimes devolve into shouting and tears; they hug at the end, but it's hard to shake the notion that these women are shaken in ways both positive and negative. Yes, they may have tried and learned new things during the course of the show, but it's clear that they're often terribly wounded by what they've read, and that friendships are damaged.
Given that, it's hard not to view this show as exploitative, though it's reaching for redemptive. The Letter congratulates on fomenting change and growth, but at what cost? Teen viewers will likely be interested to watch; parents may want to watch too, at least at first, to point out that writing a friend an anonymous letter is a risky way to ask her for changes or point out her faults -- and that anonymous letters in general are looked down on by most people, for very good reasons.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.