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The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Magicians is based on a trio of bestselling novels by Lev Grossman concerning a group of young adults and their years living dangerously at Brakebills, an elite school for the magically gifted. This engaging but intense series may look like Harry Potter at grad school, but the overall series is darker and contains a lot more adult-oriented material, including cursing, strong sexual content, some gory violence, and drug use, making it best left for older teens.
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What's the story?
In THE MAGICIANS, Quentin Coldwater is a clinically depressed student on the verge of college graduation whose fantasy life provides him little comfort as he faces down adulthood. Part of growing up, he explains, is “selling the comic book collection and getting serious.” Inward, nerdy Quentin is overjoyed to discover that his grad school interview is actually a test to join the exclusive Brakebills school for magicians. He passes with distinction, but his best friend Julia isn't so lucky. After flunking it, she desperately seeks to hone her magic outside the Ivy leagues. Back at Brakebills, Quentin flourishes -- but also unwittingly helps a malevolent force known only as the Beast gain entry to the magical campus, leading to the murder of a teacher. The ensuing fallout will test Quentin and his new Brakebills compatriots.
Is it any good?
The misfits-turned-wizards premise is grounded in solid fantasy footing in this series; devotees of the genre will see much from Harry Potter and Narnia. The well-worn trope of young people finding themselves at the center of grand magical battles has a great amount of power in today's fantasy-favoring landscape. The quality of the show’s source material lays a solid foundation for the series to contrast well-worn concepts with a more adult treatment of these themes.
Wisely, the show has aged its protagonists from undergrads to grad students. This frees its characters to engage in the experimentation that helps to set this young-adult identity-crisis story apart from its genre progenitors. If the time it's broadcast doesn't drive home that The Magicians is for older teenagers, it should be stated: Morally and ethically dubious decisions form the core of this show, and depression, self-harm, death, strong sexual innuendo, and murder are key elements of the story. As lead character Quentin states in the first episode, "Be warned: This adventure is no mere children's tale," and as a result, it's best left for older viewers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why people like to imagine worlds like the one in The Magicians in which magic is real. How would magic change your life for the better? For worse?
Do you have favorite books that have been made into TV shows or movies? What changes were made, and why?
- Premiere date: January 25, 2016
- Cast: Jason Ralph, Stella Maeve, Olivia Taylor Dudley, Hale Appleman, Arjun Gupta, Summer Bishil
- Network: Syfy
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Adventures, Friendship, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Courage, Curiosity, Perseverance, Teamwork
- TV rating: TV-14
- Available on: DVD, Streaming
- Last updated: July 9, 2020
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