A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the mood of this fast-paced game show is realistically tense -- and the dramatic special effects (including car explosions and gun battles) might seem a little too real to tweens and young children. That said, the language is surprisingly clean, there's no sex or drinking/smoking, and the contestants are typically smart, athletic, and brave (although they are doing it all for a $50,000 prize...). The logos of sponsors LG and AT&T are thankfully kept to a minimum, too, which keeps the focus on the action instead of the actual phone.
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What's the story?
In a seemingly random American city, four unsuspecting people are about to become contestants on THE PHONE, a high-stakes game show from executive producer Justin Timberlake that sends participants out on a fictional mission that seems frighteningly real. The plot springs into action when a mysterious cell phone rings, and the players are split into teams to compete in a series of challenges. Each success yields them more and more cash, with the chance to win as much as $50,000.
Is it any good?
As much as you try to remind yourself that what you're seeing isn't real, you can't help but feel anxious for these players as they muddle through what must be an overwhelmingly out-of-body experience. And the thing is, it's downright entertaining. Yes, the so-called "Operator" (Emmett J. Scanlan) who runs the game is a little corny. But after listening to him long enough -- and recovering from the shock of the well-timed pyrotechnics -- you start to feel like you're Harrison Ford's stunt double in Patriot Games.
In short, this is thorughly entertaining escapist television. And thanks to cinema-quality camerawork, high-stakes plot lines, and dramatic pacing, it's easy to forget that it's only a game show.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how the show mimics the style of popular action films like The Bourne Identity, Speed, and Die Hard: With a Vengeance. Do the explosions and other tense moments have more or less impact here than they do in those movies? Why? Why do you think the show's producers chose the action-movie format over the run-of-the-mill reality game show style? Is it an effective choice? Why or why not? Would you want to participate in a game show like this one if you had the chance?