The Return of Jezebel James

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
The Return of Jezebel James TV Poster Image
Sibling rivalry sitcom is best for older teens.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The heroine is a complex character who often falls short when it comes to role modeling. While she's obviously intelligent and successful, she shows a remarkable naivety when it comes to the demands of motherhood and how it might affect her life.


The topic of pregnancy -- and the sex that often leads to it -- is pervasive and often played up for comic effect. Condoms are mentioned, and characters are sometimes shown kissing passionately.


Occasional mild profanity like "hell" and "damn."


The fictional heroine works for a real-life New York City book publisher, Harper Teen, and the publisher features prominently in the show. Much of the action takes place inside the Harper Teen offices, where the company logo is sometimes visible. Still, the overall effect is subtle.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink socially. One jokes about having been in rehab.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the reproductive focus of this sitcom's central plot -- a successful but single woman in her 30s suddenly decides she wants to have a baby and ends up enlisting a surrogate -- means that a lot of the dialogue revolves around pregnancy and sex. That said, the references are usually suggestive and comic rather than graphic. Characters drink socially and occasionally swear (though "hell" and "damn" are about as strong as it gets).

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What's the story?

In THE RETURN OF JEZEBEL JAMES, indie film darling Parker Posey stars as recently single Sarah Tompkins, a successful, stylish children's book editor in her 30s who decides that she doesn't need a husband to have children. But it turns out she can't conceive on her own, so she seeks out her estranged bohemian sister, Coco (Lauren Ambrose), and asks her to be her surrogate. The sisters' newly forged but tenuous partnership has them living under the same roof in Sarah's swanky digs, where they ultimately discover that they do, in fact, love each other -- and that they need each other more than ever.

Is it any good?

It's kind of odd to see Posey in something with a laugh track that isn't meant to be ironic, but fans of her big-screen work on should give her first stab at headlining a TV sitcom a fighting chance. Posey's talent for delivering dialogue gets her through more than one so-so joke, and her interplay with Ambrose is particularly fun to watch. The scenes that feature just the two of them are a definite highlight.

That said, the show suffers from a few improbable plot points -- like the fact that Sarah essentially decides to have a baby in the span of a two-and-a-half minute commercial break without fully realizing that it will change her life forever. But once the action gets going, Jezebel James (in case you were wondering, the show's title refers to Coco's mischievous imaginary childhood friend, Jezebel James, who once ate three months' worth of Sarah's birth control pills, among other pranks) is a fun way to spend 30 minutes, with memorable supporting characters and a unique storyline that has real potential.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the challenges that many women face in terms of wanting to "have it all": a successful career, a family, and a fulfilling romantic relationship. Do men have to make similar choices when it comes to their personal and professional lives, or is this a dilemma that only women face? In terms of Sarah's motivations, why do you think she really wants to have a baby at this point in her life? Do you think she's prepared for the realities of raising a child? Do you think she'll be a good mother? How does the media typically present parenthood? Is it realistic?

TV details

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