The Right Stuff

TV review by
Matt Cabral, Common Sense Media
The Right Stuff TV Poster Image
Space drama is serviceable but doesn't reach the stars.

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 4+
Based on 1 review

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

While the series includes some general themes of heroism, bravery, and leadership, its basis -- the beginnings of the space program -- is primarily driven by the United States' fear of Russia surpassing them in the Space Race. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

The Mercury Seven astronauts display a number of admirable qualities -- courage, competence, leadership, bravery -- but they're also flawed characters, whose positive traits are often tempered by their less commendable ones. 


A man sustains a bloody hand injury. A pilot is killed in a plane crash, and we later see his wife and young daughter attending his funeral. 


Some sexual innuendos and jokes, including a man commenting on a woman's "hiney wiggle." A couple is shown post-coitus, touching each other intimately, sans nudity. Marital infidelity is a frequent topic explored in the series. 


While not excessive, inappropriate language, including "hell," "damn," "s--t," and "pecker," -- are used in casual conversation.   


The series is based on a book available for purchase. Other film and TV adaptations are also avaiable. 

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters drink, sometimes excessively, and smoke in social situations, often at bars. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Right Stuff is a historical drama based on the 1979 book of the same name. It tells the story of the first astronauts -- the Mercury Seven -- who are portrayed as heroic, brave, and the "best" men for the job, but also flawed characters, possessing a number of less admirable traits and personal problems. Characters frequently drink -- sometimes excessively --  and smoke. Some also engage in extramarital affairs, a subject that's explored extensively in the series, and display sexist behavior. Language includes "s--t," "goddamn," "hell," "pecker," and "screwing." A pilot is shown losing control of his plane and crashing; the impact is not shown, but we later see his funeral, where his wife and young, distraught daughter are in attendance. Some blood is shown in a scene where a character sustains an injury to his hand.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byEric N. November 28, 2020

Great for adults - iffy for kids

My wife and I rarely agree on television series that we both like. This one has been a winner for us and is currently one of our favorite shows.

The story is... Continue reading
Adult Written bywesternsky October 17, 2020

Not great...

I was excited about this series, unfortunately it focuses too much on Alan Shepherd's infidelity. Every scene with a woman he either flirts or sleeps with... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byIAmTeenager97068 November 29, 2020


This is a great show that doesn’t make any sense that it’s rated tv14

What's the story?

Based on the 1979 book of the same name -- which also served as the source material for the popular 1983 film -- THE RIGHT STUFF tells the true story of the first United States astronauts, dubbed the Mercury Seven, including John Glenn (Patrick Adams, Suits) and Alan Shepherd (Jake McDorman). The series begins with the formation of NASA, then follows the selection and training of the chosen recruits, including John Glenn and Alan Shepard, the first American in space. The series also digs deep into their unexpected celebrity, personal lives and problems, and professional conflicts. 

Is it any good?

This series nails the historical drama, offering an engaging account of this remarkable, nation-defining event. But while its cast of star-gazing cowboys could have complemented and deepened the story, they too often feel like stock characters in shiny space suits. Kicking off mere hours before the first American astronaut is blasted into space, the story abruptly flashes back two years. It's a fun set-up and cliffhanger, though one that could possibly alienate anyone expecting a thrilling space adventure versus a historical drama. 

Stick with it past that initial tease, though, and you'll discover the narrative leading up to that historic moment is nearly as absorbing as the launch itself. Given room to breath over the course of its episodic run, the series digs into everything from the exhaustive astronaut selection process and grueling training to the complicated personal lives of the chosen Mercury Seven. The latter provides an especially interesting exploration into the unexpected celebrity the men faced upon being selected and positioned as national heroes. Sadly, The Right Stuff stumbles a bit in its characterizations of the astronauts, rarely fleshing them out beyond a few, often stereotypical, traits. There's plenty of potentially juicy conflict between John Glenn (Patrick J. Adams) and Alan Shepard (Jake McDorman), for example, but too often they're reduced to the responsible boy scout and reckless playboy, respectively. What's worse, these two represent the most layered of the bunch, with the other five often coming off like interchangeable clones -- all handsome, confident white guys hoping to go to space. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how accurately The Right Stuff portrays the historical events. What elements does the series retain about the characters and events? How is it different? Does the story recount the story differently than previous adaptations? 

  • What was the space exploration technology like back then compared to today? What sort of tools and equipment did NASA rely on in the late 1950's? How has space travel evolved since the events of the series?

  • Who were the Mercury Seven? How were they chosen and what roles did they play in the project? What accomplishments did they go on to achieve after the events of the series?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love space

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