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 Righteous Gemstones is a comedy about a television ministry at a pivotal moment after the Gemstone family's matriarch has passed. Despite their professions, the Gemstone family engages is some very non-Christian activities. We see characters snorting white powder with a topless woman (her breasts are visible) with a nude man (whose genitals are visible) dancing behind them at a wild hotel room party. We also see violent scenes in which characters die or are grievously injured: suddenly stabbed, run over by a car which then reverses to make sure the victim is dead, shot. We see brief shots of blood but no gore, and the hit-and-run takes place from a distance so that we only see a silhouette being hit. In another troubling scene, a son calls his dad a "f----t" after dad kisses him goodnight; the father then slaps him in the face when the boy says something upsetting. Sexual content includes rude terms for sex acts ("suck off"). Language includes cursing ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," etc.) as well as made-up words by a character attempting to not curse: "bullcrud," "bullarkey." Characters are complex, but frequently duplicitous with authorities (religious and otherwise) who don't have their followers' best interests at heart.
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What's the story?
Created and written by star Danny McBride, THE RIGHTEOUS GEMSTONES introduces us to the television-ministry masters the Gemstones at a pivotal moment. The ministry's founding matriarch Aimee Leigh has passed on, leaving the church in the hands of husband Eli (John Goodman) and the couple's three squabbling children: Jesse (McBride), Kelvin (Adam Devine), and Judy (Edi Patterson). On the surface, the Gemstones' empire appears to be healthy and growing -- they just baptized 5,000 people in China, and have closed on a new church in a small town despite local preacher Johnny Seasons' (Dermot Mulroney) determination to keep them out. But when a new threat surfaces and Jesse tries to handle it in his own bullheaded way, things quickly go from bad to worse, and even faith and followers might not be enough to bail the Gemstones out this time.
Is it any good?
Southern-fried and stupid fun, this raucous drama scores by fooling us into believing it's a mild satire of televangelists before taking a crazy leap off a cliff. No spoilers here, but viewers who think they're watching a gently ironic comedy that just intends to poke holes in the pray-for-pay industry will soon learn that what we have here is mayhem with a veneer of humor. Those who find Danny McBride's overly self-confident moron schtick tiresome will be relieved to find that this is truly an ensemble cast: the Gemstones hang out a lot together, preaching to their flock in front of the cameras before repairing for elaborate "church lunch" and the like, but the camera also follows each of the Gemstones home to find just what's lurking under the family's happy shiny surface.
McBride, as you may have guessed, is the architect of the family's current strife, as a past misdeed turns out to haunt him, putting his status as the ministry's heir apparent in jeopardy. He's got trouble at home too: one son has already disowned the whole family, while another (Kelton DuMont) is promising to bolt the second he turns 18. Meanwhile Kelvin lives in his brother's shadow (and has secrets of his own), while Judy stews jealously, infuriated that she often gets passed over in favor of her brothers. Not to worry, Judy: you're firmly in the thick of the family's new drama; good thing, too, since Patterson's muttered asides are one of the show's surest laugh-getters. But The Righteous Gemstones' real MVP is Goodman, who anchors the goofiness in gravitas and more than a hint of menace. This show is a real hoot, can we get an amen?
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about role models. What makes someone a good role model? If someone is a famous minister, should he or she be a positive influence in other arenas? Are any of the Gemstones role models?
The Righteous Gemstones asks the audience to laugh at situations that in real life would be awful: predatory religious figures, murder, blackmail. How does this show present these situations in order to find humor? Do they succeed? How do TV shows and movies make it possible to laugh at terrible happenings?
Families can also discuss what it means to be famous and powerful. Do these things grant authority? Just because someone is in a position of authority, does that mean they deserve that authority or will exercise it wisely? Can you think of examples of good and bad authorities in movies? Are the Gemstones good, bad, or both?
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