The River

TV review by
Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media
The River TV Poster Image
Chilling paranormal-adventure show isn't for faint of heart.

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 4 reviews

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The characters are united in their quest to find their lost friend, but there are implications that not everyone's motivations are on the up-and-up. The content introduces concepts like paranormal activity, spirit possessions, and legends of the indigenous Amazonian cultures. Estranged family members' attempts to make amends for past wrongs are a frequent theme. Some characters keep the nature of their motivations under wraps, implying that there's a nefarious nature to their involvement.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The expedition tests the characters both mentally and physically, and they have to rely on one another to ensure the group's safety and the mission's success. They don't always agree, and tense situations often bring out the worst in their personalities, but for the most part, they present a united front against the challenges and are unrelenting in their determination to locate their lost companion.


More fright than blood, since most of the scary stuff happens at the hands of unseen paranormal forces. People are possessed, spirits drag people out of bed or into rivers, inanimate objects move on their own, etc. Some characters carry (and use) guns and knives for protection.


Some kissing among adults.


Multiple uses of "hell"; anything stronger is bleeped.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some background smoking and rare scenes in bars.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this horror-suspense series from Steven Spielberg and Paranormal Activity producer Oren Peli is too scary for tweens and anyone sensitive to "jump" scenes. Violence isn't as much of a concern as the spooky sequences that show supernatural forces at work (inanimate objects move, ghosts haunt sections of the jungle, and malicious spirits nab people from their tents) which often is more frightening than a blood-and-guts flick would be. Language is a mild concern ("hell" is audible, but everything harsher is bleeped); there's also some mystery surrounding the nature of a shady character's intentions that adds to the suspense and sense of peril. On the plus side, there's some positive human drama aligned with Tess and Lincoln's search for Emmet, since they see finding him as a second chance at a positive family relationship.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byhelper + February 9, 2012
Adult Written bydr dew February 7, 2012

not that bad

the previews made this show look realy scary but it was not all that bad you just need to know yoursellf and your children before letting them view espsualy alo... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byPrincessCharmed797 October 5, 2012

Great show.

Great show. There is violence though with shooting and such and swearing but its bleeped out. Overall its a great show but it seems that its going to be cancell...
Teen, 14 years old Written bystacy1 May 12, 2012

Great show

Great show. There is violence though with shooting and such and swearing but its bleeped out. Overall its a great show but it seems that its going to be cancell...

What's the story?

When renowned adventurer/TV personality Dr. Emmet Cole (Bruce Greenwood) goes missing on an Amazonian expedition, his family and friends join forces to track him down and bring him home. Led by Emmet's wife, Tess (Leslie Hope), and his estranged son, Lincoln (Joe Anderson), the team's journey into the jungle is fraught with mystery as they follow the uncertain clues they've gleaned from Emmet's final recordings. Their mission takes them to unexplored places where paranormal forces threaten their progress and even their lives, and where the line between what's real and what's fantasy is hazy at best. Joined by a hodgepodge team of researchers, bodyguards, and videographers, all of whom have their own agendas for tagging along, Tess and Lincoln press on to locate Emmet in the hopes that reuniting with him will help heal their strained relationships.

Is it any good?

THE RIVER is a chilling, unpredictable series that pairs heart-pounding suspense with intense human drama. The story borrows plot and style points from the likes of Lost and The Blair Witch Project, as well as producer Oren Peli's well-known Paranormal Activity, so it's hardly groundbreaking. That said, the show is a fun watch, and its spine-tingling mysteries don't end with the things that go bump in the night. Longstanding tensions among the characters create drama where there otherwise isn't any, and unraveling the secrets behind their motivations conjures almost as much nail-biting as the unsettled spirits do.

The human side of The River explores the tenuous relationships between parents and kids and between marriage partners, and some of the issues it raises are worthwhile for families. Grown-up Lincoln is reluctant to forgive his father for what he views as an unfulfilled childhood, but his emotions are complicated by the possibility that his father might be alive and in danger. This side of the show's content may well spark some productive discussions within families, but parents should be thoughtful about exposing their tweens or young teens to the show, since the paranormal-based suspense is potentially more haunting than gory violence would be.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the supernatural. Do you believe in spirits and ghosts? What evidence (or lack thereof) influences how you feel? Do you know anyone who claims to have had a firsthand experience with a spiritual being? Do firsthand accounts seem believable to you?

  • Do you find The River scary? How does the nature of its horror compare to a show or movie that has more physical violence? Which type of content is more disturbing to you? Why?

  • Teens: How far would you go to protect or save a family member? What if doing so put you in danger? Is there anything you wouldn't do for someone you love?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love scares

Themes & Topics

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