Parents' Guide to

The Specials

By Emily Ashby, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 9+

Webby-winning reality show encourages respect for diversity.

TV OWN Reality TV 2014
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These 10-minute episodes are intimate glimpses of the ups and downs of the cast members' lives. By speaking entirely in the voice of the Specials, who rotate narrative responsibilities from one episode to the next in addition to appearing on-camera, the show forces viewers to adjust to the cast members' reality rather than relying on their own preconceptions about living with special needs. It's a remarkable and welcome change of pace from how intellectual disabilities often are portrayed on-screen, as the exception rather than the rule.

Even more remarkable is how easy it is to become engrossed in these inspiring characters' lives, rooting for their success and sympathizing with their trials. It makes for fantastic entertainment even as it strives to celebrate both diversity and the characters' uniqueness. The Specials is an excellent example of the value of purposeful reality TV that broadens horizons and educates viewers while escaping the sensationalist content that too often marks this genre. Such social value makes it well worth families' time.

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Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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