Parents' Guide to

The Staircase

By Martin Brown, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 17+

Groundbreaking true crime documentary is still compelling.

The Staircase Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.

Community Reviews

age 18+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 18+

Graphic nudity and gore

This docuseries seemed very interesting but there was too much blood and gore and nudity for me to continue watching. The first episode shows graphic images of a woman lying at the bottom on the stairs. Blood was everywhere and her dead body was clearly show. The second episode showed full male nudity and that’s when I could watch it no longer. Like the other reviewer stated, nothing is censured and several pornographic gay male images are shown.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much sex
1 person found this helpful.
age 18+

Interesting Premise, So graphic.

This would've been something we would've totally been interested in, but by episode two we saw graphic gay porn. Nothing blurred out. Everything. It was shown as "evidence" to show the character of the suspect, but I have no idea as to why that needed to be physically shown on the show. Also, when they're examining the staircase, there is actual, real-life blood spatter. For like 20 minutes you're seeing the actual crime scene, and the bloody mess that was there. I'm sure this was a well written, great piece-- but I would never recommend watching this with children. We shut it off after seeing the gay porn.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much sex
1 person found this helpful.

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say: (2):
Kids say: Not yet rated

True crime documentaries are popular right now, and The Staircase, the first 8 episodes of which originally aired in 2005, is credited as being one of the early reasons why. After many years and imitators, it remains a uniquely powerful and extremely unsettling show that uses none of the "tricks" that more recent crime shows use. For example, the documentarian himself doesn't end up becoming involved with the story, as they do in The Jinx or Evil Genius; and because The Staircase wasn't beholden to typical television formatting, it doesn't build toward twists and reveals in each episode. That can take some getting used to.

Instead, The Staircase is less entertainment, and more of a "pure" documentary. Its power comes from getting know the charismatic Michael Peterson intimately, understanding his trial and defense, and meeting his family, all without ever really knowing whether or not he beat his wife to death. Because of this, it can be very hard to watch. Yet, somehow, Peterson's decade-old trial manages to be extremely relevant to our American present, touching on issues like homophobia, racism, and misogyny, and ultimately painting a unique and intricate portrait of how the American criminal justice system works... or doesn't.

TV Details

  • Premiere date: October 7, 2004
  • Network: Netflix
  • Genre: Reality TV
  • TV rating: TV-14
  • Last updated: April 1, 2023

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