The Substitute

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Substitute TV Poster Image
High school game show mixes education and entertainment.

Parents 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

Students are required to know academic material as well as pop culture trivia. Most kids are good sports.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kids have different academic and intellectual skills. The students are from various racial/multicultural backgrounds.


Students occasionally try to stare each other down during the quizzing, but it's all in good fun.


Subtle, humorous sexual talk; for example, a reference to looking under someone's skirt and seeing "action."


Words like "ass" and "hell" are occasionally audible.


Celebs like Tom Cruise and Katy Perry, songs like "I Kissed a Girl," and films like Avatar are just some of the many pop culture references highlighted here.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some subtle, non-specific references to drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this fun, teen-friendly reality game show requires high school students to know academic information as well as pop culture details. There are a few iffy words ("ass," "hell") and some subtle, joking references to drinking and sex that will go over the head of very young viewers.

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What's the story?

THE SUBSTITUTE is a unique reality game show in which high school students have a chance to win cash for college. Twenty unsuspecting students arrive for a normal class day, only to discover that their substitute teacher, host Jon Gabrus, is leading them in a trivia game that can earn them cash and prizes. The students face off in rounds with titles like, \"Things You Should Know,\" \"Things You Do Know,\" and \"Things You Can Do,\" which require them to answer educational and pop culture trivia questions. Extra-credit questions let them complete for prizes like TVs, computers, and free lunches. The student who successfully makes it through all three rounds must face another student chosen by the group for $5,000. If she wins the final round, she gets to keep the cash for college. If not, the class divides the cash.

Is it any good?

While the idea of answering trivia questions for cash and prizes is nothing new, what makes this show unique is the fact that it takes place in a real classroom. As such, the questions asked require knowledge of scholastic information as well as music, celebrities, and other things that most teens find interesting and/or exciting.

Aside from some occasional iffy words and mild sexual references, the show is pretty family friendly. It may also serve as a reminder to kids that paying attention in school can often pay off in ways that they least expect.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what it would be like to have your class suddenly become a game show competition. Do you think the students on this show are really surprised? Or do you think that this show is designed to look more realistic than it actually is

  • Why are game shows entertaining?

TV details

  • Premiere date: September 12, 2011
  • Cast: Jon Gabrus
  • Network: MTV
  • Genre: Game Shows
  • TV rating: TV-PG
  • Available on: Streaming
  • Last updated: September 19, 2019

Our editors recommend

For kids who love competition

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