Third Watch

TV review by
Sierra Filucci, Common Sense Media
Third Watch TV Poster Image
Heavy NYC hero drama is too violent for kids.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The primary characters are mostly "good guys," though they're all humanly flawed. Characters struggle with attitudes, anger, divorce, infidelity, and more.


Frequent bloody, detailed violence -- often related to traumas -- including gunshots, death scenes, tense chases with guns, and physical violence (such as one scene in which a police officer kicks a suspect in the face). Deals directly with the impact and aftereffects of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.


Romance, intimacy, flirting, some sexual joking and passionate clinches.


Lots of profanity for a show that originally aired on broadcast television. "Bitch," "ass," etc. are frequent, and stronger offenders ("f--k, "s--t") aren't always bleeped/muted in cable repeats.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some social drinking. Suspects and other peripheral characters sometimes smoke or do drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this intense crime/trauma drama is meant for adults. Detailed scenes of death (a cop chokes on his own blood while trying to communicate his last words for his family) and bloody violence (a surprise flurry of gunshots instantly kills one person, whose blood is splattered across a car window) are standard fare. Language is particularly strong for what was originally a network show -- expect to hear "bitch," "ass," and sometimes even more; repeats run on cable, which has looser standards. Mature themes regarding relationships -- friendly, hostile, and intimate -- permeate the show.

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What's the story?

Gritty, powerful drama THIRD WATCH follows the personal and professional lives of a group of New York City police officers, firefighters, and paramedics. The three groups often interact, but many episodes focus on just one set of characters at a time. Some episodes are procedurals, in that a single crime or issue will be introduced and resolved within an hour, while other storylines follow a seasonal or multi-episode arc. The show's diverse cast included many talented actors over the years, with fans getting pulled in by characters whose lives beyond the uniform were sometimes as compelling as their professional careers.

Is it any good?

The intimacy between both romantic couples and those working in the intense circumstances of emergency services made for compelling -- if not exactly surprising -- drama.

Even though it originally aired on network television, Third Watch -- which is fraught with grisly violence and emotional tension -- pushed the limits when it came to violence and language. Because of that, as well as its general adult themes, parents will probably want kids to steer clear. The show also dealt directly with the September 11 terrorist attacks; it's powerful stuff, but not for the faint of heart.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether the situations presented on the show seem realistic. Do you think the violence and/or emotional content is played up? Why? What makes shows like this one compelling -- the characters, the issues they deal with, or both? Families can also discuss what compels people to choose risky professions. What would we do if no one wanted to do jobs like these? What are the benefits of working in a high-stress field like emergency services?

TV details

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