Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

TV review by
Matt Springer, Common Sense Media
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy TV Poster Image
Sophisticated spy thriller full of intrigue, some violence.

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Kids say

age 15+
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

The atmosphere depicted in the series is one where intelligence and cunning are prized, as is loyalty to one's country. However, there are also elements of deception and violence that are fundamental to the lives of these spies.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Although the characters demonstrate an extremely high level of education and are ultimately tasked with helping their country, the tactics they use are built on a foundation of manipulation and deceit.


The show deals in violence usually as an act of last resort, with occasional fisticuffs or threats of more serious attack. Very little actual blood or graphic violence.


Occasional mild innuendo and references to love affairs, but very little onscreen romantic activity.


Occasional "damn" and "hell," as well as the British slang term "bloody."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Frequent period smoking by both primary and secondary characters; social drinking with occasional conversational reference to overindulgence in alcohol.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this BBC spy miniseries is full of sophisticated dialogue and a twisting, intricate plot. Although the show's violence is relatively tame compared to modern standards (and the theatrical version), the plotting and characterization will make this series interesting only to teens with the patience to pay close attention and follow the events. The show is not based on any historical elements but there could be an educational opportunity for teens interested in learning more about the political environment of the cold war and the role of espionage in world politics.

User Reviews

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Teen, 16 years old Written byjohnnysaw January 19, 2013

good film

Good movie but plot is a bit confusing. There is not a ton of violence throughout the movie but definitely some. Smiley is a good role model since he is trying... Continue reading

What's the story?

The hero of several of author John Le Carre's spy thrillers makes his move to television via the 1979 BBC adaptation of TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY. Former operative George Smiley (Alec Guinness) is coaxed out of retirement after it's discovered that there may be a Russian agent working at the highest levels of British intelligence. One of four senior figures are suspected, and it's Smiley's task to methodically comb through available information to slowly, carefully uncover the threat buried deep within the British government. The unraveling of the mystery ultimately revolves around a failed operation in Budapest and the cold, determined advance of Smiley's mastery of espionage.

Is it any good?

Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy is perhaps one of the finest examples of the BBC's ability to cast remarkable talent in dramatic productions that rival any contemporary theatrical work.

Here it's Alec Guinness who steals the show, a cold and ever-vigilant spy among spies, who says more with the raise of an eyebrow than many actors can in three-minute monologues. His George Smiley is an amazing creation and he inhabits a world of quiet, sinister intrigue, where men in long trenchcoats slip in and out of buildings via back staircases to avoid detection by suspected adversaries. Compared to the typical pulse-pounding spy series of today, Tinker, Tailor is certainly a throwback, but in the best possible way. It's a warm bath full of mildly corrosive acid that demands attention and earns admiration.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what kind of messages a show like this sends. What kind of world does it depict? Is it a realistic one?

  • Are there any contemporary news stories that resemble the events of the film?

TV details

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For kids who love drama

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