A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
Trial 4 is about the work and support it takes to undo the effects of systematic racism, and it explores how to heal its victims.
Positive Role Models
Trial 4 is about Sean K. Ellis, an innocent man who endured 22 years of imprisonment. It also features the people who fought on his behalf.
Violence & Scariness
The central event of Trial 4 is the brutal murder of a police officer, which is shown in animated sequences throughout the series. Other archival crime scene footage is shown throughout, and violent crimes and police brutality are frequently discussed.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Sex is dicussed in vague terms in relation to some of the crimes. For example, one victim is found with his pants around his ankles.
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Moderate profanity is used throughout and includes "ass," "damn," "s--t," etc.
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Products & Purchases
One very strange piece of product placement occurs throughout Trial 4. The central crime takes place in front of a chain store, and the store is consistently shown framed so that the name can be seen. Shots of the inside of the store are used, and the store's name is mentioned frequently.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Drug dealers are interviewed and discuss selling and using drugs. People are seen drinking alcohol and smoking at times.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Trial 4 is a true crime documentary series about Sean K. Ellis, a man wrongfully imprisoned for the 1993 murder of a police officer. The series shows how Ellis came to be arrested and ultimately exonerated, with a focus on the police corruption and systematic racism that led to his arrest. The central crime is a brutal gun murder that is shown in animated sequences throughout the show. Archival crime scene footage and photos are also featured. Some of the subjects of Trial 4 talk about dealing and using hard drugs. Sexual acts are also vaguely discussed, and moderate profanity is used throughout and includes "ass," "damn," "s--t," etc. The series takes a broad look at racism, corruption, and incompetence in the Boston Police Department and highlights the people who have fought to reverse some of the damage done by it.
Is It Any Good?
True crime shows often use the central case as way to investigate larger issues. Trial 4 uses Sean Ellis's false imprisonment as a way to examine systematic racism within the Boston police department and, by extension, the United States. This is a worthy and timely subject, and one complicated enough to more than warrant an eight-hour documentary. Yet, like many true crime shows, Trial 4 consistently feels padded. There are extended montages of low-income housing, and segments where Ellis watches his own trial -- things that have some interest but don't really serve the overarching story. When dealing with something as complex as the relationship between law enforcement and systematic racism, the show's substance needs to be sharp and clear enough to appeal to those who wouldn't typically delve too deep. Ultimately, Trial 4 is mostly an unorganized mess, and the sweeping significance of the story gets lost in the system.
Did we miss something on diversity?
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.