True Life TV Poster Image

True Life



Gritty -- but provoking -- reality show.
Parents recommend

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The show offers a look into the world of teens coping with specific issues. It encourages viewers to think and inspires compassion and empathy.

Positive role models

Some characters drink, smoke, swear, are pregnant, are recovering from drug addiction, etc.

Not applicable

One episode focuses on "baby mamas" another features sperm donation.


Some bleeping.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One show features smoking (including by a pregnant teen), and another has a central character drinking at a party. Another episode is about prescription drug abuse.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that some installments of True Life feature mature material: In one episode, a man makes money by donating sperm, and in another a pregnant teen struggles to retain custody of her child. You may see drinking, smoking, and (bleeped out) swearing.

What's the story?

TRUE LIFE tackles issues such as young parents dealing with custody fights, students struggling with the prescription drug Adderall, and two men who do bizarre jobs for money. Some of the episodes are meatier than others, but they are all relatively engaging, and can even be thought-provoking.

Is it any good?


This is still voyeurism: Viewers are watching people in often desperate situations, and may have an impulse to simply shake their heads as a pregnant teen pulls a drag on a cigarette, or a sideshow freak puts a snake up his nose. But when they get over the thrill of being judgmental, they will find plenty of material in True Life that may inspire discussion -- and even activism. The episode about "baby mamas" with custody issues is a good advertisement for safe sex and abstinence; the sideshow freak who bucks stereotypes with his desire to get married and buy a house may encourage a little more tolerance for the different.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about True Life's purpose. There is certainly a voyeuristic element as we watch people in often desperate situations -- but is there something to be learned from their stories, too? Do you care more about an issue -- such as teen pregnancy, drug addiction, tolerance -- after seeing real people struggling with it?

  • How do the people on True Life inspire compassion and empathy? Why are those important character strengths?

TV details

Premiere date:March 31, 1998
Cast:Gideon Yago
Genre:Reality TV
Character strengths:Compassion, Empathy
TV rating:TV-PG
Available on:DVD, Streaming

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What parents and kids say

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Teen, 13 years old Written bysara4ever95 May 2, 2009
Teen, 14 years old Written bysilly_samsters February 11, 2009


I think that this is a really good show because they have diffrent type of episodes and it has atleast 3 people that have that problem! I learned alot out of this show! I think MTV should keep on making new ones!
Kid, 11 years old August 15, 2009

iffy for my age but hidden good messages

i love this show. it acctually teaches lessons but i wouldnt recomend it for younder kids. i think some are kind of poinless. there were a couple like "I wish my breasts were bigger" and "i wish my breasts for smaller and "im addicted to pornagraphy. i didnt really watch those. and also another pointless on was "im bisexual" those were pretty pointless but other ones have good messages that were hidden. also there is kissing and referenses to sex. there is alot of bleeping and the make subtitles for things that are hard to here you can tell what they're saying. its the first letter then its followed by ****
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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