By Kate Pavao,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Gritty -- but provoking -- reality show.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
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.
Sex, Romance & Nudity
One episode focuses on "baby mamas" another features sperm donation.
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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.
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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.
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Based on 6 parent reviews
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Mature topics, real-life drama explored in excellent MTV staple.
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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.
Talk to Your Kids 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?
- Premiere date: March 31, 1998
- Cast: Gideon Yago
- Network: MTV
- Genre: Reality TV
- Character Strengths: Compassion, Empathy
- TV rating: TV-PG
- Last updated: December 16, 2022
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.
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