United Shades of America

TV review by
Marty Brown, Common Sense Media
United Shades of America TV Poster Image
Documentary series spotlights marginalized communities.

Parents say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

Kids say

No reviews yetAdd your rating

We're committed to diversity in media.

We're updating our reviews to better highlight authentic stories and accurate, diverse representations. See something that needs to be addressed? Suggest an update to this review

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Episodes focus on the resilience of small and sometimes marginalized communities and activism within those communities.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Typically seeks to give a voice to communities who are usually stereotyped or misunderstood by America at large. Not every episode contains positive messages, but many spotlight underrepresented American cultures in order to show how marginalized people are making positive impacts in their communities and beyond.

Violence

Violence is not shown on United Shades of America but is often described. This includes descriptions of violent acts like murder, suicide, and hate crimes.

Sex

Some jokes by Bell or guests will contain sexual innuendo.

Language

"S--t", "damn," etc. The "f" word is used occasionally, but bleeped out.

Consumerism

Consumerism is limited to products and companies that are serving the communities featured in that episode. For example, the episode on disability features a tech company working to make robotic exoskeletons for people with physical disabilities.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that United Shades of America is a documentary show where the host, comedian W. Kamau Bell (Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell), visits small American communities. The first episode famously features Bell, a Black man, attending a Klu Klux Klan cross burning, and subjects range from Chicago gang members or LA's homeless population to Portland hipsters. Each episode is intended to spark a larger conversation about these communities, how they are perceived, and the unique challenges they face. Content varies by subject matter, but episodes may contain mild violence, guns, or descriptions of violent acts such as murder, suicide, police brutality, and hate crimes. Most episodes contain moderate profanity, though the "f" word, when used, is bleeped out. Some episodes contain product placement, but it's usually limited to products, companies, and non-profits working to aid the marginalized communities featured. 

Wondering if United Shades of America is OK for your kids?

Parents: Set preferences and get age-appropriate recommendations with Common Sense Media Plus. Join now

Continue reading Show less

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

There aren't any reviews yet. Be the first to review this title.

What's the story?

UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA is a documentary series where activist and comedian W. Kamau Bell visits small communities throughout the country in order to discover the unique challenges that marginalized people and subcultures face. Subjects range from Italian-Americans and Hawaiians to retirement communities and street gangs to, famously, the KKK. Bell investigates how the day-to-day reality of these people differs from how they are publicly perceived; how the government is helping or hurting them; and how some members of the community are pushing for change and making their voices heard throughout America.

Is it any good?

In this illuminating and entertaining series, Bell and his team are doing incredibly important work that needs to be seen. The episode-to-episode quality of most documentary series varies wildly because the subject matter is constantly changing -- United Shades of America is no exception, as some episodes beg to be taken more seriously than others. Most people would be surprised at the depth and breadth of American subcultures that the show covers, and Bell's curiosity and open-mindedness as he learns about each of these communities is inspiring.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about communities. Focus on one explored in United Shades of America . How familiar were you with this community prior to the episode? What do you think is the common perception of this community? How does this episode's depiction of this community compare to the common perception? How does it compare to your perception? Did this episode change the way you feel about this community? In which way?

  • How do you think smaller communities fit into the larger United States. How does the country's perception of this community create challenges? Are there any laws or regulations that pose challenges? What are they? How do members of this community deal with these challenges? 

  • Families can talk about activism and local activists. What are they fighting for? How do they go about making sure their voice is heard? What work lies ahead?

TV details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love current events

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

See how we rate

Streaming options powered by JustWatch

About these links

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit organization, earns a small affiliate fee from Amazon or iTunes when you use our links to make a purchase. Thank you for your support.

Read more

Our ratings are based on child development best practices. We display the minimum age for which content is developmentally appropriate. The star rating reflects overall quality.

Learn how we rate