A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this series' entire focus is on unsolved crimes and other incidents. Many stories describe illegal -- and often violent -- behavior, while other episodes deal with missing persons and supposed supernatural phenomena. Reenactments sometimes include guns, gunfire, and visible blood. While these images aren't as graphic as what you'll find in similar contemporary shows, the show's sporadic violence and frequent creepiness are probably enough to give most parents pause.
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What's the story?
UNSOLVED MYSTERIES highlights unresolved crimes and strange occurrences in hopes that the public will help shed light on them and bring closure to those involved. Hosted by Robert Stack (Airplane!), the series -- which originally ran from 1987-2002 and still airs in syndication -- features stories about violent crimes, bank robberies, missing persons, unexplained phenomena, UFO abductions, ghostly sightings -- any incident that left law enforcement officials and private investigators scratching their heads, unable to stamp "case closed" on their paperwork. Each story is told using reenactments as well as file photos and interviews with people involved in the case -- including law enforcement officials, crime victims, witnesses, and people searching for loved ones. After detailing the case, Unsolved Mysteries urges viewers to call or write in with any information they may have that could help solve these real-life mysteries. And the approach seems to work: To date, the show has used viewer-provided leads to help solve more than 300 cases.
Is it any good?
Now noticeably dated, the series lacks the flashiness of contemporary crime-solving reality shows. While some of the recreated events feature guns, people getting shot, and images of bloody items allegedly used in a crime, these scenes are mild compared to the graphic crime images on television today. For some, that might detract from the entertainment value -- but at least the sanitized version of events allows the viewer to focus on the details of the case rather than being shocked by them.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the media's relationship with crime. Is there a rush to report sensational stories before all the facts are evident? What effect can TV coverage have on how justice is carried out? Is it the media's job to get involved in solving crimes like the ones featured on this show? When is it appropriate to ask the public to help find clues to a crime? How do you think law enforcement officials follow up on the leads generated by the show? Do you think the reenactments are necessary, or do they serve merely to titillate the audience?