TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
Vicious TV Poster Image
Couple's relationship is groundbreaking, but jokes aren't.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

There are benefits -- and challenges -- of being a long-term couple.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The main characters model a lasting, committed relationship, but they don't treat each other with a lot of respect, eschewing compliments in favor of verbal jabs at each other's weaknesses. 


Some double entendres and innuendo.


A few isolated instances of bleeped swearing (think "s--t"), but language is generally clean, with rare use of words like "bollocks."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Social drinking, rarely to any type of excess.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Vicious centers on an aging gay couple living in London who, although they model a stable relationship of nearly 50 years, have a snippy, less than exemplary dynamic. The show has some bleeped language, such as "s--t," on rare occasions. There's also some sexual innuendo and social drinking. Characters use Britishisms (including geographic references) that might not play with American audiences.

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What's the story?

Partners Freddie (Ian McKellen) and Stuart (Derek Jacobi) have been together for nearly 50 years, living in a shrouded London flat and largely keeping their relationship in the closet. But that doesn't stop them from being perfectly VICIOUS to one another, cracking jokes about their age and appearance with their vivacious best friend, Violet (Frances de la Tour), in spite of their mutual affection. But the group dynamic shifts when an attractive younger man (Iwan Rheon) moves in upstairs.

Is it any good?

Most of the talk about Vicious centers on the fact that its two main characters are aging gay men who've been together for nearly 50 years -- and that those two men are played by distinguished actors McKellen and Jacobi. That's very much worth talking about, considering that McKellen and Jacobi are bona fide stars portraying a dynamic that's rarely seen on television (and certainly not in a single-camera sitcom that's structured solely around the quirks of their relationship).

The thing is, Vicious isn't exactly comedically daring, often falling back on broad humor we've seen a thousand times in other series. And, although the seasoned leads add an element of class to Vicious' mildly funny barbs -- McKellen in particular​ proves to be a lovably self-centered louse -- the result isn't quite as compelling as you'd hope, given the pedigree.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Vicious' premise and whether it breaks new ground in television. How does it compare to other shows that center on gay characters?

  • What does Vicious have to say about the differences between being gay 50 years ago versus being gay now?

  • How might Vicious be different if it were created for an American audience? What makes it distinctly British, and is the humor transferrable?

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