A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this TV show.
An excellent look into the harsh realities of day-to-day life in an East End slum. The participants speak with a variety of professors and historians who help provide historical context.
Families grow closer through their shared hardships, and everyone tries to step up and do their part. The participants reflect on how strong their forbears must have been, given what they endured.
Positive Role Models
The kids are real standouts on this show -- you'd think they'd be complaining constantly about missing their video games and smart phones, but for the most part they really seem to be learning from the experience, and doing their best to contribute to the family's well being.
Violence & Scariness
There are references to death, but it's in a historical context (ie; "this is what life was like before antibiotics") and not violent.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
It is briefly mentioned that 1 in 12 women turned to prostitution among the Victorian era's urban poor.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that although Victorian Slum House is technically a reality show, it's not a "game" a la Survivor. Instead, it's an ingenious way of making history come alive for viewers and participants alike, in the tradition of PBS's other shows 1900 House and Frontier House. A variety of modern families and individuals are shown living and working in a fully functional, Victorian-era slum that's been recreated near London's East End. The show is historically accurate, showing families living in grungy, crowded conditions, and exploring a time when kids were put to work as early as age 7. There is talk about infant mortality rates, and what life would have been like for the disabled. The show is educational but also entertaining, and there are contributions from historians who help give the families context for what their ancestors went through.
Is It Any Good?
In an era of cheesy reality shows focused on finding a spouse or flaunting one's wealth, it's a refreshing change of pace to see one focused on history, and how we can learn from it. Watching modern day families starve, scrape and sweat just to pay the rent in their newfound Dickensian habitat may not seem like it would be uplifting viewing, but it is indeed. Victorian Slum House pulls no punches, and shows how bleak circumstances and a judgmental society piled upon the urban poor, making a person's continued survival a daily question. It is especially illuminating seeing how past generations treated single mothers and the disabled. One of the show's participants has a prosthetic leg, which he trades in for a less-comfortable but more historically accurate version -- which, he notes, would in reality have been out of reach for him, since it cost two years salary in Victorian times. The single mom of two faces eviction on a daily basis, as she is forced to prioritize feeding her kids over paying the landlord.
Not all is grim, though. Whether it's the result of clever editing or of real lessons being learned, the kids are surprisingly eager to participate in the hard work it took to keep Victorian-era families afloat, and seem to truly appreciate that their contributions are valued. The families bond and grow closer as the weeks go by. Separated from their smartphones and video games, the kids take full stock of what's going on around them and marvel at how people were expected to live, and how little society did to help. It's an eye-opening documentary series that should inspire some enlightening conversations, and is a great choice for family viewing.
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.