TV review by
Joyce Slaton, Common Sense Media
Wanderlust TV Poster Image
Lots of sex, frank talk in beautiful, mature drama.

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Positive Messages

The unorthodox subject matter doesn't negate the power of messages about honesty, considering the needs of others and oneself, trying to work out long-lasting relationships as they change and develop. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Though Joy and Alan make an unusual agreement for a married couple, they go about it in an unusually forthright, and indeed, admirable way. They value their connection to each other and to their children, and their bond as a husband and wife and as a family. They are also honest and clear-headed about the consequences of changing their marriage, on themselves and those around them, including their children. 


Sexual content is heavy, frequent, and literally mature, focusing on the sex lives of people in their 40s. There's no nudity, but a married couple has realistic sex under a sheet, with movements and sighs, and then some jokey/resentful talk about how it's going (not well). A woman masturbates, also under a sheet, and we see her face contort and twitch before her son walks in on her. There are sexual scenes featuring a lot of hand movements, kissing, and groping, as well as sexual expressions: "having a wank," "flicking the bean." 


Infrequent but strong language: "s--t," "piss," "f--k," "f--king."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults hang out at bars, having cocktails and beers. A character smokes cigarettes but another says he gave them up years ago. Two adult characters smoke a joint together and then make risky decisions. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Wanderlust is a drama about a couple (Toni Collette and Steven Mackintosh) who decide to stay married but start seeing other people. This mature series mostly focuses on the sex lives of a mom and adult with almost-grown children; it probably won't interest teens, but if they should watch, the messages they get will largely be positive ones despite the heavy sexual content. There's no nudity, but many sexual scenes: a man and woman having sex with movements and sighs under a sheet, a couple touching each other intimately standing up while the camera focuses on both of their elated faces, two teens practicing kissing and discussing moving on to oral sex. The scenes are very realistic, and sensitively rendered, but likely not the kind of thing most parents want to watch with kids. There's also some drug use (characters smoke a joint together), some scenes set in bars, and some language: "s--t," "piss," "f--k," "f--king."

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What's the story?

After a shakeup causes them to reevaluate their marriage, Joy (Collette) and Alan (Mackintosh) both decide they have a bit of WANDERLUST that can only be slaked by staying together while pursuing romantic connections with other people. Specifically, in Alan's case, his flirty but complicated colleague Claire (Zawe Ashton), and in Joy's, a series of men who aren't Alan. Meanwhile, their teenage son Tom (Joe Hurst) and older daughters Naomi (Emma D'Arcy) and Laura (Celeste Dring) pursue their own romantic interests in and around the fallout from their parents' big decision. 

Is it any good?

For a show that's basically just people talking in different locations, this sensitive, brilliantly written series anchored by a fantastic performance from Collette sure is thrilling. We watch Joy and Alan talk (and argue), we watch their teenage son chat with his friends at school, Joy's clients and friends drop by to discuss things both ridiculous and intimate, and throughout, it's utterly, totally captivating, because they feel like real people with whole lives, not just TV personality quirks. They go to work, they eat sandwiches, they go out, they stay in, but the magic is largely just in the way they talk to each other. 

A husband, disturbed by his wife saying what he's doing in bed is "good," grumbles that it should be "more than just good." "You're telling me, Buster," she says, leering and popping her eyes, whereupon he rolls away and starts a fight. Joy's neighbor drops by with cannoli and a confession: while watching a porn with her husband, she was unable to take her eyes off one of the female stars. She says with a face filled with both terror and dawning awe, "I have thought to myself -- what if?" The characters reveal themselves in facial expressions instead of words, they tell anecdotes, they don't finish sentences. Wanderlust is more than just good TV; it's the best kind of art that reflects people as they really are: trying but imperfect, beautiful and flawed. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how sex tends to be portrayed in the media. Do you think many real people are as sexually active as many movie and TV show characters? Do you consider these characters promiscuous? What are the consequences of sexual habits like Joy and Alan's? 

  • How does Wanderlust communicate how Joy and Alan feel about their marriage? What information does the show give you besides what the characters literally say to each other? How is the inner life of characters revealed without it being literally said aloud? 

TV details

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