White Heat

TV review by
Kari Croop, Common Sense Media
White Heat TV Poster Image
Sex-strewn drama views the '60s through British eyes.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

The roommates set out to construct a living arrangement based on the welfare of the group, rather than the individual -- an arrangement that also includes sex with multiple partners, drug use, and drinking. That said, lasting friendship is a recurrent theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Characters reflect a mix of racial and socioeconomic types -- from white, black, middle class, and wealthy to straight, gay, Catholic, and Hindu. They make their share of mistakes and don't always make positive choices, but they're also idealistic in the way they view the world and apply their passions.

Violence

A death is central to the plot, but by mention only. Otherwise, no violence.

Sex

Sexual tension is a central part of the plot, and several characters have sex with multiple partners. Sexual acts (including sex, oral sex, masturbation) are mostly suggested but there is nudity on occasion in the form of bare breasts, etc.

Language

Unbleeped language includes "s--t."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Characters smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and occasionally use drug like LSD.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that White Heat sets out to capture the spirit of the 1960s, highlighting (and often glamorizing) the sexual liberation and drug experimentation of the era. Sexual acts are mostly suggested but are sometimes frankly simulated, and there's also some nudity in the form of bare breasts. Audible language includes "s--t," and characters also drink, use drugs, and smoke cigarettes. The story is centered around the death of one of the characters, but that's the only true "violent" element.

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What's the story?

Exploring the lives of seven diverse, young Londoners (Sam Claflin, Claire Foy, MyAnna Buring, Lee Ingleby, Jessica Gunning, David Gyasi, and Reece Ritchie) who share a flat in the 1960s and remain close for several decades, WHITE HEAT begins an eventful era that saw the tightening of political tensions alongside the loosening of sexual morals. The story is told in six parts through scenes flashed back from the present day, in which the now-grown roommates (including Juliet Stevenson of Bend It Like Beckham) are reuniting to mourn the death of one of their own -- whose identity is revealed in the final episode.

Is it any good?

The critical and commercial success of Mad Men proved that audiences hungered for a good period drama -- and that the 1960s made for some succulent eye candy. But the problem with White Heat's approach is that it attempts to paint a portrait of the era (and the decades that follow) with broad strokes that are dripping with clichés, from impossibly iconic news clips that just happen to pop up on television to characters who are a little too diverse to believe.

The show's saving grace, however, lies in its acting, both in the flashback segments featuring fresh, young faces and the modern-day scenes that spotlight seasoned thespians like Lindsay Duncan, Juliet Stevenson, and Michael Kitchen. The subtly suspenseful structure succeeds, too, at hooking in viewers and keeping them guessing, with a surprising twist toward the end that you wouldn't expect.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the level of sexual content. Does showing bare breasts onscreen add authenticity to the story in any way, or are such shots included for shock value? How would the series be different if it aired on American network television?

  • How does White Heat compare to other television series set in the 1960s? Are there any themes in common? How accurately does White Heat portray the people and personal politics of the era?

  • Does White Heat highlight negative consequences when it comes to casual sex, and drug and alcohol use? Does it glorify characters' iffy choices or merely reflect what went on in the 1960s?

TV details

Themes & Topics

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For kids who love history

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