Whitechapel TV Poster Image




Dark, bloody, but excellent British crime drama.

What parents need to know

Positive messages

The story rewards curiosity and personal risk in the service of the greater good. A main character learns to value the hard street work of policing over a more prestigious role.

Positive role models

The show's protagonists are very good at their jobs, but also display serious character flaws; antagonists are sometimes glamorized even as they are depicted as disturbed killers.


Alongside occasional physical violence, the show features a great deal of blood and gore, both from a murderer cleaning up after his crimes and from the investigators performing autopsies and other detailed physical examinations of victims. The victims are prostitutes.


Although there is very little physical intimacy or sexual conversation depicted, the crimes on the show are built around the murder of prostitutes and there is some suggestive conversation as part of that investigation.


Occasional use of words such as "damn" and "hell."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters occasionally depicted drinking and smoking in a social environment.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this British police thriller depicts a grotesquely violent serial killer and the graphic results of his crime spree. Though there is not a great deal of actual violence depicted, the products of violence -- blood, gore, and occasional close-ups of wounds -- are very much in evidence. The show's atmosphere is powerful, as is its imagery; while there is craft in how this story is told, it is most appropriate for older teens and adults.

Kids say

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What's the story?

As WHITECHAPEL opens, London police detective Joseph Chandler (Rupert Penry-Jones) is on a fast track to maneuver through the politics of the agency and occupy a high-profile job. All he has to do is lead a single murder investigation. That investigation becomes a gruesome battle against a brilliant serial killer who is attempting to emulate the work of Jack the Ripper from 120 years before. With the help of fellow detective Miles (Phil Davis) and eccentric "Ripperologist" Edward Bunchan (Steve Pemberton), Chandler must stop the murders before the killer finishes what the Ripper began.

Is it any good?


There's an atmosphere and thoughtfulness in modern British drama television that is often absent from U.S. series. While an hour-long cop drama based on the Jack the Ripper murders might seem highly exploitative and sensational from a U.S.-based creative team, the same concept as handled by the Brits on Whitechapel is full of spooky shadows and artful glimpses of gory doings.

The characters on Whitechapel draw in the viewer as well, pairing street-level gritty detectives with an academy-polished and ambitious cop and a quirky Ripper expert who brings an irreplaceable expertise to the investigation. It's compelling to watch these disparate men clash and collaborate, even as the suspense level quickly ratchets up with the pursuit of the Ripper copycat. Perhaps best of all, Whitechapel is designed as a short-form drama, with each storyline lasting only three hour-long episodes. This means you can enjoy a high quality and compelling series without investing 22 hours of your valuable time.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the show's violence. Is it disturbing to see so much graphic detail? Would the drama be as effective without so much graphic imagery?

  • What did you learn about the Jack the Ripper murders from this series? What are some other ways you can learn more about this historical character?

  • How do you think this show would have been handled differently in the United States? What distinguishes British television from its U.S. counterpart?

TV details

Premiere date:October 26, 2011
Cast:Phil Davis, Rupert Penry-Jones, Steve Pemberton
Network:BBC America
TV rating:TV-14

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Adult Written byafeeney July 4, 2016

Darkens, often discusses nature of evil, raises more serious topics as seasons go by

This drama gets even darker with each season, each ending on a rather bleak note. As the characters are expanded upon, each of them struggles with personal demons, which may in fact be literal during the fourth and final season. This fourth season does raise questions about the nature of good and evil and strongly suggests the existence of the supernatural. Two characters directly debate whether there is a genuine external source of evil or whether evil originates solely from humans. By the end of the first season, Chandler has given up his personal ambition to be fast-tracked to an upper leadership position, and consistently fights to make the right ethical choices, even at the cost of his ambition. He consistently displays respect for the unfortunate, giving names from Keats poems to anonymous female murder victims and sharply rebuking one of his officers for disparaging residents of a homeless camp. Buchan, the often self-important but good-hearted historian, is tortured by his sense of responsibility for not finding the right answers fast enough to save lives. Kent, who started the series kindly and whose hero worship provided a mild comic relief, is deeply frustrated in his personal life and finds himself resenting those who are happy. In the conclusion of each season, while the team has solved the crime(s), the criminals are never brought to legal justice, sometimes killing themselves, sometimes killed fighting capture, and other times themselves murdered. All of these situations provide good topics for discussion. In other considerations, Chandler uses alcohol to self-medicate his OCD, suicides and attempted suicides happen fairly regularly, another character has been married several times and was unfaithful during each marriage, and members of the team regularly fight, sometimes physically.
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