A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Z: The Beginning of Everything is a series based on a biography of Zelda Fitzgerald, the famously manic wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (The Great Gatsby). The Fitzgeralds were legendary alcoholics, which the series depicts vividly: Separately and together they smoke cigarettes and guzzle down liquor from flasks, bottles, and glasses at endless parties. We don't see the hangovers or the emphysema, but we do see the mistakes the two make, how they disappoint loved ones and ruin relationships and opportunities. They also both end up dying young. There are many references to sex, often put in old-fashioned terms such as "hot and bothered" and "all steamed up." A woman appears nude from the front to demand sex from her husband; a couple who has sex in a garden is also visible from the side (no private parts are seen). A scene takes place outside a brothel, with a group of women name-calling the men who go inside. Occasional cursing includes "bastard" and "goddamn." Men get into drunken fistfights over a woman.
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What's the story?
Based on the book Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Z: THE BEGINNING OF EVERYTHING is a drama that begins in 1918, when a young and wild Zelda Sayre (Christina Ricci) meets aspiring writer F. Scott Fitzgerald (David Hoflin). Sayre's father, Judge Sayre (David Strathairn), doesn't approve, and maybe he was right to disapprove, because the high life the Fitzgeralds embarked upon in the 1920s made them legendary symbols of the Jazz Age -- and of what can happen when addictions spin out of control. This series looks at it all from Zelda's point of view, from the first time she saw her husband-to-be to the ritzy Roaring '20s peak to her sad, isolated end.
Is it any good?
Christina Ricci makes a sympathetic and compelling Zelda Fitzgerald in this period-perfect series that will make viewers glad to visit the days of jazz and bathtub gin. If viewers have heard of Zelda at all from the many stories about her that were filtered through Scott's fame, they probably picture a drunken flapper jumping in a fountain just before getting admitted to a mental hospital (or "sanatorium," as they called it back in the day). That's the outline of Zelda's life, too, but Z: The Beginning of Everything fills in the details: the fact that she was a writer, too, from whom Scott frequently pilfered, for example. In Ricci's portrayal, she's enchanting, too -- a wild sprite who matches her husband drink for drink and is full of fun and adventure.
The optics, too, are beautiful: women in linen dresses and silk chemises, marble bathtubs, everyone in hats. Watching a couple of alcoholics spiral down is always a bummer, but the Fitzgeralds do it with such beautiful style and in such rich surroundings. Fans of period shows such as Mad Men or Downton Abbey may find particular delight in watching, soaking up vintage sights such as a New York City street with no cars and an old Hollywood screen test. We know it's all going nowhere good, but, like the Fitzgerald's time as the toast of the Jazz Age, it's fun while it lasts.
Talk to your kids about ...
Had you heard of Zelda Fitzgerald before watching this show? What about F. Scott Fitzgerald, her husband? Have you read any of his books or watched movies based on them, such as The Great Gatsby? How does that affect how you view Z: The Beginning of Everything?
How does this show portray drinking? Is it glamorized? Are there realistic consequences? What are some of the consequences?
What aspects of the show's period time setting seem modern and which seem old-fashioned? Consider dialogue, costumes, language, and settings. Were you surprised by anything that appears in the time period of this series?