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Zac & Mia

TV review by
Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media
Zac & Mia TV Poster Image
Sweet friendship formed between two teens in cancer ward.

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A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Themes of perseverance. The strength people can find in one another during hard times. Why it's important to open up when you're struggling.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Zac's parents are overwhelmed and can be distant, but his siblings are highly supportive, always there for him. Despite her initial bravado and denials, Mia eventually learns to open up and be real with Zac, who sees her loneliness and fear and tries to distract and comfort her, even when it's hard for him. Vinny is a caring but tough nurse.

Violence

Zac experiences some suicidal ideation; this is mentioned but not overly dwelled upon.

Sex

Mild/brief kissing scenes, references to "getting laid" and strippers.

Language

"Bitch," "s--t," "douche," "d-bag," "hell."

Consumerism

Some brand-name electronics are referenced, shown in use, such as Apple laptops, iPhone and iPad devices.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Brief flashbacks to keg party; a teen fills someone's cup with a flask. Jokes about "stealing painkillers from old people" and being "stoned." Most drug use shown in series is of a medicinal, not recreational, nature, such as scenes of patients receiving chemotherapy treatments.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Zac & Mia is a short but sweet series about a pair of teens who are dealing with cancer and become unlikely friends (and maybe more). Based on the hit novel by A.J. Betts, the show has a hopeful and funny tone but doesn't shy away from exploring the often heartbreaking emotional realities of being ill. There's some mild language and kissing, and brief talk about a character experiencing suicidal ideation.

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What's the story?

ZAC & MIA are a pair of cancer-stricken teens who become unlikely friends when they meet as the only young people being treated in a hospital oncology ward. Zac is the veteran patient, having spent the last several months restricted to a tightly controlled sterile room while undergoing treatment for stage 4 non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Mia is the new kid on the block, a popular high schooler in denial who comes in for chemotherapy due to bone cancer -- though she tells her schoolmates she's spending time in New York City pursuing a modeling career. Though the two don't initially seem to have much in common, they find themselves bonding and exploring what true friendship means, and how to persevere despite a frightening and unknowable future.

Is it any good?

Based on A.J. Betts' novel, the series ably examines the inner turmoil that comes with having a serious illness, but also the hope and clarity that can be found when people get real with one another. Although Zac & Mia never gets quite as weepy as other offerings in the "sick teen" genre (like The Fault in Our Stars), it's still plenty real: Author Betts worked for years on a cancer ward, and the issues she spoke about with the teens there come through in the show in a very genuine-feeling way. Zac and Mia might have very different personalities on the surface, but they have a way of challenging their preconceived notions and bringing out the best in one another.

The series also deserves major credit for showing the mental health repercussions that come along with trying to be "strong" for your family and friends, and how even the most stoic among us need the permission to fully express and experience our emotions.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about whether or not they think the Zac & Mia novel translates well to a TV series. What changes were made for the television adaptation? Do you think the changes were warranted? Were there parts of the book you feel should have been included but weren't?

  • Talk about the friendship between Zac and Mia, and how it evolves over time. How do you know who your friends truly are? What bonds these characters other than a cancer diagnosis?

  • The characters in Zac & Mia demonstrate courage and perseverance. Why are these important character strengths?

TV details

For kids who love teen TV

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