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What Do You Mean Its For Kids / Live-Action TV

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  • 13 Reasons Why is aimed at teenagers but deals with some pretty dark and distressing subject matter that even some adults find hard to deal with, namely suicide and rape. The violence in the show gets pretty graphic, including showing the entirety of Hannah's suicide note  and three rape scenes (which we also get flashbacks to). The show's content earned it a TV-MA rating on Netflix, meaning that anyone under 18 — aka, the target audience — should probably only watch the show accompanied by a parent/guardian, if at all. Because of its graphic content and its target audience, New Zealand’s Office Of Film And Literature Classification board introduced the RP18 classification for streaming services, after they noticed that teenagers were at a higher risk of suicide.
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  • The 4th and final season of Brødrene Dal, Brødrene Dal og mysteriet om Karl XIIs gamasjer, takes the cake. There's swearing, the kidnapping of a minor, verbal abuse, an episode where there's tons of bleeping (although they swear with no bleeping in the next episode). If it was ever to be shown outside Norway, it would have received an 18+ in most countries, as there's no Family-Friendly Stripper, but a real stripper; you can see her for yourself. Other examples make you wonder how it even managed to air, like one opening sketch that had the narrator sneak into the ladies' restroom (it's suddenly "okay" when he's the handsome narrator), one character believing one of the leads to be wearing women's underwear (he's a man), and suddenly an ending fit for a Crime and Punishment Series, the narrator trying to make money selling underwear based on the brothers, a drunken general with a cabinet filled with alcoholic beverages, the bleeping part, just to mention a few.
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  • The German teen drama Allein gegen die Zeit is aimed at teens and young adults. Yet, it can easily be compared to high-profile thrillers like 24. Its first season featured a school hostage taking, a fascist political conspiracy, attempted mass murder, an unvilified portrayal of ethnic gang members, police corruption, depression, gun violence, and liberal swearing. The second season was even Darker and Edgier, throwing cruel and unusual deaths, terrorism, and lethal biological weapons into the mix. Especially jarring since KiKa is aimed at children younger than 13.
  • On seeing the script of Episode One of Children of the Stones, director Peter Graham Scott remarked, "And this is for children?"
  • Disney+ is explicitly framed as a family-friendly service to the pointnote  that there have occasionally been content edits to certain shows/films, but the three charter original series that were renewed for second seasons all qualify as this trope in varying ways.
    • High School Musical: The Musical: The Series has merchandising like clothing aimed at children, but the show itself isn't as kid-friendly as the film it's based on. One of the first lines in the series has a student using the word "hell" and a girl swears with a censor beep over what she says towards the end of the first episode.
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    • The Mandalorian is not only an extension of the Star Wars franchise (see Films — Live Action) but also one of its Darker and Edgier ones, based as it is around a bounty hunter. Even the Kid-Appeal Character of The Child Force chokes a protagonist in Season Two.
    • The World According to Jeff Goldblum was created for the National Geographic cable channel only to make a surprise Channel Hop to Disney+ when Disney acquired the brand in the 20th Century Fox merger. Nothing about the premise — an unscripted series featuring a sixtysomething Cloudcuckoolander actor setting out to learn about the unusual history and subcultures of mundane things like sneakers, ice cream, and cosmetics — comes off as standard family fare, but it serves as the "face" of the NatGeo brand on Disney+. The show is clean, lighthearted, and caters to short attention spans with its half-hour episodes, but it also features content that's a little surprising on the otherwise prudish Disney+, such as an entire episode about tattoos and a visit to a drag queen brunch in "Cosmetics".
  • Doctor Who is now more than 50 years old and very much seen as a family/children's show in the United Kingdom, but it's been violent from the very beginning.
    • A BBC audience research survey conducted in 1972 found that Doctor Who was the most violent show it had produced at the time! The show was especially violent during the first few Fourth Doctor seasons (12-14), consistently getting complaints and eventually forcing a Retool (for instance, "The Brain of Morbius" (1976) features a man getting shot in the stomach with an explosion of blood, then crawling, dying, down a corridor).
    • Even the first few stories could be really dark. In the first story "An Unearthly Child" the Doctor is a quite morally ambiguous figure, and there are some surprisingly violent scenes, such as a caveman with his chest ripped open and a cave of broken skulls. "The Edge of Destruction" uses haunted house tropes and has Susan wildly stabbing a bed with scissors.
    • Phillip Hinchcliffe, who was the producer (the term "showrunner" didn't exist) for the early Tom Baker seasons referred to above has said that he was being told by medical professionals that the series was helping children to articulate fears they hadn't been able to deal with, rather than give them new ones.
    • Even by the standards of the Hinchcliffe Era, "The Talons of Weng-Chiang" is Darker and Edgier than everything around it, and so adult in tone that it's hard to believe it was ever seen as kid's TV. There is a lot of onscreen drinking (with the Doctor participating frequently), onscreen smoking which has attention drawn to it, onscreen use of opiates, sympathetic characters using racial slurs (with even the Doctor joining in), a serial killer who specifically targets women he considers his 'beauties', an astonishingly inappropriate scene where Leela's nipples are clearly visible through her transparent shirt, and the Doctor gushing about how good his Birmingham-built fowling rifle is and using it to shoot an animal.
    • Season 22 (1985; the first season for the Sixth Doctor) is notorious for this, showing such grim sights as someone having their hands crushed and several people being stabbed to death. This is lampshaded in "Vengeance on Varos". The violence and general mean-spirited nature of the proceedings effectively got the show canceled for eighteen months.
    • Averted since 2005. To get the show restarted and get it adequately funded, Russell T Davies had to pitch it to the BBC as a drama rather than as "science fiction" or "children's programme". However, the spinoff The Sarah Jane Adventures (2007-2011) was explicitly aimed at kids. Although revival!Who doesn't shy away from grim themes and mature content, as noted below, it is still regarded as a family program by the masses in the U.K.
    • John Simm stated that Doctor Who being a kids' show was the main reason why he decided to play The Master (He wanted to show his son that he could act). Of course, the episodes he was in involved twisted monsters from the future wiping out a good portion of humanity, the Master being resurrected as a superpowered being who devours humans to satisfy his endless hunger, and turning the entire human population into copies of himself!
    • Previous showrunner Steven Moffat has written about how annoyed and insulted he is whenever people use the phrase "kid's show" as a derogatory thing. And he is very fond of proclaiming how much he enjoys terrifying children; it's basically his favorite part of running Doctor Who!
    • Series 6 of Doctor Who had a barely allegorical Rape and Revenge Arc where Amy, who didn't even know she was pregnant, suddenly finds herself strapped to an operating table, being forced to give birth by a terrifying woman who is going to steal the baby. This is such a strong Adult Fear Body Horror plot that many adult women found it genuinely terrifying, and questioned who the show was even aimed at any more. The show's handling of the aftermath of this plot with Angst? What Angst? is often criticized as unconvincing and sexist, but may have been intentional to keep the show functioning - how could they possibly have dealt with it realistically within the constraints of a children's adventure show?
      • It was partially addressed in "The Wedding of River Song", which suggests that Amy's something of a Stepford Smiler on the matter. When Amy has Madame Kovarian at her mercy, she remarks, in a Tranquil Fury, that Kovarian stole her baby from her, and hurt said baby, and she's never going to see said baby again (while she knows River, timelines mean that she's never going to see her baby girl again). Kovarian begs her help, saying that the Doctor would do it, and she would never want to disappoint him. Amy agrees that the Doctor is very dear to her. She also notes something else - he's not there. She then not only leaves Madame Kovarian to her death but ensures it, with a Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "River Song didn't get it all from you. Sweetie." After that, she strolls out, coolly making date plans with a somewhat stunned Rory (who she's just remembered - long story) while Madame Kovarian dies screaming. While the timeline is erased, Amy remembers and is haunted by the act.
    • The arrival of Peter Capaldi as an older-looking Doctor than recent incumbents in Series 8 marked a change of tone towards more mature storylines and elements. In his first episode, "Deep Breath", the Twelfth Doctor drinks alcohol and appears to kill a villain; the episode also includes several long scenes of "relationship dialogue", including one in which a character (accurately) perceives companion Clara Oswald has having, at least at one point, considered the Doctor "a lover". As the season progressed, a Love Triangle subplot was introduced, and the season ended with a disturbing storyline about death and grief. In fact, Series 9 and 10 also end with disturbing multi-parters involving major character deaths and worse, on top of the story arcs leading up to them frequently involving horror content. And no Season Finale has a truly Happy Ending, though the follow-up Christmas Episodes amend their sad events to end the arcs on hopeful notes.
    • Special mention must be given to Series 9's "Heaven Sent". It is an extended-length story in which the Twelfth Doctor is more or less the ONLY character, Trapped in Another World, stalked by a creature with a Touch of Death drawn from his childhood nightmares about a dead woman, subjected to Cold-Blooded Torture, and slowly Driven to Madness...all in the wake of his beloved companion Clara Oswald being killed off in the previous episode "Face the Raven". It opens with a monologue that's a metaphor about Death stalking a person from the moment they're born, and the climax hinges upon, effectively, the Doctor committing suicide billions of times over by choice that he may relive this Hell until he escapes. Jump to 0:15 of this BBC One Christmas advert for 2016 to see the Beeb pretty much acknowledge this as strong meat for children. Oh, and the episode that follows temporarily turns the Doctor into an insane Villain Protagonist.
    • The Jodie Whittaker seasons thus far have included historical and modern-set stories dealing explicitly with real-life racism and sexism, companions grieving the death of a loved one at length, and an extremely depressing Myth Arc that reveals the Doctor is not a native Gallifreyan, but rather an actual immortal being who was tortured to death multiple times to create the Time Lord race, then subsequently used by a secret organization for further lives and mindwiped of their experiences again and again before regenerating into the First Doctor. On top of that, her planet and adoptive race have been wiped out again, with her apparently not interested in trying to fix that problem as of the end of Series 12.
  • The Haunting Hour often has gruesome deaths and episodes that rely more on real-life scares along with the usual use of ghosts, ghouls, vampires, and freaky creatures. Then there are episodes like "Head Shot," "Sick," "The Cast," "The Weeping Woman," "Checking Out," "Red Eye," and "Terrible Love" that show that sometimes the scariest things we experience are real and the monsters we encounter are people with warped personalities (which "Head Shot," "Red Eye," and "Terrible Love" showed with all the subtlety of a bitch slap upside the head).
  • Ik Mik Loreland, the educational programme that traumatized an entire generation of Dutch children. It was specifically targeted towards six-year-olds to teach them to read and write. The plot involves Loria, a land where everyone loves reading and writing, and the one-eyed monster Carbuncle who can't do these things and gets so mad that he magics away everyone's ability to read and write, scattering the words all over the world. A girl named Mik takes it upon her to get them back and Carbuncle pursues her and attempts to stop her. Carbuncle was a frightening antagonist who regularly showed up in children's' nightmares, and many of the locations Mik visited on her journey were creepy and bizarre. Every year when it was rerun, debates would erupt among parents and school teachers about the appropriateness of the show. According to Word of God, Twin Peaks was a major influence.
  • In the Mix takes this to its logical extreme by being the only PBS Kids program to date to have a rating higher than TV-G (TV-PG).
  • The Ink Thief has a very gothic style to it, even though it was mostly kid-oriented. Richard O'Brien's character was pure terror, though.
  • Maddigan's Quest is quite possibly the only children's show to have featured mind-altering drugs and cannibalism in the same episode. The series also contains child labour, implied sexual slavery (with slavers refusing to sell a baby to the Big Bad to be killed because she'd fetch a higher price as wife material), repeated attempts at infanticide, and Body Horror.
  • Spoofed in an early episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus, in the “Storytime” sketch. Eric Idle plays a children’s show host reading a storybook; except the stories he tries to read take progressively more obscene turns...
    Discipline? Naked... [turns book sideways] With a melon?
  • Power Rangers has been around long enough for the fans of the original series to become adults and bring about a whole generation of complaints about how "kiddy" the new series are and how much better the first series was. How kiddy? Well, Power Rangers Lost Galaxy features a villain's Start of Darkness that took her from Alpha Bitch and Daddy's Little Villain to the series' biggest Knight of Cerebus ever, using suicide bombers,note  Power Rangers Time Force and Power Rangers Wild Force feature some pretty brutal onscreen death (the former, notably, even used the d-word for it), and the 2009 season, Power Rangers RPM, kills off 99% of humanity in a nuclear Robot War.
    • Time Force is especially the one with the most grown-up subject matter. In the future, Designer Babies are the norm, and the resulting mutants are outcasts and became criminals just to survive. The Starscream turns out to be The Starscream because Ransik betrayed him first in his previous identity because he couldn't see past his hatred of humans even when one had just helped him. You get a story about man's inhumanity to man, villains we created and mistreated but who went from La Résistance and off the slope into The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized, and the Cycle of Revenge. Yes, this is the same show that once had as a villain's plot, "destroy the Pink Ranger's model parade float just to make her feel bad!" nine or so years previously.
    • Power Rangers Samurai was nearly a Shot-for-Shot Remake of the Darker and Edgier Samurai Sentai Shinkenger, but occasionally, the endangered-kid-of-the-week would have a less tragic story (Dad is never around vs. Dad died in a Monster of the Week battle we didn't see.) leading many to cry "Bowdlerization!" and "Ruined FOREVER" at first. However, why is the dad not around? Work? Or "never around" just means "out all day for two or three days 'cause he's looking for the perfect birthday present" or something like that? Nope, he's in the military, busy with a little something we like to call The War on Terror. Other cuts to Shinkenger footage are more surgical, less "turn the bad thing into kittens and rainbows" and more "adjust the nature of the bad thing while keeping its impact." The past team who sealed Master Xandred, Jayden's dad included, still died, and apparently, a car with a guy in it being crushed is okay if it happens quickly enough. Deker and Dayu's story is very different from Juzo Fuwanote  and Dayu Usukawa note  but it's a doozy on its own, and as such it's much more tragic than Shinkenger when in the end, they cannot be saved. When Dayu dies in the same manner as her Shinkenger counterpart, she doesn't resist at all because she just wants to be with Deker again. Also, the especially torturous effects of Knight of Cerebus Akumaro Sujigarano's (Serrator's) monsters on the populace remain. Victims perpetually feel like you're starving to death and food makes it worse? Stays. People's souls placed in inanimate objects, still conscious? Yup. Bug critters force their way into your mouth and while they're in you feel mind-numbing agony? Ditto.
    • Power Rangers has its own Nightmare Fuel page for a reason.
  • Press Gang was aimed at children and teenagers, was frequently hilarious... and featured topics such as glue-sniffing leading to accidental death, child sexual abuse, a gun siege at a newspaper office, a gas leak resulting in a building blowing up (half of the episode was about one survivor, trapped in the rubble, trying to keep another alive until the rescuers could get to her...which didn't work), teachers having extramarital affairs, and so on. Storylines also focused on suicide, a reporter coaxing a confession of manslaughter out of a half-blinded gang member over the phone, and death by drug overdose (Lynda was not overly sympathetic). There's a reason that its co-creator and sole scriptwriter went on to become Executive Producer of Doctor Who...
  • Round the Twist is notionally a children's comedy series, yet it features recurrent examples of incest, bestiality, and underage nudity. Quite a few episodes revolve around characters urinating on things and/or getting covered in faeces.
  • Though more clear-cut kid-friendly than the family show Doctor Who, some episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures — *cough* "Day of the Clown" *cough* — are not the kind of thing you'd want to let children watch alone...
  • Aired in syndication and not heavily promoted, Superhuman Samurai Syber-Squad got to fly under the radar. Lots of the things the Monster of the Week did to people could get kind of dark. All water faucets suddenly spew hydrochloric acid! Your wristwatch takes control of your hand and you nearly choke yourself to death while the monster laughs about how you're going to die! Kilokhan also once pulled a Venjix, taking over nukes and nearly causing World War Three. Oh, what about the Christmas episode where Kilokhan finds out who Servo is, transfers himself to Sam's computer, and outright kills him with an electric blast? Malcolm, Kilokhan's sidekick until Kilo tried to pull a You Have Outlived Your Usefulness on him, is told to Take Up My Sword, but when he tries to transform, only the Servo wrist device is pulled into the digital world, and Servo—Sam within as always—activates. Sam defeats Kilokhan with a Dangerous Forbidden Technique, but doesn't know if he'll ever be able to return to his human form and departs into the information superhighway for parts unknown. Apparently, unexpected renewal is what kept this from being how the series ended. (More episodes were made, but the second full season that was talked about didn't come, so it actually gets No Ending, the last episode being one just like any other.)
  • Considering this article, nothing beats the Dutch children's program Theo En Thea (1985-1989). This controversial kids' show talked about topics that some parents wouldn't see as fit to discuss with young children, such as prostitution, drug abuse, and sexual harassment. Despite all objections, the show was both a hit with kids and adults alike!
  • Wizards of Waverly Place has its own unique feature, a huge amount of Brother–Sister Incest innuendo. Not to mention the Nightmare Fuelnote , the fetish potential and there is much more. A character was also murdered on this show, and perhaps even more than one seeing as some scenes were downright ambiguous. In a Disney Channel children's show. Yeah.
  • In general, Disney's more recent sitcoms have been pushing the envelope. Add to that Shake it Up (jokes about & references to twincest, child labor, breast attacks, Erotic Eating, stripteases and pubic hair, a Running Gag about a main character's lack of a figure, and a now-pulled anorexia joke) and Jessie (innuendo, Parenthetical Swearing, curses cut short, last second word swaps and a recurring Stalker with a Crush character who exhibits Troubling Unchildlike Behavior).
  • Most tokusatsu shows, most notably Super Sentai and Kamen Rider. The fact that there have been a few toku productions aimed exclusively towards adults (Shin Kamen Rider: Prologue and GARO, to name a few) does not negate the fact that the vast majority are aimed towards children. (In fact, of those two listed productions, Shin is quite divisive for being aimed at adults. Well, more precisely, for being a deconstruction.)
    • Even when taking cultural standards into consideration, the Kamen Rider franchise's run from 2000 to approximately 2004-2005 is largely characterized by its ability to introduce mature tropes into the series. Kamen Rider Kuuga, for example, is one of the few Tokus that has gotten away with depicting the murder of minors. The peak of this renaissance can generally be agreed to exist between Kamen Rider Ryuki and Kamen Rider 555 which both subvert the traditional Rider Vs Monster scenario in their own ways. After four years of Kamen Rider Double's more light-hearted formula (which even then didn't stop the shows from dipping into dark places), Kamen Rider Gaim steered the creative direction of the franchise back to that earlier period... via "Urobutchery;" it has a lengthy Nightmare Fuel page for a very good reason.
    • Take Kamen Rider Fourze, for example. A high school drama with hotblooded protagonist worthy of shonen anime and his group of True Companions on one side and disturbingly real depiction of depression, addiction, bullying and other high school appropriate problems on the other side. And it's still Lighter and Softer compared to other series like Kamen Rider Gaim note  or Kamen Rider Ex-Aid note 
    • Kamen Rider Build is an upbeat story about Science Hero and his True Companions fighting for love and peace in a civil war between three regions that used to be a single country. It doesn't shy away from graphical depictions of war horrors, torture, PTSD that survivors suffer from and death. Realistic thoughts on politics, propaganda, and dehumanization of people fighting in said war are also recurring themes.
    • Many recent seasons of Super Sentai, particularly Zyuden Sentai Kyoryuger, Ressha Sentai ToQger and Shuriken Sentai Ninninger, get a lot of flack for being very happy-go-lucky other than the second half of ToQger. One of the main reasons for this is that many westerners were directed to Kaizoku Sentai Gokaiger after Power Rangers Super Megaforce, commonly regarded as the worst Power Rangers series ever, aired, resulting in high expectations for a "more mature" series, although Kyoryuger has a second issue.
      • ToQger did advertise as a comedy series in the vain of Carranger and Go-onger (both of which are not well received by American Audiences). However, ToQger dropped that the Amnesiac Rangers were Rangers in part because, whatever happened to them, it left them in a state that wasn't death... but close enough... much of the series beyond that revolves around that mystery.
    • Super Sentai is especially surprising to some American audiences because of differences between Japan and the US. In Super Sentai, they make frequent use of blood, have characters actually die, and actually show guns. In the US, none of this could be shown on a kids' show, so when Super Sentai was adapted into Power Rangers these were used very rarely, if at all. On the other hand, in Japan, some of those who have seen both Super Sentai and Power Rangers believe that Power Rangers is actually more mature, because the lack of wacky humor is more noticeable than the toning down of violence.
    • Some Ultra Series as well.
      • Ultraman Ace featured gratuitous displays of monster gore that would put the Showa Gamera movies to shame (see Barabas, Muruchi, and Metron Jr.), as well as disturbing human scenes like a Creepy Child murdering his grandparents, a subway of trapped civilians being dissolved by a monster's acid, and a pregnant woman undergoing serious Body Horror when given a Fetus Terrible. These were toned down in the second half of the show, creating a much Denser and Wackier series.
      • Ultraman Leo is sorta the Ultra Series version of Kamen Rider, with one reason being that despite being primarily for children, it was a very dark series. Although kid-centered episodes were common in the series, it also featured some very gruesome displays of Family-Unfriendly Violence between Ultras and monsters (Leo has a tendency to kill kaiju by using their own body parts against them) or humans and monsters (eg: the father of the main two kids being sliced in half by an alien in episode 3). Its Darker and Edgier take on the defense team and the relationships between Ultras were also quite prominent, with officers being killed regularly and previous Ultra heroes doing acts that would have branded them as villains in their own series. And let's not even get to episode 40, which has possibly the greatest Kill Them All in the history of Toku.
  • Like Disney Channel, Nickelodeon's own sitcoms such as iCarly, Victorious and Sam & Cat have a surprising amount of risque jokes and humor.
  • Dan Schneider's Game Shakers also has a surprising amount of risque jokes and some black comedy in it.
  • For a TV-Y7 rated puppet show that aired on Nickelodeon, Mr. Meaty has plenty of black comedy and plots featuring Body Horror, cannibalism and a ton of gross-out humor.
  • If you log on to Netflix and enter "Kids" mode, you'll only receive child-friendly suggestions, most of which are light-hearted, animated shows... and alongside them is A Series of Unfortunate Events (2017), a series which shows characters burning to death, a character being killed by snake poison, and a character getting eaten alive by leeches. And that's just the first season!
  • Supergirl (2015) is promoted as a more family-friendly alternative to the glut of Darker and Edgier superhero shows currently on TV, and has a dedicated fanbase of young girls. That said, the show tackles mature topics, has the occasional sexual innuendo, and a fair amount of violence, including a rather shocking moment during the season 1 finale when J'onn rips a female villain in half. Being that she's an alien capable of taking her own body apart, this isn't as gory as you'd think, but you still see her two halves after and she does definitely die. At the same time, Supergirl is shown making her first kill as she burns an enemy Kryptonian's eyes out.
  • Odd Squad has some pretty dark moments for being a kids' show. Among other things, it has strong implications of abuse, PTSD, child marriage, Global Warming, and alcoholism — and that's just in its first season. Despite this, the show has been a consistent part of PBS Kids for 5 years, and is still going.
  • The Noddy Shop, which is aimed at preschoolers, has a lot of things that wouldn't probably be found in shows aimed at that demographic:
    • One of the antiques that comes to life is a beer mug named Stein.
    • Another character, Gertie Gator, has large breasts.
    • The characters constantly makes pop culture references to things the target demographic would be too young to know about. Two things they've referenced include Sudden Impact and Saturday Night Live, the latter of which one of the writers of the show worked on.
    • Johnny Crawfish's Image Song "Special" is a major case of this. Not only is the song full of sexual innuendo, Johnny says the word "hell", making it probably the only preschool show to use this word. note 
    • The final episode revolves around a man trying to turn NODDY's into a cigar store.
  • Tweenies: One episode has one of the characters, Bella, actually saying "I hate you", despite it being a preschool show.


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