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Based on the best-selling book of the same name, The Dangerous Book For Boys may appear like an innocent family comedy but under the surface there’s a thematically strong show here dealing with mature issues including grief, acceptance and moving on. At the centre of this comedic drama are the McKenna family who are left emotionally broken after the loss of their enigmatic father Patrick (Chris Diamantopoulos). When they uncover a book called The Dangerous Book For Boys left behind by their father, youngest child Wyatt (Gabriel Bateman) becomes inspired by what’s inside the pages and goes on a journey of discovery as the show blends fantasy with reality. Although more light drama than outright comedy, Dangerous Book For Boys manages to balance some well-timed comedic quips with the family drama but the short run time and lack of character development for some of the family members is a little disappointing.
With 6 episodes at around 25 minutes each, The Dangerous Book For Boys is a surprisingly short series. In a way it’s almost too short, especially given the way the series ends on an unnecessary cliffhanger and never really allows some of the characters to grow beyond their initial personas at the start of the show. To begin with, we follow the McKenna family who are still struggling to cope with the loss of their inventor father Patrick. Flustered Mum Beth (Erinn Hayes) finds herself reaching breaking point as she struggles to deal with her three children, Wyatt, Dash (Drew Powell) and Liam (Kyan Zielinski) whilst simultaneously juggling her lay-about brother-in-law Terry (Chris Diamantopoulos) and lackadaisical mother-in-law Tiffany (Swoosie Kurtz). There is an element of serialisation with the episodes but each largely have a self-contained narrative that tackles a different aspect of the family dynamic. This all builds toward an emotional climax in the final episode and an astonishingly realistic depiction of a family trying to deal without such an important role model in their life.
The Dangerous Book For Boys never allows the drama to overpower the tone of the series though and considering how raw and realistically depicted some of the themes that the family deal with are, the inclusion of Wyatt’s over-active imagination to transport him to fantasy worlds provides some much-needed refuge from this. Whether it be a submarine, a tent in the jungle or even landing a rocket on the moon, each of these scenarios play an important role in Wyatt and the McKenna family’s journey as Patrick appears within these fantasies to provide some guidance for his son. It’s a nice touch and handled eloquently enough not to come across as contrived or cheesy.
It’s a shame then that some of the characters adhere to the strict archetypes they’re given and are never given enough screen time to really develop, especially Dash and Liam who play the dumb and smart roles throughout the series. Youngest son Wyatt and Mum Beth are the two stand outs here though and they do a good job overshadowing any character inconsistencies that drive the story forward to its open conclusion. Erinn Hayes is excellent in her role as Beth, managing to conjure an empathetic, warm response as she balances depicting a flustered, struggling Mum with a hint of lightheartedness.
Although The Dangerous Book For Boys lacks a substantial run time or development for its supporting cast, there’s a smartly written comedic drama here that’s well worth checking out. The lighthearted approach to the emotionally mature themes work harmoniously together and even when some of the jokes don’t quite hit, the drama that follows almost always does. Wyatt and Beth are the stand outs here though and drive the show forward to its admittedly unnecessary cliffhanger ending. With a longer run of episodes and more time spent fleshing out the supporting characters The Dangerous Book For Boys could be a winner. The future certainly looks promising based on this short first season but it’ll be interesting to see what direction they take it if there is a second season on the horizon.