Smart Home Starter
The Smart Home Starter team picks the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, we may get a commission.

What Does TV-MA Mean on Shows?

Last Updated Oct 9, 2022
Family sitting on couch

There are so many different shows today that it can become confusing to find something to watch. This becomes even more difficult when you have kids and need to ensure that what they watch is age-appropriate. This is why television shows include ratings on the screen. If you see a TV-MA rating, you may wonder what it means.

A TV-MA rating indicates that a show is only appropriate for mature audiences. Children under 17, even when accompanied by an adult, should not be watching this content. The program could include obscene, crude language, explicit sexual activity, or graphic violence. 

Below, we’ll discuss why TV shows are rated, how TV-MA compares to an R-rated movie, and more. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know!

What Does a TV-MA Rating Mean? 

Many of us like to know what we are getting into before we start watching a show or movie. 

Trailers are great for this, which is why many services, like Netflix, release trailers for their original shows. 

But, trailers only give us a small taste of what will happen in a show. 

When you’re watching a show as a family with children, it is important to find out how graphic it is going to get. 

That is why ratings are important.

Movies have had ratings since 1968, but it took all the way until 1996 for television to implement its own version of this system. 

TV-MA is the highest rating a show can receive.

It indicates that anyone younger than 17 should not be watching the show. It is for mature audiences only. 

How Are TV Shows Rated? 

The interesting thing about how television shows are rated is that they consider the entire series. 

There are a few shows rated TV-MA that you might not even remember having a few wild scenes. 

This means that if a show has some graphic sexual activity or violence in one episode, its rating can go up to TV-MA, and it won’t go down again. 

This is true even if there is nothing racy in the following seasons or episodes. 

Why Are TV Shows Rated? 

TV shows are rated to give viewers a basic understanding of the show they are about to watch. 

For example, you might have seen a picture of Game of Thrones and decided that this is a great family show about cute dragons to watch with the kids. 

But when you see the rating, you will learn that you probably shouldn’t be watching it when your children are close by. 

The rating allows you to choose the environment and the people you surround yourself with when you watch the program, or whether you want to watch it at all. 

Ratings are very important when it comes to young audiences.

This is because they give parents a better understanding of what their children are about to watch. 

What Shows Have a TV-MA Rating?

Some of the shows that are rated TV-MA may surprise you, while others are less surprising. 

Just a few of the shows that have this rating include: 

  • Dexter
  • Family Guy 
  • The Simpsons 
  • Breaking Bad 
  • Grey’s Anatomy 
  • The Walking Dead
  • The Last Kingdom 
  • Game of Thrones 

These might not all seem like they deserve this rating. 

But, if a show has even one episode with these suggestive elements included, they get a higher rating. 

How Does an R-Rating Compare to TV-MA? 

When we think of R-rated movies, most of us think of movies that are a bit on the wild side when it comes to language, sex, and violence. 

But in some ways, TV-MA is a stronger rating. There are slight differences between the two. 

R-rating is only applicable to movies. For the most part, theaters are supposed to enforce a film’s rating. 

Television is trickier since there is no one to enforce these ratings. 

Parental control settings are available for most cable and streaming services.

But, if a user doesn’t set these up, there is nothing to stop their children from watching inappropriate shows.

It might seem like R-rating and TV-MA are the same ratings, one just for television and one for movies, but they aren’t.

TV-MA is the highest rating any show or television special can receive. It means the show is inappropriate for children, even when accompanied by an adult. On the other hand, R-rated movies are classified as films that children under 17 need to be accompanied by an adult to watch.

The highest rating in movies is NC-17. This means absolutely no one under 17 is allowed to watch the film.

This is the only movie rating that is really comparable to TV-MA. 

Knowing What TV-MA Stands For 

Next time you see a show that is rated TV-MA, you will know this is probably not a show you want to watch with your kids since it could get awkward. 

Shows rated TV-MA will have explicit content and are only intended for mature audiences.

Sign up for our newsletter
Smart Home Starter
This site is owned and operated by Time Off Club, LLC. is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to This site also participates in other affiliate programs and is compensated for referring traffic and business to these companies.