Watching TV as a family can’t replace the value of face-to-face interaction, but it can be a good way to get conversations started after the show. Here are some choices we think provide opportunities for shared entertainment or jumping-off points for important discussions. Whether you’re looking for a show that your sons and daughters can enjoy together regardless of their age or a show to watch with your teen, you’re sure to find something that fits everyone’s interests.
We may have more TV networks and more ways to watch than ever before, but it often feels harder than ever to find TV shows that the whole family can enjoy together. While adult TV is experiencing a new golden age and children’s programming is breaking new territory on streaming networks, the family show often feels left behind.
Family TV Shows to Watch Together
FANTASTIC KID SHOWS THAT EVEN ADULTS WILL ENJOY:
Just Add Magic
Kelly and her friends love to cook, so when they find an old cookbook belong to Kelly’s grandmother, they decide to start trying out recipes. Little do they know that when they make the recipes, they are actually stirring up a magic spell with unintended consequences. Good writing, solid acting, and character who are a fresh change from the obnoxious smart alecks in many of today kids’ shows. (TV-Y, 2 seasons) Available on Amazon Prime.
Strange things are happening in a small town in 1960’s Colorado, and it’s the kids who begin investigating everything from fake ghosts to real Communist Spies (TV-G, 3 seasons, absolutely spankin’ clean) Available on Netflix.
An FBI agent in the white collar crimes division needs help on a case, so he turns to the expert: convicted art thief Neil Caffrey. The two work together to solve crimes and become friends, but will Caffrey return to his criminal ways? (TV-PG, 6 seasons, an occasional episode may have content that pushes the line but the vast majority do not) Available on Netflix.
The Honourable Woman
Led by Golden Globe winner Maggie Gyllenhaal’s sharp-edged, vulnerable, thrilling performance as Nessa Stein, a businesswoman and philanthropist suddenly embroiled in a mess of family secrets and Middle Eastern intrigue, The Honourable Woman is the perfect (if bleak) binge. Its eight episodes set the lure early and reel one in by increments, until the truth bursts forth with stunning force. Strong turns from Stephen Rea and Janet McTeer don’t hurt, either.
This completely clean (and actually funny!) sketch comedy show started as a student produced program at Brigham Young University and has turned into a Youtube sensation with over 1 million subscribers. Recent episodes available online at BYUtv, almost all the individual sketches available on YouTube This charming, witty, and generally hilarious 90’s sit-com centers around the antics of Frasier, a radio psychiatrist, his brother (also a psychiatrist) and his dad (retired cop). Some slightly racy comedic moments mean this show is better for ages 13+, but it’s still quite tame compared to many current sitcoms. (Rated TV-PG, 11 seasons) Available on Netflix.
Now that Shonda Rhimes and her Shondaland are such a force in the TV world, it’s hard to imagine there was a time before her landmark dramas were a staple in our viewing schedules. Premiering as a mid-season replacement way back in March 2005, Grey’s, now in its thirteenth season, first appeared to be nothing more than an ER wannabe. But Rhimes perfected the art of a well-told soap opera, seamlessly weaving personal strife, romantic hookups (never have supply closets seen so much action) and complex medical cases. She broke ground with a multi-racial cast, same sex couples, and one of TV’s first bi-sexual characters. The series has survived multiple cast changes, the behind-the-scenes drama the often eclipsed the on-screen shenanigans and fickle fans who threatened to quit the show when McDreamy (Patrick Dempsey) died. We take shows like Grey’s for granted, but when you are still successful after 13 seasons, you are doing something magical. So, relive the show from its nascent early days or discover it for the first time.
A Series of Unfortunate Events
You probably don’t have to be a bookworm, or a kid, to appreciate this adaptation of a series of ironic, lachrymose, self-parodying children’s stories, because the series is just so damn funny, not to mention seamlessly styled, well-cast and well-acted. It does also happen to be an adaptation that should delight fans of the books because it generally knows exactly how much or how little to deviate from its source material to adapt to the constraints (and liberations) of episodic television. It retains the slightly steampunk, highly absurdist, semi-Gothic and delightfully wordsmithy sensibility of its source material and adheres remarkably well to character and plot. My suggestion? Don’t binge watch this show! Let it breathe. Like a fine wine. Because it’s kind of a masterpiece.
Smart but down-on-her-luck shopgirl Denise moves to London to live with her uncle and find a better life. When her uncle doesn’t have enough work to support her, she gets a job next door at The Paradise, Britain’s first department store, and falls for the store’s dashing owner. (TV-PG, 2 seasons) Available on Netflix.
Once Upon a Time
Once Upon a Time is inspired by classic fairy tales such as Snow White, Pinocchio, and revivals of popular stories such as Mulan, Brave, and Frozen, it’s not always age-appropriate for younger kids. The content is often violent — including murder, sword fights, and death threats — and much of the story is clouded in a sense of peril and shifting loyalties. There’s some implied sexual content (including shirtless men, women buttoning up their blouses, and lovers escaping out of windows), some innuendo, and some iffy language (“hell,” “ass,” “suck”). The upside? It has multi-generational appeal, but parents may want to preview before sharing with tweens.
Mythbusters showcases problem analysis and the scientific approach to proving or disproving a thesis. It comes with repeated disclaimers for good reason, though, as episodes often include explosions, gunfire, and mixtures of volatile substances. Kids may need a reminder to not engage in such activities themselves. The hosts use human skeletons and animal parts in some experiments, which could make squeamish viewers uncomfortable. Overall, the show offers an engaging example of how to take curiosity to the next level.
Unlike other competitive cooking shows that seem to value rivalries and behind-the-scenes drama, Chopped sticks to what’s on the plate. Both contenders and judges treat each other with respect and the focus is firmly on food, flavors, and cooking techniques, making this show a natural for young culinary enthusiasts. On rare occasions, chefs exhibit brief poor sportsmanship, but that is definitely the exception.
Doctor Who often seems lighthearted, but underneath the Doctor’s always-cool exterior and his jovial approach to circumstances are some decent moral messages. Selfishness, evil, and the urge to dominate others are always frowned upon, while honesty, loyalty, and integrity often tip the balance in the protagonists’ favor. Expect a lot of sci-fi action with fighting, perilous predicaments, and some death, though the main character always manages to escape their own demise through a twist of fate or regeneration. You’ll see some kissing and alcohol use, none of which has a big role in content that’s appealing to a wide range of ages.