Family Television Show Recommendations

Because I have twice vented my feelings about Paul Behavior in the last month or so, it seems only fair that I share something equally damning about myself. But I have thought long and hard, and if you don’t count getting cranky and sad for no reason, and being snappish and irritable, and not being a good or interested cook, and preferring the Friendly Squalor school of housekeeping, and being self-righteous and huffy about dishwasher-loading, and getting stressed and overwhelmed about anything new or unfamiliar, and trying to keep things from happening by worrying about them, and crying at the drop of a hat, and freaking out about raw meat, and only being comfortable within a four-degree temperature range, then I can’t think of a single blessed thing he has to complain about.

Oh, here’s one thing: it drives him crazy that I will stop an episode of a TV series at any point during an episode, rather than making it come out even by watching to the end. Like, if I want to watch TV for awhile, and I’m halfway through an episode when I decide I want to do something else, I’ll just pause it there rather than finishing the whole episode in one sitting. And if I finish an episode but I still have five minutes’ worth of lunch to eat, I will watch the first five minutes of the next episode and then stop it there.

Speaking of which, we are a family that watches TV while eating dinner, and we are pretty much out of shows to watch. Normally it is Paul’s job to find us things to watch, but we are on week two of We Bare Bears and it occurs to me that I don’t think people should complain about the food if they’re not going to do any cooking, so I’m doing a little research into shows that families can watch together when the youngest kid is 10 and the eldest is 18, and the mother doesn’t want anything too scary or sad, and we’re eating so it shouldn’t be gross.

Our favorite is if it’s a series, so that we can watch it for a long time without having to think of something new to watch. Best is if it’s a completed series, so we can watch the whole thing all the way through and not have to remember to come back to it later–but this is not at all a requirement. Some of the shows we’ve already watched:

Adventure Time
Avatar, The Last Airbender (none of us liked Legend of Korra)
Bill Nye the Science Guy
Futurama
Good Eats
Gravity Falls
Great British Bake-Off
How It’s Made
Iron Chef
Kim Possible
Malcolm in the Middle
Monk
My Little Pony – Friendship is Magic
Mythbusters
Over the Garden Wall
Phineas and Ferb
Regular Show
The Simpsons
Star vs. the Forces of Evil
Steven Universe
Teen Titans
Teen Titans Go!

And I think there are probably a lot more but I can’t think of them right now. If you mention one that we’ve tried, I’ll add it to the list (and I’ll note it in the comments section, so you don’t look to later readers as if you’ve suggested something that was already on the list).

We’ve watched some Doctor Who, but that is generally too icky for dinner or too scary/stressful/sad for me.

We’ve watched a ton of movies, but I’m leaving those off the list because series work better and because we still have plenty of movies to watch.

138 thoughts on “Family Television Show Recommendations

  1. Jennifer Minson

    Dogs with Jobs on Amazon Prime. Fun series with multiple seasons of dogs that do things- like police dogs, service dogs, etc. Set in Canada, I think, so it’s a little weird for American’s, but I showed it to my students in school

  2. Gwen

    I’m sure this is one you’ve heard of, if not seen, but Planet Earth is incredible and very easy to stop and start wherever is convenient.

    1. Cara

      Exactly what I was coming to recommend. Also, we are all fascinated by Brain Games, available on Netflix.

  3. Becky (@omg_youguys)

    These are current shows, but they are both delightful and I love them. Speechless and The Real O’Neals, both on ABC.

    1. Shawna

      My kids and I watch MC and MC Jr. so I was going to mention them too! My husband (who watches a ton of car rebuilding shows) sniffs haughtily and says he doesn’t see the point of watching such things.

  4. Elissa

    My family recently watched and LOVED Planet Earth 2. It’s only 6 episodes, but it is soooo good.

  5. Robin

    My elementary school girls like a lot of shows from your list. We also like Clarence and We Bare Bears. They’re great for short meals since each episode is only 10 minutes long!

  6. Jocelyn

    People seem to love it or hate it but have you ever watched Star Trek: The Next Generation? It is of course sci-fi and a bit dated but the characters and storylines are so good. There are 10 seasons (and of course all the other series of star trek too if you like that one- although I wouldn’t recommend the series called Enterprise because it has some racier parts). Not icky like dr. who which I’m not a fan of and there would be some stress but in an adventure suspense way.

    1. Anna

      YES! Start with Star Trek the Next Generation. Do not pass go (aka Star Trek the Original Series), do not collect $200 (aka Enterprise, as mentioned above). The first two seasons of Next Generation are… not the best, but it is WORTH IT to stick with it and if you like it, you can move on to Deep Space Nine (ok) and Voyager (so great). OMG. There are sad/scary elements, but it was a network show so nothing horrible or inappropriate for your age range. Some early episodes are dated (late 80s) but can make for good talking points.

      If you like that, when the kids are a bit older, try Battlestar Galactica.

      Also, Dirty Jobs, though some of it might be too gross for dinner viewing.

    2. Celeste

      I second this recommendation! The plot lines are (with a few exceptions) not overly political, dramatic or sad. But it’s still interesting and entertaining.

      1. Elizabeth

        I third Star Trek TNG! I enjoyed watching it when I was a kid (when it first aired) and then I rewatched all of them during college and enjoyed them even more. I have an extremely low tolerance for TV shows and movies with stressful situations in them (I can’t watch Game of Thrones, not because of the violence etc but because of the Stressful Situations) but TNG has always been interesting yet calming for me to watch.

        1. Celeste

          Yes, Elizabeth! I feel the same about Stressful Situations -I get all flushed and slightly panicky watching them. And then I lay awake at night worrying about the characters and all the Situations.

      2. kim

        The first show that came to my mind was ST:TNG – and I thought, “well, I don’t know if I’ll mention it or not…” and I’m so happy to see so many people chiming in with the same idea. :) Yes, it can be cheesy, but family friendly and often good moral dilemmas come up that could spark interesting conversations with your kids.

    3. Judith

      I also recommend TNG. I recently rewatched the whole thing and apart from being Sci-fi, there are a lot of interesting questions they touch about humanity, fairness, culture, love, pride, otherness in all its forms that make great family entertainment. We actually used to watch it as a family when my sister and I were in your kids’ age. Though like others have said, please stick with it because they really find their stride after season two. The whole first season the actors apparently expected the show to be canceled any time, and later you can feel that they now all are really in it.

      I also really liked Voyager and am currently making my way through DS9 which I also enjoy. I didn’t find Enterprise as interesting, imo you can skip that.

  7. deanna

    If you liked Monk, then you might like Psych – a similar show, but younger/quirkier. Also, my daughter (12) has been super into I Love Lucy lately.

    1. thefluter

      I also love Psych! Suits is probably too old for your youngest, but Burn Notice could be an option.

      Also, I love Good Witch, which is 100% Hallmark Channel delightfulness: not too much happens, everyone is good looking, problems aren’t too serious, and suitable for all ages. When Calls the Heart is also like this, set in old timey western Canada. That makes me think of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and also Bomb Girls, which is about Rosie-the-Riveter type women in Canada.

      Person of Interest may also interest you, and of course I have to recommend Firefly even tho it is only one season long (plus a movie).

    2. Jenny

      Agree!!! See also Death in Paradise. For some reason, even though each episode is a murder mystery, it chills me out like no other. I think it’s the cheerful theme song and the gorgeous island scenery.

    3. Marilyn Cole

      Haha, I was coming to recommend Psych too! I wonder whether you can get old episodes of Mr. Wizard, which could be delightful. There aren’t many episodes, but I also would highly recommend Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls at the Party if you have a way to watch YouTube shows.

  8. Angela

    The Amazing Race? My 10 year old and I watch together, and besides a bit of bad-but-ok-for-network-TV language, it is fine.

  9. liz

    Young Justice
    “Red Dwarf” and “Chef!” are BBC comedies from the 90’s that are awesome.
    Firefly and Farscape might be too tense for you, but my son, who is with you on the tension thing, enjoyed them both.

  10. Trudee

    I thought I would hate it, but I really enjoyed Stargate SG1. I think there might be an instance of bare breasts in the pilot episode but after that I remember it being pretty harmless, if I recall correctly. (It’s been a few years since I watched it.) And it has ten seasons, and I watched them all. In a row. And we watched a few of the offshoots too (Stargate Atlantis). Also, would Gilmore Girls be too girly for all the boys/men in your house? I thought also maybe Scrubs.

    1. Britni

      Oh Gilmore Girls! It has such good writing.
      I really don’t think it’s too girly either – my SO loved it!

  11. Carla Hinkle

    I second MasterChef Junior. We all love it, It’s even better than regular Master Chef.

    One we have recently started is Once Upon A Time. It is still running, it’s in about the 6th season, but it’s on Netflix from the beginning. It is GREAT. I was skeptical but it really is. Wicked Witch from Snow White puts a spell on all the fairytale characters ever, they end up in present day America but don’t know who/what they are. Mystery, intrigue, great fairy tale references, strong female characters, I love it for kids & adults. Plus its network TV so there are 22 episodes per season!!

  12. Annabel

    We recently enjoyed Jonathan creek on Netflix. The older seasons are from the 90s and brilliant (and dated)

  13. Elle

    – Seconding Psych (complete show, plus getting a movie this December!).

    – Also, Veronica Mars (complete show, plus already has a movie!).

    I was 13, I think, when Veronica Mars first started, and 15, I think, when Psych first started, and I watched both from their first episodes on. I would have happily watched them when I was 10, and I have rewatched Veronica Mars many times, and I am currently rewatching Psych (I am 25 now).

    – Major Crimes, a spinoff from The Closer, is wonderful as well (you liked Monk, and so a crime show might not be impossible). Major Crimes is still going – yay! – but, The Closer had a lot of seasons before it. It does not feel more scary than Monk was, AND it has a lot of fun/humor thrown in. Entire episodes built around it, even. I think that you would REALLY like Sharon Raydor from Major Crimes; I was much less a fan of Brenda Leigh Johnson from The Closer, and so I was happy when the one show ended in order for the new one to commence … same great team, but better everything, and the whole thing was already great, and a new lead who I adore!! (I will avoid saying anything else, so as not to spoil either show.)

    1. Lynn

      I agree with Jenny – I wouldn’t show Veronica Mars to anyone younger than 14. There’s some dark themes like rape, murder, and adultery.

  14. Amanda

    Adding on to Chopped, but came to recommend The Middle and Fresh Off the Boat. Both sitcoms but better. Also in the sitcom column, Roseanne and 3rd Rock From the Sun.

    1. KYLA

      I also recommend The Middle, Sue is the greatest. And there are some dips into adult language/situations (but not many) in Brooklyn 99 and it’s a good bridge show for my 9 year old and us, we both laugh a lot.

  15. Anna

    Ooh, another one- Bob’s Burgers. For an animated show about a family, it manages to be quite different from The Simpsons. All the characters are quirky but the children especially are ridiculous.

    1. Celeste

      Bobs Burgers is SO good. It might be a show that requires a little patience to really enjoy-I remember finding some of the characters irritating when we first started watching it, but now it’s one of my favorites.

  16. Matti

    Mysteries at the Museum
    Star Trek the Next Generation
    The Young Indiana Jones
    Eerie Indiana

    The last three are older, and I’m not sure if you can get them streaming without buying them, but our library has them on dvd. They are also kind of heavy on the boys! adventuring! But, if they like anime type shows, the new Ronja: The Robber’s Daughter is on Amazon Prime and is fun.

    1. Caro

      I looooooved Eerie Indiana when I was 10, and was wanting to rewatch them! I’ll try the library. I also loved and still love Are You Afraid of the Dark? which streams on Amazon Prime and is not too scary, because it’s for kids, but I still like watching.

      1. Matti

        I found a novelization of the first episode of Eerie Indiana at our thrift shop for my 9 year old, and I was SO EXCITED. I’ve found that the show holds up really well, and I’ve loved watching it over again with my kids.

  17. Saly

    I think you made a mistake by saying that Henry is 10. That’s a mistake, right?

    We are also a family who watches TV with dinner. We’ve watched Psych, The Middle, and many of the ones you’ve listed. We also like to watch American Pickers, Black Dog Salvage, and we sometimes humor Ed and watch Barnwood Builders even though it is so SO boring.

  18. Natalie

    If I may ask, do you eat in the living room or do you have a tv elsewhere and eat at a table? Just curious.

    1. Swistle Post author

      In the living room. We have a large coffee table, big enough for the five kids to sit around. Paul and I sit in recliners because we’re old enough to (mostly) successfully balance plates on our laps.

      1. Celeste

        I am jealous of this. My husband is 100% NO tv during dinner. I was down for this house rule but now that I’m a stay at home mom my preference has changed. 1) By dinnertine I’m sick of looking at my kids. I love them, but I’m so tired of interacting with them and would much prefer to unplug. 2) I find that I spend more time up and serving my family like some bitter 50s housewife when we eat in the kitchen.

  19. Badger Reader

    Cutthroat Kitchen – J gets annoyed by too much of this as the format is so repetitive, but we really like the competition/special/seasonal episodes and I fast forward through some of the intro stuff that annoys him.
    My Grandmother’s Ravioli – this was a Mo Rocca (love him!) show that was cancelled after 2 or 3 seasons so not sure if it is available on streaming anywhere.
    Speaking of Mo Rocca, Innovation Nation – half hour show on CBS on Saturday mornings. Again not sure of streaming availability. The trivia and vocabulary can be juvenile, but we find most segments to be interesting.
    Agreeing with others on Planet Earth, Star Trek TNG, and Psych.

  20. Amanda

    Series of unfortunate events on netflix. Neil Patrick Harris! The “scary” bits are predictable and not too stressful. It’s funny! Better than the books.

  21. Kirsty

    Not series as such (or at all, even), but we watch a lot of the “fun” shows on the National Geographic channel… The Science of Stupid, for example, or Brain Games… There are others, but I can’t think of their names (particularly in English because we watch in France). There’s also one where a British guy (Tim Shaw) brings science into the streets, setting up experiments and getting members of the public to guess the outcome – Street Genius! That’s it! Anyway. I don’t know if you can get these shows, or if they’re still running in the US, but we really enjoy them and learn lots of interesting stuff!

  22. Shelly

    Amazing Race, Master Chef Jr and a new series called Hunter Street the entire family loved. On Nick, I think.

  23. Blythe

    My 10yo loves science and food shows, and these have been successful for us:
    Chopped
    Planet Earth
    Brain Games
    The Story of Earth (on YouTube)
    Chef’s Table on Netflix (some of them are a bit abstract but they’re all very cool)

    I’d also recommend So You Think You Can Dance if you have even the tiniest interest in dance/art. It’s an inspiring competition and there’s not really any backstage drama that happens in other competition shows.

  24. Jessemy

    Anne with an E has some serious themes but nothing you and Paul probably haven’t discussed with your kids already. And it’s funny. It’s the first drama my 3 yo would sit through!

    1. M.Amanda

      My 8yo just discovered Anne with an E. We watched the first episode together and laughed and cried. I think she’s mature enough to handle (with conversation) the unkind treatment of children, so I’m definitely letting her keep watching. It’s so well done!

  25. Kara

    My kids are 14-10, and like the following shows (that I am willing to tolerate as well. We Bare Bears would not be tolerable for me)
    How I Met Your Mother
    Crazy Ex Girlfriend
    No Tomorrow
    Reaper
    iZombie
    Santa Clarita Diet
    White Collar
    The 100
    Galavant
    Young and Hungry
    Boy Meets World
    Girl Meets World

      1. Kara

        This one shows up on MTV8 or some version of MTV up high on the channels. There seems to be episodes on from 5 pm – 8 pm most nights.

    1. Trudee

      I second White Collar! We just finished this recently and we really enjoyed it. And it’s finished now so you can get all 6 seasons (though the last season is only a few episodes).

  26. Emily R

    The Good Guys. It’s on Netflix and was cancelled WAY too soon, but so delightful. There are a few sexual references but nothing ever on screen. Maybe some baby swears, but def nothing too crazy.

  27. Lindsey

    My husband and I have really gotten a kick out of American Housewife. There are one or two too many fat jokes at the beginning of the season, but mostly we just relate to the Otto family and there are quite a few laugh out loud moments in each episode.

  28. Kathy

    I second The Great British Bake Show, my whole family loved it. And I’ve never watched a cooking show before, never really thought that I would enjoy it so even if someone in theory doesn’t like cooking shows, try it!

  29. Heather

    I’m surprised I didn’t see this mentioned, but Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street is a wonderful, though short-lived series. My family loved it so much. It reminded me just a little of the Wonder Years, which I wish was available streaming. Gortimer is on Amazon Prime and!!! I just saw that there is a whole half-season that we haven’t watched!!!

    1. Sarah

      Wonder years is on netflix my 10 year old son watches it all the time. This is a good recommendation for Swistle.

  30. Jeanne

    No one has mentioned The Middle….one of my very favorites! Kids are probably too young for The Big Bang??

  31. Kim

    We love The Flash. Currently in the 3rd season but each season has 20+ episodes which is nice.

    1. Alice

      I loved Leverage. It was an awesome show, and I’d recommend it, at least after watching a few and double-checking the language. I don’t think they use any words that I particularly have an issue with, but I may be misremembering.

      I’ve been watching The Librarians– same creator as Leverage, though I don’t like it as much as I did Leverage. I think my 10-year-old self would have adored it, though.

      I’m another voice in favor of Psych. I liked the wit and humor of it. I think a few episodes might be too scary, but not many.

      I’d also say do a trial balloon for Project Runway Junior. I feel that the use of bad language and infighting is lower on Project Runway Junior, but it’s fun to watch teenagers being creative and capable, particularly in the unconventional challenges.

    2. Another Gwen

      I was literally coming here (kind of late) to suggest Leverage. It’s very Robin Hood/Heist-y, and we (all adults) ADORED IT. There are a few episodes where it can be really sad, but the general tone of the show is not sad or anxious. It’s less “OMG, WILL THEY MAKE IT”, and more “I wonder how they’re getting out of this pickle!”, and the characters are awesome. Also, there were 5 seasons, and they’ve all come out.

      I also love Speechless.

      Oh, and this one is done (I didn’t quite finish it though): Eureka. It was a SyFy tv series (it started back when they were just the so much less cool “SciFi” Channel) about a town of very smart scientists who work at secret government lab in the Pacific Northwest. The first few seasons were quite light-hearted (bad things definitely happen to people (in a science-gone-wrong kind of way, typically), but the show is a little more like an old school cartoon, where it’s like “You can’t vaporize your fellow townsfolk!” ). The point-of-view character is the new sheriff, and it’s very fish-out-of-water (he’s not as super smart as the folks of Eureka, but he’s deeply practical, and rolls his eyes at them a lot). In later seasons, it shifted to being more of a drama in some ways. We haven’t finished it just because SyFy was releasing seasons halfway at a time, and by the time the last half-season was released, we were going through a busy period that didn’t let up for years. Now I don’t remember what was going on. I do want to know how it ends, still! Maybe I should watch it again.

      I have a friend who comes over every week to watch an episode or 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale, and can I tell you? I just think longingly think of all the silly hijinks tv shows we love, and how much I’d rather be watching them. Ah well, we only have 2 episodes left.

  32. Jenny

    I was going to mention Psych. They don’t have it any more streaming on Netflix, but I bet you could buy a season on DVD for around $10. It’s really, really good and I think al of your kids would enjoy it.

    I’ll also second Leverage.

  33. JP

    We like All American Makers and American Ninja Warrior. Some episodes of Bull have been good too, but most of that is a bit mature for the 7yo.

  34. Annie

    The Goldbergs – set in the 80s with 3 kids generally in the age range of your own. For you, lots of cultural/nostalgic references that are pretty funny (and the wardrobe makes me laugh every single episode). For the family, the series focuses on lots of “issues” that families encounter when kids are that particular age in a nice, timeless way.

    Once Upon a Time – I’ve seen this mentioned above, and I would also recommend it. It’s kind of like watching a movie every week. DEFINITELY based heavily on Disney movies, but in a new way (and also will sometimes pull in elements of the original stories most Disney films were based on). So if you guys like Disney stuff, great! But if not, the series stands on its own enough to follow and enjoy without being Disney fans.

    Neither series are completed, but both are a few seasons in. Once Upon a Time just finished its 6th season (I think?) and there will be a 7th. But the 7th starts many years later and will involve an almost entirely new cast, and a new storyline.

  35. BKC

    Does your library offer DVDs? I rate mine a B- because they have a ton of shows and movies but no regard for getting them to you in order. It just comes when it comes.

    Dating myself here, but Sabrina the Teenage Witch on TGIFridays in the 90s was my special TV treat in a PBS-heavy household. I’m basking in the nostalgia with my kiddo. We rent the discs on Netflix.

  36. DrPusey

    I wouldn’t blanket recommend the whole run of PBS’s “Nature,” since some of the episodes are sad. But a recent mini-series of sorts that I can recommend is “Spy in the Wild.” Engineers made robotic animal recreations and sent them out to interact with real groups of animals. There is, um, some tortoise friskiness in one episode.

    I also really like “Escape to the Country,” which is on Netflix. It’s a British cousin to Househunters. But the people all have real jobs so you’re not constantly wondering how somebody with a random horrible job has a $1 million house budget. Beautiful British scenery and I find it very restful.

  37. hope t.

    Doc Martin! There are six or seven seasons, so you will get a lot of milage out of this one show.

    1. Lacey

      Yes! Ditto Doc Martin. Also, I’ve recently been binge watching Father Brown. If you like Monk you may like him. Murder mysteries that aren’t too scary/sad/gruesome and light quirky humor in a charming English village. It might skew a little on the mature side for a ten year old, but otherwise it’s totally great.

      1. M.Amanda

        I’m also binge watching Father Brown. Just wanted to keep going so much that the next season of Sherlock came available and I’m still watching Father Brown. I agree, some mature references, but a great show. Crossing my fingers that Sid and Lady Felicia come back, though.

  38. maeby

    When Calls the Heart (Hallmark channel, life on the frontier definitely family material)
    Freaks & Geeks (some drug use & teenage issues but an excellent show, so wish there was more than one season, also neat to see lots of good actors before they were bigger stars)
    Meerkat Manor (not on Netflix)
    Murdoch Mysteries (usually just a non-gory murder and classic who-done-it, not sure if you are okay with that for dinner)
    And I also second the IT Crowd as a hilarious show, but I think the British Humor is too racy for younger kids

  39. Erin

    Poirot? The ol Agatha Christie detective series. Long episodes like mini movies, lots of episodes, wholesome and quaint and so freakin charming I can hardly stand it.

    Psych is filled with 80s references. FILLED.

    Thinking about it, Chuck seems great for families.

  40. Ess

    Bob’s Burgers!!!! So excellent. It does take a bit to get used to it, but Bob and Linda are my favorite TV couple. We have also been very slowly working our way through the new Mystery Science Theatre 3000 episodes on Netflix and so far they are hilarious. Movie length episodes broken up with skits that make good pause points. Planet Earth. Any David Attenborough nature documentaries/shows.

  41. Michelle

    I don’t have kids, so I’m a little unsure what is appropriate for a 10 year old. Are shows that talk about sex, but don’t show much, like The Big Bang Theory ok? Friends? The West Wing?

    Survivor
    The Amazing Race
    How I Met Your Mother
    The New Girl
    Everybody Loves Raymond
    House Hunters International

    1. Swistle Post author

      It’s hard to say. When we were trying to think of shows to watch, I kept thinking of shows I thought weren’t racy at all, and then Paul and I would pre-watch a few episodes and we were like 0-0 (that’s our eyes really wide at all the sex stuff).

    2. Shawna

      My kids LOVE Friends. Especially my daughter, who is 11 but I think discovered them on Netflix at 10. Mind you, verbal references to sex don’t bother me as long as they don’t put women down. I’d prefer my kids see some jokes about sex over violence any day.

  42. Elizabeth

    If you liked the Great British Bake Off, you might like other British (classy) reality/documentary shows like Tudor Monastery Farm, or Edwardian Farm, etc. Our whole family, age 10 all the way up to age 50, loved these…

  43. P-Mum

    We also watch TV while eating (my mother would be appalled, good thing she never visits! ) We absolutely loved watching Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide (both of us are middle school teachers, it spoke to us as well as the kids). It may be found online, I finally talked the family into getting me the dvd’s. Currently we enjoy Girl Meets World, and The Middle for sitcoms, andHow It’s Made, Wheel of Fortune, and Jeopardy for more cerebral fare.

  44. Ariana

    I CAN’T BELIEVE NO ONE HAS RECOMMENDED PARKS AND RECREATION YET.

    Parks and Recreation is the right choice.

    1. rlbelle

      Oooh, I will second this. It might be my favorite comedy of all time. It takes about a (short) season and a half to find its footing and stop seeming like a knock-off of The Office, but when it does settle in, it becomes so much better IME because it treats all its characters with empathy.

      I also recommend Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. This one might not be appropriate for the younger kids – there are lots of throw-away jokes, many of them off-color, but it’s sometimes hard to catch everything because it moves fast. It’s basically a very inspiring story about a kidnapping survivor learning to live in the real world, disguised as a very wacky sitcom.

    2. Jenny

      I was coming here to say Parks and Rec! I love, love, love, loooove it and so does my 13 year old daughter. Season 1 is…. not great at all, but once you get past that (or even skip it!), it’s amazing. I saw a shirt that said “Be the Leslie Knope of whatever you do” and I try to remember that every time I’m feeling grumpy and low.

      Arrested Development is pretty similar, but possibly a bit more adulty. I don’t remember anything over the top though, and we’re planning to watch that with the Kid as soon as she finishes Parks and Rec.

  45. Shawna

    Oh Swistle! That paragraph about him having no complaints was so funny! You are very witty and charming!

    I love Good Eats but haven’t been able to find it streaming anywhere. Did you buy the dvds (also very hard to find and expensive on Amazon) or what?

    I second the recommendation of Star Trek Voyager, and add Futurama and Orphan Black.

    1. Swistle Post author

      Long ago when the DVDs were less expensive, Paul had them on his wish list so he acquired some that way. Our library also has some.

    2. Judith

      Orphan Black has a lot of quite explicit sex and violence. It’s a pretty great series at least for the first two or so seasons – the lead actress does an outstanding job with the characters – but it’s not the right thing for dinner time with ten year olds as part of the setup. Iirc it has a 16+ recommendation, and that’s what I’d give it as well.

  46. Mika

    I agree with whoever mentioned Parks and recreation. It is an amazing show. Skip season 1 and start with season 2. Also, the One Day at a Time remake on Netflix. Really well done and Rita Moreno is in it. A few more mature themes but it is funny and sweet and I loved it!

  47. TinaNZ

    We do the same thing at dinnertime – the hard part is agreeing on a series that we all want to see. My sons are older than yours, but we enjoyed these that I think are appropriate for younger viewers:

    Eureka – fun series with a supernatural/time travel/alternate universe angle
    Supergirl – lighter than most of the current superhero series
    Samurai Jack – the episodes occasionally contain tediously long battles (that my sons enjoyed), but it is visually stunning so when it gets too fighty I just focus on that

  48. Robyn

    My teenager (13 at the time) begged me to start watching Eureka with him. We have watched and deeply love the entire Dr. Who series (which I agree could be too intense and emotional for dinner time) and a friend of his suggested Eureka as something else he might like. The premise is that the government has established a community of scientists to live in isolation in service of the advancement of scientific innovation. Of course much chaos and tomfoolery ensues. It’s fairly cheesy but I thought the same of Dr. Who at first and ended up a devotee.

  49. rlbelle

    I don’t know if it’s streaming anywhere, but what about Chuck, NBC’s show from five or 10 years ago about the computer geek who becomes a spy? I have to confess to having never seen it, but I feel like it was talked about constantly when it was on, and people thought it was sweet and charming. It’s on my list to catch up with someday, but my list is, like, 40 shows long :P

  50. Sarah

    I like your list of shows. My 10 year old son and I like watching shows together with similar preferences. Past series have been Gilmore girls, Psych, and Sabrina the teenage witch. Currently we are watching golden girls (he is surprisingly really into the show). The Dick van dyke show is always fun to watch.

  51. Grace

    If you like Bill Nye have you seen his new show – Bill Nye Save’s the World? It’s on Netflix where I am, and I assume it would be in the US as well.

  52. Anna

    Brooklyn 99? It’s an ensemble comedy set in a police precinct, which makes it sound lame, but it’s very good! It’s very character driven, diverse cast, very funny. And I second Chuck, my husband watched all of it and it’s a lot of fun.

  53. J

    Have you watched Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt? I’m not sure if it’s too adult for your kids. It references a lot of adult stuff (kidnapping, rape) but never really goes into it (no footage of the bad stuff, no nudity, no real swearing), and the overall mood of the show is whimsical and funny.

    Star Trek is on Netflix now, that might be nice. A Series of Unfortunate Events is based on childrens books. Gilmore Girls. Bill Nye Saves the World.

  54. el-e-e

    I think this would be a fun thing to do over the summer, so thanks for the inspiration! We hardly ever watch TV during dinner, but … yeah. I can see it happening.

    My kids are nearly 13 and 9. Our faves are The Middle — everyone loves it, including my husband — The Flash, and Master Chef Junior. And AFV, of course, because what’s more fun than laughing at idiots getting hurt??

    Great recommendations from everyone!

  55. Julie

    Based on your cartoon choices, think you guys might like Bob’s Burgers. It’s charming and witty. There are already MANY seasons.

  56. Alexa

    Bob’s Burgers. SO FUNNY and at times inappropriate but that goes sailing over the younger one’s head.
    Super Girl – I watch it with my 5 and 8 year old and we all love it.

  57. Lori

    Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (old, but still very funny)
    How I Met Your Mother
    The Flash
    Riverdale

  58. Heather

    Series of Unfortunate Events. It’s so good!!
    My kids also love The Carbonaro Effect and Brain Games. We’ve just started The Wonder Years at our house. :)

  59. Steph

    We love the Amazing Race and watch with our six year old (and sometimes our curious 3.5 year old). Occasional bad language (network TV deems appropriate, which always shocks me) but great for seeing different places around the world, talking about how other people live, talking about which challenges you would pick and why, what are your strengths and weaknesses, etc.

  60. suburbancorrespondent

    Okay, here’s the old lady (apparently) chiming in. If you want funny and family-friendly and, well, BEARABLE for adults, you’ve got to go back. WAY BACK. The I Love Lucy show is excellent. Fine for kids, and a lot of jokes in there about marriage, etc., that I didn’t get as a kid but that long-married adults will enjoy. Also, I never realized that Fred Mertz actually got all the great lines. There’s a lot of 50s-style sexism, but that prompts good discussions.

    The Dick Van Dyke Show – OMG, this is SO FUNNY. What with Morey Amsterdam’s one-liners and Dick Van Dyke’s physical style of humor, this is LOL funny for everyone. What’s more, Mary Tyler Moore does a good job on the comedy end herself – she’s not just a prop for DVD’s acting. I vaguely remember the first episode or two as being a little lame, but don’t give up. It keeps getting better and better. Again, a lot of sexism, but (again) it leads to a lot of good discussion (what has changed? what is still the same?). Also, if you are an It’s A Wonderful Life fan, Nick the bartender shows up as a mafia boss in Season 3.

    Actually, Nick the bartender also shows up as a vacuum cleaner salesman in I Love Lucy. That guy got around.

    1. Nowheymama

      I agree! Our go-to dinnertime show right now (kids 15-6 years old) is The Andy Griffith Show.

      A recent show the older kids and adults enjoy is Speechless.

  61. dayman

    I can’t believe nobody suggested the Loud House. It’s a cartoon and more like Phineas and Ferb or MLP, it’s definitely a show for kids that also appeals to adults.

  62. Slim

    A. I’m thrilled to find so many fellow Psych fans.
    B. It’s only one show, but The Poisoner’s Apprentice on The American Experience was great.

  63. Amelia

    My kids think Victor Borge is hilarious. The Three Stooges and The Marx Brothers are also a ton of fun. How about Pawn Stars? There’s plenty of weird history without ridiculous re-enactments.

  64. Tamara

    Buffy or Angel? I’m not sure if they’re too grown up or spooky, I just remembered I really loved them. Also agree with everyone who posted about Planet Earth (although the baby iguanas being chased by snakes was terrifying).

    Star Trek: TNG – so good.
    I also might be in the minority, but I loved Deep Space Nine and Voyager.

    An old series that I loved Fawlty Towers – not sure how easy it is to find that one.

    I’m also really loving Parts Unknown (CNN – Anthony Bourdain).

  65. BSharp

    Pushing Daisies is a quirkier, pie-filled detective show. The two love interests can’t touch for complicated plot reasons, so there’s not much in the way of overt sex.

    1. Matti

      I LOVE this show! It was my first introduction to Lee Pace and it was great! He is also in a Tarsem Singh movie called The Fall that is a special kind of magical realism/story telling. It is one of my favorite movies of all time.

  66. Lynn

    I’ve seen a few people on here recommending Friends and How I Met Your Mother. We just recently watched the whole package of both on Netflix – our kids are 9 (nearly 10), 14 and 13. Both were huge hits, especially How I Met Your Mother – we now own the soundtrack and use in-jokes from both series all over the house. It was very enjoyable for the adults and kids.

    THAT SAID, however, I am very quick to point out to all my friends that both series were really not appropriate at all for a 9/10 year old. There’s tons of stuff about sex – threesomes, one night stands, references to obscure sex acts, sheesh. At least when we were watching How I Met Your Mother, we could talk a lot about how Barney’s terrible behaviour with women was balanced by Marshall and Lilly’s constant, ongoing marriage. But even then, we found ourselves having a LOT of conversations around the dinner table we perhaps were not expecting to have for at least a few more years.

    Now that we’re done with them both, we’ve moved on to Brooklyn 9-9 on Netflix. They’re still on the air – just finished their 4th season last week and the whole season was immediately added to Netflix to join seasons 1, 2, and 3. The third episode of season 1 (I think?) is icky – the lead character ends up having sex over dead bodies in the morgue – so we almost quit then. But other than that one single episode, it’s been absolutely hilarious, really clean, funny stuff. I’d recommend starting with this one instead of the other two – skip that third episode! – and if it works, then maybe move on to HIMYM.

  67. Caro

    There are some really compelling documentaries that honestly I think all ages could enjoy. Netflix has Young at Heart, about a group of senior citizens who sing Nirvana, Metallica, etc. and go on tour. It’s very heartwarming, but there are sad parts, and you might/will cry!

    Not sure if it’s on Netflix anymore, but Kumare was really good, although probably would be hard to hold the youngest one’s attention. I also recommend the Horse Boy, but again, not sure if it’s streaming.

    PBS Independent Lens is my go-to for good documentaries

  68. Amy

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Jane the Virgin yet…. I know title sounds like it might be racy, but it’s actually pretty family-friendly. It’s funny, sweet, and fast-paced with lots of plot twists and drama. And as an added bonus, it’s one of the few shows on television featuring a Hispanic family, so some of the show’s dialog is in Spanish (with subtitles).

    I would also highly recommend Fresh of the Boat on ABC.

      1. Elizabeth

        Yes! Fresh off the Boat is hilarious–very much like the Goldbergs, it is an adult comedian narrating stories about his childhood.

  69. Alyssa

    Bob’s Burgers!!! We love that show (two kids, ages 7 and 10). It’s so, so funny and never inappropriate.

  70. Erin

    Fawlty Towers and Black Adder
    Jonathan Bird’s Blue World
    Globe Trekker
    Doc Martin
    Cosmos

  71. Trudee

    Oh thought of another: JAG. My husband and dad both loved that show. I haven’t watched it but from what I have seen/know about it, it seems family friendly.

  72. Cc Donna

    How about the oldies, the real oldies! Leave it to Beaver comes to mind. And Andy Griffith Show. Now that’s good old fashioned family tv fun!

  73. Cayt

    My suggestions are older British comedies. First up, Green Wing. It’s a wacky comedy from the late 90s set in a hospital but it’s very lovable. Oh, I just remembered some of the raunchy moments, though. Maybe not suitable for family dinner but hilarious.

    Also, The Young Ones. It’s 1980s, very silly, and my friend’s 7 year old LOVES it. It has a lot that will appeal to the kids, and a lot that appeals to adults too.

  74. B

    Seconding Fawlty Towers, Parks & Rec, Pushing Daisies, Star Trek TNG, Death in Paradise, Poirot, Cosmos, Doc Martin, Samurai Jack, anything David Attenborough, Series of Unfortunate Events, One Day at a Time, Bob’s Burgers, and Once Upon a Time.

    Better Off Ted is on Netflix and super charming. Frasier is a good option too. Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries might be too intense (and probably too much sex now that I think about it) but it’s fantastic so I’m suggesting it anyway. Border Security: Australia is hilarious and it will teach the kids not to try smuggling drugs, though the Canada and American versions of that show are boring. Switched at Birth is cute and well written, fairly fluffy but not in the way that makes you feel dumber for watching, and should be age appropriate.

    I didn’t see Wishbone in the comments yet. It’s not on Netflix but is definitely on YouTube and possibly on library DVDs. Relevant: http://the-toast.net/2015/07/15/the-pitch-meeting-for-wishbone/

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