Sunday, November 27, 2011

Family TV Time

Currently, the two best shows on television are Breaking Bad and Mad Men (although neither are this season, I still count them as the best shows on TV). One features a high school chemistry teacher turned meth cook, and the other deals with a 1960's New York advertising agency, complete with its debauchery, drinking and womanizing.

Neither are exactly family friendly.

So if you're looking for a little family tv time, something to get everyone around the tube and not only be safe for viewing by children but that would also inspire discussion, then the best place to look is DVD (or getting with the times, Blu-Ray). So what are the most family friendly shows available for rental or purchase?

1. Lost
One of the most Catholic and religious shows to come out in a long time, Lost was an example of ambitious storytelling, excellent character development and plot twists. Seasons 1 and 3 are nearly flawless in their epic scope, but that doesn't take away from the other seasons (6 total). There is imagery (including baptism), thematic elements (faith and reason is the main theme of the whole show, as well as destiny vs. free will).

There is virtually no sex, which is rare for a network show, and there is no swearing. The violence is minimal and is never glamorous. The bottom line is that you never have to worry about your children watching this show.

Just prepared to get hooked from the beginning and you will miss it when it's over.

2. Friday Night Lights
Often written off as another campy teenage high school show, FNL is anything but. Sure, there are high school relationships, the show maintains a lot of the problems that high schoolers have and in the first couple seasons, can blow these out of proportion. But what high school student doesn't think that his inability to speak with girls is the worst thing that will possibly happen to him?

Being a high school drama, there is instances of sex and references to sex, and unfortunately with the society we live in, that is come to be expected. But there is no gratuitous scenes (it is an NBC show after all), and that is never the focus of an episode or show.

Coach Eric Taylor actually gives one of most positive role models on television, probably of all time. He is dedicated to his players, he helps them and makes them winners (in life and in football, because cheese is sometimes a good thing), and he is also a wonderful husband and father. Coach and Mrs. Coach offer the best marriage on television, love and respect, disagreements and resolution, compromise and care. If you want to catch a glimpse of the best marriage on television, as well as an excellent football show, give Friday Night Lights a shot.

3. Battlestar Galactica (with an asterisk)
I am placing an asterisk next to this because this is by far the most mature of the shows on this list. In the first few episodes, Gaius Baltar simulates sex with at times a real Cylon and at times an imaginary one. There are few instances of this, but they do exist. But they also exist for a purpose, and there is never any nudity involved.

The topics that will come up from this series could last an entire month by themselves. It follows the travels of the final 47,000 people in the galaxy after the colonies have been nuked by the evil Cylons. Abortion, politics, terrorism, freedom, love, justice, everything is discussed and presented.

Similar to Lost, one of Galactica's main themes is monotheism vs. polytheism. Religion and faith play a central role in the flesh and blood humans and the robotic Cylons. Both of them have reasons for believing in what they do, and both argue with each other.

4. Firefly
Do you like science fiction? Do you like westerns? Have you ever wanted to see what would happen if the two were combined into one? Well then do we have the show for you!

Created by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) and starring Nathan Fillion, Firefly only lasted 1 season comprised of 13 episodes, but each episode will leave you wanting more, and when those 13 episodes are done, there is a movie to give you somewhat closure and whet your appetite for more (Serenity).

It really is a wonderful show, and while lacking the religious themes of Lost or Galactica, its approaches to humanity and loyalty are unraveled, and when you're done, you will put Malcolm Reynolds in your top 5 characters.

But most importantly, there is rarely sex, the violence is never over the top, and there is no swearing (it aired on Fox, who is the reason for its demise, and you will express anger at them when you are done watching the short season).

Your family will enjoy this without a doubt, and children of all ages will consider themselves lucky to be able to view such a wonderful project.

5. The Simpsons
Given a bad rap for years because of the backtalking Bart, the first 10 years are unrivaled in their brilliance, wit and imagination. The stories are clever and one of the best forms of satire available in a relatively available medium.

Are there instances of crassness and crudeness? Sure. But what show doesn't have these nowadays? That's an unfortunate side effect of society, but give the first 4 or 5 seasons a chance, parents, teenagers, young adults will all be watching and laughing.

Besides, there is the constant that drives the show. Homer loves Marge and Marge loves Homer. The whole Simpsons family is based on their love and understanding, and the hijinks are caused by one of them trying to either impress the other or participate in their children's lives.

It really is a wonderful achievement in storytelling and one that should not be ignored because of the stupidity of the last 10 years or so.


  1. Its a tragedy that Firefly was cancelled after only one season and Serenity is one of my top 3 favorite movies!
    I really like the sci-fi mixture of old west and Chinese.

  2. I'm glad you're doing this. Although I don't watch American TV much, it helps to know that everything on the tube is not irredeemable. I really hate the over-sexualized content of nearly everything today.

  3. The Simpsons have something against fathers. I mean seriously, Homer's a total idiot and Flander's a pansy.

  4. An idiot does not necessarily make a bad father. Homer still would do anything for his kids, evidenced numerous times throughout the show's run.

    Besides, I know plenty of idiots who are great fathers.