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SDG

Bro, do you even TV?

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I don't. At least, I don't watch anything current. There are a few shows we watch on Netflix or Amazon, but they're all older shows, mostly now off the air. (Actually, entirely, now that "Phineas and Ferb" has come to an end.) 

 

Despite this, I have (perhaps unwisely) taken on an assignment to write a piece on TV for a Catholic periodical…and while I have broad discretion to write about whatever I want to, and could easily write about shows from my childhood if I were so inclined, I'd like to focus as much as possible on recent/current TV. 

 

I'm looking for shows I can recommend with minimal reservations for various age groups: family viewing, teenagers and adults. "With minimal reservations" presumably excludes fare like "Hannibal," "Game of Thrones," "24," etc. (I say "presumably" because I've never seen any of the foregoing.) 

 

So tell me. What's out there, and who is it good for? 

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I'm actually not overwhelmed with the TV offerings right now. Anyone who's a Facebook friend and Twitter follower knows that I'm over-the-moon with Hannibal (it's theologically-minded horror done exquisitely well), but, yes, it's a "hard R" show if there ever was one.

I love Adventure Time, so there's that.

Edited by Ryan H.

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I'm actually not overwhelmed with the TV offerings right now. Anyone who's a Facebook friend and Twitter follower knows that I'm over-the-moon with Hannibal, but, yes, it's a "hard R" show if there ever was one.

I love Adventure Time, so there's that.

 

Gravity Falls is a show I've enjoyed.

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The only current shows that I watch and enjoy are Shark Tank and The Profit.  I find both shows extremely valuable, from a business-mindset perspective, but they need to be tempered with a reminder that the love of money is the root of all evil. And there are tense scenes with bleeped-out cuss-words in the latter show.

 

ETA: come to think of it, the closest you can get to family programming are the Netflix-bingeworthy "Friday Night Lights" and "Parenthood", but even these have their moments.

Edited by Nick Alexander

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I'm looking for shows I can recommend with minimal reservations for various age groups: family viewing, teenagers and adults. "With minimal reservations" presumably excludes fare like "Hannibal," "Game of Thrones," "24," etc. (I say "presumably" because I've never seen any of the foregoing.) 

 

So tell me. What's out there, and who is it good for?

I read the book Game of Thrones, but I haven't seen the TV show. However, I can easily say that if even half the book's content makes it into the TV show, you can very safely exclude it.

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There are a handful of comedy shows I find worthwhile, but they are (or at least can be) pretty ribald.

So I'm kind of at a loss, Steven. In terms of "classic" TV, I can think of endless options. In terms of current TV, if you want quality, you're often in the realm of the "R" rating or thereabouts.

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I enjoyed the first episode of Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, which might be below an "R."

 

What about all those PBS series? Call the MidwifePoldark.... I've not seen them, but PBS has historically been good at bringing over reasonably good shows with family appeal.

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Most certainly, Call the Midwife. While you're dealing with British imports, you should look at Downton Abbey as well. (non-spoiler - it's not a monastery.) Oh, and Doctor Who is still ongoing.

 

You might want to look at the whole range of ABC Family. I haven't watched them, but my impression of the one year I covered DIsney/ABC days at the winter TV press junket was that it's better than typical network fare.

 

Sitcoms worth checking: Modern FamilyBig Bang Theory

 

Madam Secretary: I like it, while I have to suspend judgment from time to time. Former CIA op is now Secretary of State. She's married to a theology/ethic prof (also with former intelligence background). As much about her persoanl and professional families as it is about geopolitics. It only has one season under its belt. 

Edited by Darrel Manson

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Not sure if I can get behind Downton Abbey as family fare; even outside its pilot episode's subplot that deals with mature themes, the whole series would put teenagers to sleep.

 

Neither for Big Bang Theory or Modern Family, although I enjoy the former very much. 

 

I believe that network television has given up on shows for the whole family.  They have entire channels for children, then tweens, then teens, then adults.

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I second Gravity Falls as an excellent family show - it is the kind of TV that would not have made it onto network or cable channels, but works very well in the Netflix environment. It is kind of a Twin Peaks for kids, in that there is a mystery arc for each season, and it pulls no punches about the darkness of adulthood. The first season gets into some really hairy stuff (child abuse, alcoholism), but does so very charitably. We are really impressed so far.

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I want to see SDG's take on FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS. But given his knowledge of graphic arts and animation, I'd also like to read his writing on animated shows.

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Thanks for all the suggestions so far, everyone.

 

Ryan, your comment that with modern TV, quality generally = R rated content confirms my vague, distant perception. 

 

The enthusiasm for "Gravity Falls" is encouraging; I'll look into it. Thanks also for plugs for "Friday Night Lights" and "Call the Midwife." 

 

Darrell, I have very much enjoyed "Doctor Who," but its definite post-Christian vibe (e.g., fairly regular gay themes) places it outside the scope of what I'm looking for. 

 

Nick, what's your concern about "Modern Family"? 

 

you should look at Downton Abbey as well. (non-spoiler - it's not a monastery.) 

 

FWIW, I believe all "Abbey" place-names in Great Britain were monasteries, seized from the Church by the state during the English Reformation and given to Henry's supporters among the nobility. 

 

Any other suggestions? Anders, any animated shows that stand out to you, now that "Phineas" has signed off? 

 

Redirect question: What is your all-time favorite TV show that would fit the criteria I'm looking for here, especially for families or for teens and up? 

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It's a bit dated, but I figure you might have an interesting, less reactionary take on Joan of Arcadia.

Not saying you'd like it...there are parts I find a little too new agey...but might be interesting to have a Catholic perspective on the way the show lowest common denominators the Joan of Arc mythos.

In terms of current shows, none of the stuff I watch is real family friendly. I've heard some chatter around Patheos that some people like The Flash. 

 

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I couldn't possibly say what I would advise watching with children or teens, if anything. Even the supposedly "teen" shows I watch I can't really recommend, though Finding Carter has its moments. Best dramas on networks right now for adults are probably The Americans (FX) and The Good Wife (CBS), both of which have families with parents in conflict and children who have made faith commitments that their parents don't fully support or understand. The title couple in The Americans are married Soviet spies in Reagan-era USA, whose children believe they run a travel agency. When their daughter gets gets involved with a church group, her atheist parents are horrified, yet the liberation theology of the pastor is uncomfortably close to the goals they have been taught are their own. And things get even more complicated. The show is definitely "TV-MA" with some grim violence and sex, but very well written & thoughtful. The Good Wife also has a daughter who becomes a Christian, and that is dealt with sensitively. Review of an episode from last fall.


Second Ken's recommendation of Joan of Arcadia, at least the first season. Second season went kind of crazy, and then it was cancelled before they could fix it.

 

Yes, for pure comic-book adventure, The Flash is pretty good.

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Redirect question: What is your all-time favorite TV show that would fit the criteria I'm looking for here, especially for families or for teens and up?

 

In terms of sitcoms, I believe The Middle fits your criteria.

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Nick, what's your concern about "Modern Family"?

Besides the premise?

I've watched a half-dozen episodes of the first season, and they were very funny, and they had great heart. But ultimately I concurred that, like your disenchantment with the Disney film "Frozen", there were no positive male archetypes on the show.

I get that life is complicated, and that most families, no matter their makeup, strive to be as loving and nurturing as they can be. That's not enough for me to make it a go-to series.

And from a comedy perspective, I saw the strings. I saw the story set-ups and knew where the jokes were going. It became predictable.

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Redirect question: What is your all-time favorite TV show that would fit the criteria I'm looking for here, especially for families or for teens and up? 

 

Middleman (ABC Family)--think the ITV Avengers crossed with Men in Black. Let's say for early teens and up.

 

...and looking at my DVD shelf shows how, um, specialized my interests are. The Saint, The Persuaders, The Avengers, The Prisoner, Nero Wolfe, the Granada Sherlock Holmes series--these strike me as perfectly reasonable family viewing. But I'm not sure even my family would agree.

 

One show that has minimal content issues, if that's part of the "family" thing, and is actual prestige drama might be John Adams. Then again, it was a miniseries more than a television series, so it might not fit the criteria. 

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Redirect question: What is your all-time favorite TV show that would fit the criteria I'm looking for here, especially for families or for teens and up?

For teens and up: Monty Python's Flying Circus - that's okay for teens, right?

 

For families: Monk and Columbo

Edited by Evan C

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Redirect question: What is your all-time favorite TV show that would fit the criteria I'm looking for here, especially for families or for teens and up?

For teens and up: Monty Python's Flying Circus - that's okay for teens, right?

 

Absolutely not, due to nudity.  But the sanitized And Now For Something Completely Different may suffice.

 

My picks:

Current: Shark Tank, The Amazing Race, and early episodes of The Apprentice.

Older:  WKRP in Cincinnati

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Redirect question: What is your all-time favorite TV show that would fit the criteria I'm looking for here, especially for families or for teens and up?

For teens and up: Monty Python's Flying Circus - that's okay for teens, right?

 

Absolutely not, due to nudity.  But the sanitized And Now For Something Completely Different may suffice.

I thought 13 or 14 might be pushing it, but I saw most of Flying Circus when I was 15 or 16. I suppose even at that age there might be a few episodes which would be too edgy, but I think most of the show would be okay for older teens at least.

 

Is the sanitized version of And Now For Something Completely Different different from the 1971 theatrical version?

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I think the so-called "family show," where you'd commonly find parents and kids watching together, is a casualty of modern television programing, which has grown more and more niche-marketed.  My eleven year-old watches ONCE UPON A TIME, but I can't vouch for quality.  My teens like a show called SWITCHED AT BIRTH that runs on ABC Family (and Netflix) but neither of those shows seems to want adults to watch them.  

 

On your redirect question:  I'd recommend GILMORE GIRLS as one of the last true parents and teens shows.  It's all on Netflix, and focuses on mother-daughter dynamics among three generations against the backdrop of an eccentric New England town.  The show has a really prominent moral backbone which is easy to see despite a lot of irreverence for where you might typically see those kinds of stirrings originating.  Grandma and grandpa (Kelly Bishop and the late Edward Hermann) are bluebloods whose precocious daughter (Lauren Graham) got pregnant at sixteen and moved out on her own with her own daughter.  The show goes on a bit too long, but the emotional beats are really fantastic.  Destructive behaviors-- adultery, teen sex, lying and the like-- are treated with seriousness.  We bought the complete set for my oldest daughter when she turned fifteen. 

Edited by Russ

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Is the sanitized version of And Now For Something Completely Different different from the 1971 theatrical version?

 

 

No.  I meant that ANFSCD is rated PG, so most of the real mature bits were not included.  There may be some Gilliam-animated sequences with statue-esque nudity, though.

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Redirect question: What is your all-time favorite TV show that would fit the criteria I'm looking for here, especially for families or for teens and up? 

 

Middleman (ABC Family)--think the ITV Avengers crossed with Men in Black. Let's say for early teens and up.

 

 

 

The Middleman is the most fun you can have with your clothes on smile.png  Silly, a little bit edgy. Lots of puns and sly (or not-so-sly) pop-culture allusions. Their motto: "Fighting evil so you don't have to."

 

I also recommend it because of this, from series creator Javier Grillo-Marxuach's introduction to the DVD set:

 

[Y]ou may watch The Middleman and come to the conclusion that our characters live in a fantasy world: an unreal realm where friendships are sustaining and sustained, where heroism is rewarded not with tragedy and further burden, but with hope--and where evil is the result not of an unbeatable, unknowable and all-encompassing conspiracy, but of a stone-headed unwillingness to face the challenges of life with common human decency.

     You may even be tempted to think that the worldview of The Middleman is naive: that you have been watching a bunch of Pollyannas spinning away childish fantasies of positivity...

     ...and as you walk away into the inky moral darkness of our complicated world--the truth of cruel, cold and meaningless existence--you may even be tempted to smile at a stranger you pass on the street...maybe because you are amused by our callow misunderstanding of life's bitter reality...or maybe just because it looks like that stranger on the street could use a smile.

     And when you do...just remember...our plan is sheer elegance in its simplicity.

Edited by BethR

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I think the so-called "family show," where you'd commonly find parents and kids watching together, is a casualty of modern television programing, which has grown more and more niche-marketed.  My eleven year-old watches ONCE UPON A TIME, but I can't vouch for quality.  My teens like a show called SWITCHED AT BIRTH that runs on ABC Family (and Netflix) but neither of those shows seems to want adults to watch them.  

 

 

The first season of Switched at Birth is worth a look (Emily Nussbaum review) After that, it became so soapy that I gave up, and I believe Nussbaum is more or less disenchanted as well.

 

Once Upon a Time, also, was pretty good in the first couple seasons. Took darker turn as the seasons progressed. I'm less than enchanted with the revisionist-fairy-tale tropes, as they become increasingly meaningless without the originals. And because this show is an ABC/Disney production, every story it revises is based on a Disney version, including Frozen. Ugh.

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