Television has a bad reputation for shrinking the attention spans and warping the minds of young ones. That is not wholly unearned, of course, but television can do good as well as evil.Television is an invaluable babysitter and educator for many harried, overwhelmed parents.TV can also be a wonderful bonding tool for parents and children, an opportunity for them to find common ground in the shows they all adore. There’s lots of great children’s television out there that adults can enjoy in good conscience but the reverse is true as well. With that in mind, here are six adult streaming shows that children can enjoy as well. And just to be clear, when we say “children,” for this list, we’re thinking older kids, probably 7-years-old and beyond. We’re not saying these shows are always appropriate for older kids (parents have to determine that on their own) but we are saying these shows fill an interesting space of family viewing that isn’t always marketed as straight-up family shows. In other words, yes, we know The Twilight Zone is scary and The Makes Singer is nuts, but we still think these shows work with older kids!
Grown-ups can be spectacularly silly human beings: that is the sturdy underlying conceit behind the hit musical competition reality show The Masked Singer. It’s a zeitgeist-capturing show that forces ostensible adults like Mickey Rourke, Sarah Palin, Rudy Giuliani, and Johnny Rotten to wear ridiculous costumes while degrading themselves in a desperate bid for money, fame, and a little more time in the spotlight. Truth be told, The Masked Singer may actually be too juvenile even for small children but otherwise, it’s good, clean, dumb fun for the whole family.
The Twilight Zone has been a beloved staple of geeky childhoods for well over a half-century. The inimitable voice of Rod Serling as a writer, thinker, and narrator has always had a special place in the hearts of nerdy kids. Reruns have hipped multiple generations of children to science fiction’s capacity for social commentary and the genius of a truly inspired twist ending. Jordan Peele’s short-lived, underrated recent reboot of The Twilight Zone maintains the original’s emphasis on allegory and satire while updating the technology for the era of Black Mirror and the almighty iPhone.
The Simpsons isn’t just entertaining, or at least was entertaining! It’s also educational. Along with Mad magazine, it taught children the eternal truth that capitalism is a sham, adults are liars and hypocrites and show-business is full of phonies and crazed narcissists. The Simpsons also illustrate, unfortunately, that the law of diminishing returns affects even the greatest TV shows, and that it’s impossible to stay fresh and relevant after decades upon decades on the air. Watching The Simpsons with children also allows them to see where pretty much ALL of their parents’ references come from. Watching The Simpsons with the young ones is a perfectly cromulent endeavor destined to embiggen even the tiniest heart.
The 1998 feature film adaptation of Lost in Space is half-remembered primarily for its singularly ugly, Jar Jar Binks-level CGI and an attempted 2004 reboot titled The Robinsons: Lost in Space never got picked up despite John Woo directing the pilot. Thankfully Netflix succeeded wildly where others failed in resurrecting the classic 1960s family science-fiction show created by disaster mogul Irwin Allen and based loosely on The Swiss Family Robinson. The reboot perfectly casts Parker Posey in the scenery-chewing villain slot originally played by Jonathan Harris and manages to be ragingly wholesome without being saccharine. It ended after a mere three years but there’s something to be said for going out on top. Make no mistake, Lost in Space is one of the best family shows in years.
Ted Lasso is no mere hit television show and streaming standout: it’s a bona fide pop-culture phenomenon. But it’s more than that! It’s a way of life, of seeing the world through the prism of indefatigable optimism and positivity. Ted Lasso might be a little adult for very small children but tweens might respond to it for the same reason seemingly everyone else has.
Discovery+ Animal Planet: “Puppy Bowl:”
The puppy bowl is technically not a “show” per se but rather a yearly special designed as counter-programming for The Super Bowl, a massively hyped event dispiritingly short on puppies. That thankfully is not true of The Puppy Bowl, which is nothing BUT puppies cavorting about adorably in a vaguely football-themed tableau. What child can resist puppies? Or adult, for that matter? If there’s one thing that unites all of humanity it is an appreciation for baby dogs.