When you ask people about the unexpected benefits of quarantining and social distancing with their families for the past eight months, lots of people mention family dinners. They talk about how they’ve all sat down at the dinner table as a family to break bread and chat. Our family is the opposite. In fact, we have not had dinner together at the table once time since March. Seriously. Not once. Does that mean we haven’t had our own family bonding? Not at all. But instead of bonding around the dinner table, we’ve been bonding in front of the TV. That’s right, every night at dinner time, we grab our plates and settle into the living room to watch a show together.
Some might think that this isn’t really quality time together because we’re zoning out in front of the television. To which I would respond, “CTFD and MYOB, Karen.” Family dinner-and-a-show has been amazing for our family. We’ve escaped into action packed sci-fi shows. We’ve watched serious dramas together with lots of conversation starters about important topics. And we’ve laughed our asses off. Few things are as good for the soul — and for bonding — as laughing together. Especially during the middle of a never-ending pandemic that makes you want to cry most days.
In an effort to add a few more must-see shows to our nightly routine, I asked folks for recommendations. Here are some fave shows to watch with your teens and pre-teens.
1. New Girl
I was not expecting to love it as much as I did, but there are so many things to love about this show. I seriously cannot remember when I have ever laughed so much during a show. EVER.
2. The Office
I mean, it’s a classic. The Office was basically on 24/7 over the summer, and though I’ve seen most episodes several times, I only recently watched the last two seasons. My teen son absolutely loved the gaudy humor, and watching Jim and Pam’s love story never gets old.
There are two kinds of people in the world: people who are Schitt’s Creek fans and people who are wrong. It’s just that simple.
Produced and co-created by genius Mindy Kaling (along with Lang Fisher), this coming-of-age story about a 15-year-old, Indian-American teen dealing with the aftermath of a tragedy has it all. Teen drama. Complex family dynamics. Diversity. And some whip-smart humor. The only downside: there’s one one season out so you’ll finish it pretty quickly.
5. Ted Lasso
I have been hearing about Ted Lasso everywhere. Touted as a raunchy, feel-good story, it’s definitely on our next-up list.
Our family just started watching this bubbly show. It was created by Tina Fey and Robert Carlock and stars the effervescent Ellie Kemper, which basically tells you everything you need to know about the show’s vibe.
By now, everyone has heard of Stranger Things. If you haven’t watched it yet, you really need to hurry up.
8. Cobra Kai
This is one of those reboots that is actually supposed to be good. It catches up with Danny and Johnny from Karate Kid. It is heavy on the ’80s nostalgia with a healthy dose of things-are-not-always-as-they-seem themes.
9. West Wing
For the past four years, I’ve avoided watching West Wing because the political reality was too upsetting, but now that we are going to have a President who isn’t a batshit bonkers racist, maybe we’ll give this one a try.
10. Modern Family
If you like feel-good, goofy family sitcoms, this is the show for you. It has all the makings of the traditional sitcom with 21st century representation.
11. Umbrella Academy
I absolutely love this series. It’s creative and action-packed, with amazing acting and a killer soundtrack. Only two seasons are out, but Netflix, you better come through with Season 3.
12. Big Bang Theory
This was another long-running sitcom recommended by tons of parents of teens. With 12 seasons of this award-winning show, it will provide hours, days, weeks, months of entertainment.
With nine seasons — and Neil Patrick Harris — here’s another sitcom that will entertain discerning teens and their parents.
Lord knows we could all use a little Leslie Knope can-do optimism right now.
Known for its accurate, non-sugar-coated take on parenthood and marriage — along with its tell-it-like-it-is approach to white supremacy and racism — Black-ish is a must-watch for parents and teens.
Several parents recommended this one, and since it’s currently sitting at #1 on Netflix, there must be a reason why it’s so popular. Beware though: there’s only one season of seven episodes so it won’t last long.
17. Outer Banks
Another one-season binge, Outer Banks will almost have you wishing you were a teen again.
18. Gilmore Girls
Lots of parents said they loved watching Gilmore Girls with their teens. I never watched, and this isn’t really my family’s taste, but it definitely has a cult following.
19. Sex Education
There is plenty of buzz about this British comedy-drama series in the past couple years. Bonus: it’s an opportunity to talk to teens about sex in a non-awkward or cringey way.
20. The Good Place
Funny and heart-warming. But be warned: your kids will be saying “what the fork” non-stop.
My husband and I were such big fans of Arrested Development when it first came out that we actually named our dogs after two of the characters — Jobe (after G.O.B.) and Maeby. While the last two seasons really missed the mark, the first three seasons from the original run are as hilarious as ever.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some dinner to pick up and shows to binge.