When I was a kid, there were a few shows that were completely off-limits. The one I remember the most was Married… With Children.
Even though it was a popular series at the time, my parents had issues with it. I was a loyal kid, so I never questioned them. To this day, decades later, I still feel like I’m doing something wrong if I catch a glimpse of the show in syndication — so something stuck.
These days, there are so many channels and programs out there that parents literally can’t prescreen them all. Back in the day, there was no Netflix or YouTube. Most cable shows were known to keep things clean during the daytime hours, but even now, networks are starting to adjust their standards.
Plus, self-made entertainers are putting their own content out there on an hourly basis. So how do parents gain more control over what their kids watch?
One of the easiest things to do is talk to your kids about what they’re currently viewing. Make it an open conversation, and try not to judge. Remember, shows are more open about drugs and sex these days. If teens see it, it doesn’t mean they’ll be influenced to do it.
If something seems questionable, let them know why. You can also guide them in the right direction. So many great shows from our own childhoods are currently streaming, meaning that you can turn your favorite television show into a way to bond with your teen. New shows are also coming out pretty quickly that tackle once-taboo topics, helping kids become even more accepting.
Here are 15 television shows that your teen will benefit from watching.
Just one warning — season one of the Netflix series Special does include a sex scene, but it may be one of the most innocent sex scenes of all time. The show focuses on a gay man named Ryan with cerebral palsy and his attempts to try and retell his story after feeling nervous that his disability will negatively define him. The show takes an in-depth (and also humorous) look at real issues and serves a reminder to never judge a book by its cover. Ryan is someone whom everyone will immediately want to be friends with.
Similarly, Atypical is an excellent look into the world of autism. The Netflix show focuses on 18-year-old Sam Gardner, who wants to venture into the world of dating but finds it difficult, especially with his overprotective family, who are dealing with their own struggles — including infidelity.
Freaks and Geeks
Known as one of the most unfortunate show cancellations, Freaks and Geeks has made appearances on a few streaming services in the past and is also available on DVD. Created by Paul Feig and Judd Apatow, the comedy-drama was all about the pressures of finding a group and fitting in. The show takes place in the ’80s, so it’s a fun watch for everyone.
Jane the Virgin
The premise of the show is a little strange — Jane, a girl who has promised to remain celibate before marriage, accidentally gets artificially inseminated at the doctor’s office. But still, the show has gained quite the fan base. It also talks about important issues such as abortion and reproductive rights, meaning that your teen may learn something very valuable from it. The show is currently streaming on Netflix.
For a cartoon about a talking horse, BoJack Horseman is surprisingly deep. The series touches on topics like drug use, depression, abuse, and the negative side of fame in a way that no other show has, and it still manages to be clever. It’s a mature show, but it’s important. Part one of the show’s final season just came 0ut on Netflix, with part two expected to air in 2020.
Thanks to Netflix, The Office has gained an entirely new fan base of teens and young adults who are experiencing Michael Scott for the first time. Obviously, the writing and acting are what make this comedy shine. But it also normalizes less-engaging job environments. Most of us have experienced jobs like Dunder Mifflin before, so it’s good that a series like this exists.
Some of the pop culture references may be a little stale, but Netflix has also let a new generation fall in love with Rory and Lorelai Gilmore. The fast-paced drama-comedy is a fun and heartwarming watch for every member of the family. Starting the show at the age of 15, the character of Rory is also relatable to teens who are also trying to navigate through their academic and social life.
There aren’t many shows out there that have a cast made up primarily of women. That’s why shows like GLOW are essential. The Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling have to navigate issues like infidelity, stereotyping, racism, and even sexism — but they manage to come out ahead. There’s occasional sex, drugs, and nudity, but not enough to cloud the story lines that matter.
This Is Us
It might be known as a show that’s set on making people cry, but it’s also an important drama about family. This Is Us focuses on multiple timelines, which means that viewers get to know the show’s characters on a completely different level. Teens who watch will be able to see that all families have different sets of struggles. A lot of the episodes also contain an important message or lesson, either about parenting or childhood.
The Good Place
If your teen is watching The Good Place, they probably have a solid sense of humor. Ted Danson, Kristen Bell, and D’Arcy Carden are three of the strongest actors in the series, which takes place primarily in the afterlife. The show is currently streaming on Hulu if you want to catch up.
One Day at a Time
When One Day at a Time was canceled on Netflix, fans were so outraged that another network called Pop wasted no time scooping it up to continue the story of the Alvarez family. The cancellation was confusing, as the show continued to make headlines for being well-written. The show is about a Cuban American single mom who’s also a veteran. It tackles big topics like PTSD, mental health, immigration, and racism.
Black-ish has been such a successful sitcom for ABC that creators figured a spin-off was necessary. Called Grown-ish, it follows the college adventures of Zoey, played by actress Yara Shahidi. The show is all about her journey to becoming an adult, which teens will have no problem understanding.
It may be hard to believe it, but everyone’s favorite ’90s sitcom has grown another fan base thanks to Netflix. Once the show started streaming in 2015, it was easy to binge-watch and put on in the background — and since Jennifer Aniston is still relevant, kids were curious. Some of the show’s plot lines and jokes are a bit dated, but it’s a good opportunity to discuss some of the issues media had in the ’90s that we are working to fix today.
Anne With an E
Those of us who grew up watching Megan Follows as Anne Shirley back in 1985 were thrilled to hear the news that another Anne of Green Gables series was in the works a few years back. Season three of Anne With an E is expected to hit Netflix this January, meaning that your teen has plenty of time to catch up if they start watching now. For teens with an adventurous spirit, Anne may very well be their fictional soulmate.
Aidy Bryant is one of the most talented young comedians out there, so it should come as no surprise that Hulu gave her a show. Shrill is a show about self-discovery and body image. Season two will be debuting in 2020 on Hulu.