• At A Loss for Something to Watch with Your Kids? Try Returning To These TV Classics

    by  • August 5, 2015 • Other • 10 Comments


    Creating wholesome programming that is suitable and entertaining for the whole family seems to have either fallen out of fashion, or else it has become a lost art, like calligraphy or cooperage. There was a time, not long ago, when the television schedule was packed with programs you could appreciate as an adult, and yet not be embarrassed to let your children watch, too.

    Instead of “broadcasting,” casting a wide-net, trying to lure-in as many viewers as possible, network executives have taken a divide-and-conquer approach to program development, which means that instead of sitting together in one room watching TV as a family, often today you’ll see mom in one room, watching Scandal, for example; Dad in another room watching a game perhaps, or maybe Game of Thrones; and the kids in yet another room, watching the Disney Channel or Nickelodeon or streaming content over their mobile devices.

    Scandal might be a top-notch drama, but it’s not something you’d want to watch with your kids around. And although Liv and Maddie might be a perfectly fine show for your 12-year-old, there’s likely not much there that would interest mom and dad.

    But this approach ignores the reality of how most of us want to watch TV. After spending most of the week apart, split-up by school, work, sports, extracurriculars, and other commitments; most families treasure those precious few hours they have together during the week, and if we’re going to watch TV to unwind, most of us want to spend that time together with our families.

    Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Jennifer Breheny Wallace reports that research bears out what parents seem to have intuitively figured out: watching TV together is good for families.

    A paper published this past summer in the Journal of Adolescent Research reviewed longitudinal data on 633 adolescents and their parents. It found positive outcomes for families that used media such as TV, movies and the Internet “as a tool—to laugh together, to become informed, to connect, to spark discussion.” Such shared activities led to greater levels of personal disclosure for adolescent boys, more positive family functioning for adolescent girls and greater parental involvement for both.

    Television also can be an effective tool for improving social-emotional skills in young children, but parents have to be choosy. In a study published last year in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, researchers assessed which programs most encouraged such learning. “Look for shows that focus on altruistic behaviors like sharing and cooperation,” says lead researcher Claire Christensen of the University of Illinois at Chicago, and avoid those that rely too much on negative behaviors to teach a lesson. “Children whose parents explicitly talk about the shows’ lessons immediately afterwards,” she says, “are more likely to learn” positive social skills.

    Perhaps that’s why increasingly parents are tuning-out the raunchy sitcoms and over-sexed, hyper-violent dramas the networks are offering, and instead returning to the classic shows they grew up with.

    The good news is there are a few cable networks that also get it, and they have fashioned their schedules with families in mind. UP, INSP, and Hallmark are great places to turn for the TV classics you grew up with and that you can safely share with your own kids.

    Some highlights:

    Little House on the Prairie Based on the beloved semi-autobiographical stories by Laura Ingalls Wilder of her childhood growing up on America’s frontier during the 19th century, and how the family persevered together, Little House became an instant TV classic starring Michael Landon as Pa and Melissa Gilbert as little Laura, and can be seen on INSP weekdays at 5 and 6 pm ET and on the Hallmark channel weekdays from 2-4.

    The Waltons follows a close-knit family living in rural Virginia during the Great Depression and World War II. Episodes emphasize strong moral values and familial love. The Waltons can be seen on INSP weekdays at 3, 4, & 8 pm and Sundays 3, 4 & 5 pm ET or on the Hallmark Channel at 5-8 pm weekdays.

    If you prefer lighthearted comedy, I Love Lucy is hard to beat. It’s a classic sitcom about Lucy Ricardo, a scheming housewife who is always trying to break into show business, her entertainer husband, Ricky; and their best friends and neighbors, Fred and Ethel Mertz. During the May sweeps, approximately 6.4 million Americans turned to CBS for back-to-back colorized episodes of I Love Lucy. That’s nearly twice as many as tuned-in for the much-ballyhooed series finale of Mad Men that same night. But you don’t have to wait for CBS to decide to dust off another episode. If you have a DVR, the Hallmark channel runs Lucy in the early morning hours nearly every day. Set your DVR to record episodes in the morning and enjoy them with your kids that night.

    If you were a child of the ‘80s and are feeling nostalgic, UP is airing reruns of Growing Pains and Family Ties weekday mornings. Here again, you can set a DVR to record in the morning and watch with your family at night.

    If you like Westerns, INSP has brought back The Virginian about the mysterious foreman of the Shiloh Ranch who lives by a code of honor based on honesty, bravery, loyalty, respect, justice, and hard work. The Virginian airs Saturdays at 1, 2:30, 8 & 9:30 ET on INSP.

    Another classic western, Bonanza can still be seen on TV Land. Michael Landon shot to fame in this series about a thrice-widowed rancher and his three sons. And unlike many westerns of the time, Bonanza strongly emphasized family and core values, instead of gunfights and range wars.


    Do you have a favorite TV classic that you enjoy sharing with your kids or that you look forward to sharing with your kids? Tell us what it is in the comments, and why you like it.

    For more family-friendly viewing suggestions, check out our PTC Picks at http://w2.parentstv.org/main/Toolkit/PTCPicks.aspx.




    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    10 Responses to At A Loss for Something to Watch with Your Kids? Try Returning To These TV Classics

    1. Jewel Podaras
      August 24, 2015 at 3:01 pm

      I would like to see “Touched by an Angel” and “Highway to Heaven” re-runs as often as possible. Both were excellent in substance as well in quality of acting.

      • moax429
        September 4, 2015 at 12:36 pm

        “Highway to Heaven” is currently airing weeknights from 8:00 – 9:00 P.M. Eastern on Retro TV.

        See http://www.myretrotv.com for more information.

    2. Laura
      August 21, 2015 at 8:18 pm

      Highway to Heaven was another family program as well as 7th Heaven that I would to see come back.

    3. Tom
      August 21, 2015 at 6:09 am

      DR. QUINN MEDICINE WOMAN. You can find reruns on TV but I bought the entire DVD set so we could watch it from the beginning with no commercials. That is our Sunday night family routine.

      These aren’t classics but HEARTLAND and WHEN CALLS THE HEART are two shows that we can watch as a family.

    4. SUSAN
      August 21, 2015 at 4:07 am

      We watch Perry Mason on meTV. It comes on in the morning and late at night. Entertaining drama with a lot of the old stars before they became so well known. Hallmark has a lot of good movies.

    5. moax429
      August 14, 2015 at 7:42 pm

      Sorry, but there are two classic comedy series that easily beat “I Love Lucy” in my book and can also be enjoyed by the entire family:
      “The Honeymooners” (I have the DVD box set of “The Classic 39″ episodes) and “The Carol Burnett Show” (the latter of which you’ve endorsed *many* times).

      That’s *not* to say that I don’t like Lucille Ball, though. I like everything she did from “The Lucy Show” going forward until her passing in 1989 (I have *all 6* official season DVD box sets of “The Lucy Show;” that, too, can be enjoyed by the entire family).

    6. Paul Fitzpatrick
      August 7, 2015 at 10:52 am

      Some parental discretion advised for GROWING PAINS and FAMILY TIES.

      • Sara
        August 17, 2015 at 12:00 pm

        Some parental discretion advised for GOLDEN GIRLS too, which is on the Hallmark Channel a lot. It’s rated TV-PG and even has content descriptors for Mild Language and/or Suggestive Dialogue on almost every episode. It’s a funny show though.

        • SUSAN
          August 21, 2015 at 4:02 am

          Golden Girls is terrible. Very entertaining and funny but the program is built very much around the women’s sex lives and has a lot of sacrilegious dialogue plus cursing. I deem it unwatchable.

        • moax429
          August 22, 2015 at 11:34 am

          *Much* parental discretion advised for “The Golden Girls.”

          While it is a funny show, it is definitely *not* intended for children or family viewing. There is an abundance of sexually explicit and adult humor in almost every episode of that series (perhaps Hallmark should rerate it TV-14). And, ironically, *Disney* – that’s right, Disney, under the pseudonym “Touchstone Television” – produced “The Golden Girls.” (After Disney and ABC merged in 1995, Disney changed Touchstone Television’s name to ABC Studios 15 years later.)

          I remember when Disney first syndicated “Golden Girls” to local stations in the fall of 1988, WTOL, Channel 11 in Toledo, Ohio, received a complaint from a viewer about the station’s running the show at 5:00 P.M. in the afternoon when young children might be watching. The viewer ended his letter by saying, “If you cannot be more socially responsible and move this program to a later time slot or cancel it we will no longer be Channel 11 viewers.”

          Point *well* taken – WTOL soon yanked “Golden Girls” and another show at 5:30 P.M. (I don’t remember what it was) and added an earlier newscast during that 5:00 – 6:00 P.M. time slot. So indeed, there is strength in numbers as I’m positive other Toledo viewers spoke up, too.

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