• It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… For Family TV

    by  • December 4, 2018 • Family Friendly • 1 Comment


    Trying to find something wholesome and entertaining enough for the whole family to watch together is not just challenging these days, it’s nigh impossible.

    Except during the holidays.

    From late October to the end of December there is a wealth of family-friendly viewing options. Not just on the broadcast networks, but on cable, too. And those run the gamut from decades-old seasonal animated favorites like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, to classic Rankin and Bass Claymation specials like The Year Without a Santa Claus, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, to cinematic classics from Hollywood’s Golden Age like Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s a Wonderful Life. You can also find modern-day favorites like Home Alone, and The Santa Clause and over on Hallmark, there’s a whole month’s worth of sweet, sentimental original programming.

    For those who don’t celebrate Christmas, there’s also a wide selection of non-seasonal family-friendly entertainment options during this time of year, like Pixar movies, live productions of favorite Broadway musicals and the Kennedy Center Honors.

    For a busy parent, this abundance of family-friendly programming might lull you into a false sense of security. You might be tempted to plop the kids down in front of the TV while you finish your gift-wrapping, holiday baking or decorating, or the thousand-and-one other things that need to get done before the holidays. Unfortunately, in this current media climate, a parent can’t safely let their guard down, even for a moment. Here are a few tips for navigating Holiday entertainment with young ones.

    1. Watch out for those ad breaks

    Every year Freeform (Formerly ABC Family) runs a 25-day marathon of holiday programming starting on December 1st. But while the cartoons, movies and specials they are airing during the marathon might be perfectly clean and family-friendly, the original series they promote during the ad breaks are often decidedly not. Much of their original content is hyper-sexualized tween/teen fare and the ads often play-up the soapy drama and relationship angst that characterize these series. Compounding the problem, those inappropriate promos are also often interspersed with junk food, candy and toy ads – a double-whammy for parents.

    If you own a DVR, this is a great time to put it to use to skip past the ad breaks.

    2. Pre-screen new Holiday specials before letting your child watch

    Cashing-in on the box-office success of the Trolls movie, last year NBC rolled-out Trolls Holiday. If you just set your kids down in front of the TV, relying on this special to be kid-appropriate and family-friendly, you might be surprised to learn that this cute cartoon designed for kids included pixilated nudity of one of the troll characters (his genital area was blurred) followed by several troll characters being “bleeped,” as though they were using profanity.

    Some new holiday specials are destined to become modern-day classics; and might even make it into your rotation of go-to specials you look forward to watching and re-watching every year – but some you’d do better to skip entirely. The only way to know is to pre-screen new cartoons and specials before letting your kids watch.

    3. Don’t Just Binge, Record Your Favorite Programs and Space-Out the Viewing.

    By the middle of January this family programming oasis will turn again into a desert, and you’ll be hard-pressed to find something you’d feel comfortable letting your kids watch. So rather than binge-watching everything that’s available now – especially when there are so many other activities and events to keep your kids entertained and distracted — DVR some of your favorites so you have something you can watch together in January and beyond, when the networks again forget about family audiences and entertainment options are slim.

    4. Remind the Networks That You Are There All Year

    In their mania to appear young and hip and to appeal to millennial viewers, networks conveniently forget about the family they were so eager to court during the holidays. This is especially true during “sweeps” seasons (November, February and May), when ratings data is collected so the networks can set their ad rates. If you are a Nielsen family – use this opportunity to show the networks that you value family-programming. And if you aren’t a Nielsen family, try reaching out to the networks or your local broadcast affiliates to let them know that you want to see more family-friendly entertainment throughout the year.

    It is a wonderful time of year for family, and a wonderful time to make memories – even if it means just relaxing and watching a holiday special together.




    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.

    One Response to It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year… For Family TV

    1. Connie Gibbs
      December 8, 2018 at 7:20 pm

      Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach (disgrace) to any people. Our nation has become a disgrace as we pour “adult” material onto the airways. No, you don’t make people watch it, but you make it titillating so their own lust will conceive and result in sin. Children are the life of this country. Please make it so parents can block the language, sex and violence from their TVs. Not only our children’s lives are at stake, but our nation also.

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