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Three New Shows to Watch With Your Teens
October 15, 2011  | By Jane Boursaw
Terra-Nova-family-Fox.jpg After some recent marathon TV-watching -- so I'd have something useful to say for the TVWW 2011 Fall Previewguide -- I was starting to think there just aren't any great shows anymore. And shows that families can watch together? Practically nonexistent.

Maybe my memory is washed in a fine patina of nostalgia, but doesn't it seem like TV shows used to be better? You know, shows with solid writing, characters you could relate to, and jokes that were actually funny. Shows like The Dick Van Dyke Show in the '60s, M*A*S*H in the '70s, The Cosby Show in the '80s, and Frasier in the '90s. (Yes, the voice in my head just put a cigar in its mouth and said, "Why, back when I was a kid . . . ").

But seriously, folks, I think we can all agree that good shows are few and far between right now, especially if you're trying to find something to watch with your kids that doesn't make you want to throw an invisibility cloak over the TV. But have no fear, I've managed to compile three that make the grade. Well, at least for teens. And they've been field tested at home, since my teens (14 and 17) don't mind watching these with me.


Terra Nova (Fox, TV-14). What I love about this show is that there's something for everyone. There's a Neanderthal storyline with all sorts of fun creatures. There's a family unit, which offers all kinds of dramatic and comedic possibilities. There's Stephen Lang, who's in a class by himself. And even though I was worried when they blew a big chunk of their budget on the pilot, the succeeding episodes have been interesting enough to keep me and the kids watching.

Terra Nova has a fair bit of violence and some grisly scenes involving attacks by dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures. There's also some mild language (things like "damn" and "son of a bitch"), some drinking (teens make moonshine in one episode, but pay the consequences), and some romantic entanglements. But it all falls within the TV-14 rating, and the show brings home the importance of family and friends, especially if you find yourself transported back 85 million years for the ultimate Earth Do-Over.


The X Factor (Fox, TV-14). This show barely made the list, thanks to one audition where a guy dropped his pants and was allowed to remain on stage (say what?). The camera panned to the audience, and we saw parents fleeing the auditorium with their kids in tow -- and rightly so. Even Paula Abdul left the room in disgust, barely making it to the bathroom in time to toss up her arugula salad.

Still, we're big fans of American Idol around here, and whether The X Factor showrunners admit it or not, it's a lot like Idol. Tearful stories of people dealing with horrible situations, genuinely talented budding stars, and judges who've been through the mill themselves and have something valuable to offer. It all makes for compelling and inspiring TV that tells both kids and adults it's never too late to reach for their dreams.

Things to be aware of: rampant advertising (but hey, these shows cost a lot to make, and I'm ok with Sony and Pepsi getting their money's worth), heated exchanges between the contestants and the judges, bleeped out language, suggestive dance moves, and a bit of cross-dressing here and there.


Up All Night (NBC, TV-14). There's no doubt this show starring Christina Applegate and Will Arnett as new parents is best appreciated by parents who understand the challenges of making it up as we go along. But it also encourages respect in a marriage, talking things out, and nurturing healthy relationships. And it's darn funny. Please watch it, because the ratings slipped last week and I'd hate to see it disappear.

There's the expected references to sex (talk of "making out" and "doing it"), couples getting affectionate with each other, and the use of alcohol as a coping mechanism (but, you know, sometimes a parent needs wine). "Ass" is about as bad as the language gets, although there are a few bleeped-out words here and there. That just makes it funnier, though, because everyone knows new parents are prone to swearing profusely at the drop of a diaper.

Think these shows are OK for teens? What other new shows are you watching with your teens?

Click over to read Jane's Fall 2011 TV picks for Awesome, Mediocre and Downright Awful.


NoPotCooking said:

I tried to watch Up All Night and just could not do it. I think that somehow I'm just over sitcoms entirely maybe.

Comment posted on October 16, 2011 4:58 PM
sheryl said:

No more teens at home. Makes me sad when I see shows like this that we could share together. Maybe I'll just have to watch w/hubby or solo...

Comment posted on October 16, 2011 11:16 PM
Susan said:

I haven't watched Up All Night yet, but it does look cute. Do you think Glee is worth watching with teens or is that too mature for actual high schoolers?

Comment posted on October 17, 2011 7:06 AM
Casey said:

I confess that even as a woman who's childfree by choice, I'm still watching Up All Night. I could watch Maya Rudolph in pretty much any situation.

Comment posted on October 17, 2011 7:24 AM
ruth pennebaker said:

Don't you think there's a difference in quality broadcast TV shows simply because of some of the great programs on HBO and Showtime? There is quality around -- it's just that you have to pay to get it.

Comment posted on October 17, 2011 11:57 AM
MyKidsEatSquid said:

So true that there are fewer and fewer shows to watch with your kids. I'll have to try Terra Nova. We've been rediscovering shows via NetFlix. My kids love Deep Space Nine.

Comment posted on October 17, 2011 2:26 PM
Living Large said:

It's been awhile since I had teens in the house. So long, in fact, that we were watching the original 90210 together! So, I don't know. Last season, I would have recommended watching "Life Unexpected" together, but they canceled that one pronto. The promos to "Up all Night" drove us so crazy throughout the summer, there's no way I would want to watch that one with anyone!

Comment posted on October 18, 2011 8:11 AM
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