Watching TV with your teens has all kinds of pitfalls: out-of-the-blue raunchy sex scenes, a surprise bloodbath (Game of Thrones, anyone?), and other awkward moments you never wanted to share with your kids. And that’s if you’re lucky enough to get them in the room! But the right shows can bring families together.
Even though it doesn’t always feel like it, part of the fun of raising teens is that they have the ability to think deeply about issues, with strong opinions that are easier to share when they’re talking about TV and not their own lives. You can use the following teen-friendly shows as a launchpad for conversations you might not otherwise be able to have. And your kids might, just might, think you’re cool for a brief, wonderful moment.
Amazing Race, CBS
Competitions and game shows are great for parents and teens to watch together; they’re engrossing, dramatic, and thoroughly entertaining. This one can inspire chats about teamwork, perseverance, and even culture clashes.
The Good Place, NBC
This afterlife-set series asks the big questions in delightfully ridiculous ways. Teens just figuring out how they feel about the world and what it means to be a good person will love exploring deep stuff through the lens of a motley crew of misfits (including Jacksonville’s worst amateur EDM DJ masquerading as a Buddhist monk!) who definitely don’t belong in “the good place.”
A sitcom that’s appropriate for whole-family viewing, this lovable show is funny, brave, and topical for families of all colors and creeds. And older teens who are ready for plots that are a bit more mature can follow daughter Zoey to college on spinoff Grown-ish.
Queer Eye, Netflix
Your teen may think they’re tough as nails, but all parties will be reaching for the box of tissues after watching this heartwarming and just-plain-fun makeover show. While it’s a delight to watch the physical transformations created by lifestyle experts the Fab 5, it’s the self-esteem lessons and examples of human kindness that really shine, making this much more than your average reality show.
Freaks and Geeks, streaming
This early ’80s-set cult classic is so hilarious your teens might forget that it’s all about how hard it is to be a teenager. No show understands teen angst like this one, and teens will see themselves and their own challenges reflected in a freak, a geek, or both.
Yeah, it’s pretty square. But it can also be a low-key way to test your knowledge against your teens. With its topical, historical, and just-plain-fun trivia questions, it can spark interesting discussions.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus, streaming
Pretty clean and seriously silly, teens who are just developing their grown-up sense of humor will come for the goofy sight gags but stay for the absurd satire.
Nailed It!, Netflix
Cooking shows have long been a welcome safe space for all-family viewing; from Chopped to The Great British Baking Show, they offer just enough drama and hardly any cringe-worthy moments. However, this goofy dessert competition has just the right amount of edge for teens who crack up at cake fails and jokes that’ll land with grown-ups too.
Teens are old enough to understand that all the characters on this show about nothing are selfish, rude, and an absolute delight to watch.
Star Trek: The Next Generation, streaming
If your kids are sci-fi fans, this is a wonderful watch-together option. Its futuristic setting allows it to make social commentary on all kinds of issues, including racial discrimination, intergalactic political rivalries, gay rights, and lots more, without being too heavy-handed.
Stranger Things, Netflix
This retro sci-fi mystery is a really fun choice for families with older teens. Not only does it star lots of great kids and teens learning some major lessons about friendship, love, and life, but its plot, featuring creepy government plots, a spooky underworld, and lots of drama, is gripping from start to finish (and just scary enough!).