What are you watching?

Sometimes people assume that because I love books, I must hate tv. Let me assure you this is not the case. I love good storytelling in any format, and there’s wonderful storytelling to be had on the small screen.

When our kids were younger, Will and I enjoyed making our way through a show one or two episodes at a time after they went to bed. Now that they’re older—our youngest just turned twelve—there is no such thing as “after bedtime.” That means we’re more often on the lookout for shows that will please two parents, two high school girls, and one sixth grade boy. (My oldest is a college freshman, so he’s not often home for family tv nights.)

It’s not easy to find shows we all love—so when we do, I want to shout them from the rooftops! Your mileage may vary, but these two shows are making us happy these days.

Abbott Elementary

I mentioned this in my recent list of 8 (mostly) little things I’m loving for winter, and it bears repeating here. If you love Parks and Rec, give Abbott a try. In the same mockumentary style, it takes us inside a Philadelphia public school, focusing primarily on the staff and their relationships, though the kids are always present in a meaningful way. We all love it because it’s fun and funny and smart—we laugh SO HARD when we watch together—and, at the same time, it’s warm-hearted and kind. I adore the earnest and idealistic Janine (played by Quinta Brunson), but my very favorite scenes feature Gregory (played by Tyler James Williams). And I didn’t even tell you about my other six favorite characters!

Based on this description, if you’re inclined to try it—do it! I think you’ll like it. My only complaint is that we’re all caught up and need to wait for new episodes. (We’re watching on Hulu, which is a free perk that comes with our cell phone plan.)

Central Park

I would never have considered this show had my brother not recommended it, but he did, we gave it a try, and it stuck. (My youngest is just old enough for this show, but we probably wouldn’t have watched it together a year ago.) This animated adult sit-com about the manager of New York’s Central Park and his family—and their inadvertent war with the crabby billionaire who wants to buy the park and fill it with condos and retail. The delightfully silly show airs on AppleTV+ and features an impressive cast full of names you likely recognize. The scenes with billionaire Bitsy and her much-maligned help Helen, as played by Stanley Tucci and Daveed Diggs, have us in stitches.

The show just came back from a long hiatus with several new episodes; we were a little worried after yawning through the first two, but the newest episode called “The PAIGE-riarchy!” had us in stitches.

Have you seen either of these shows? What would you recommend we watch next? What other shows have you been enjoying lately? Tell us all about it in comments!

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  1. Kathie Broom says:

    Abbott Elementary is just delightful and also “educational” for anyone who isn’t familiar with public education in less than adequately funded districts. Love shows that make me laugh AND cry in less than 30 minutes! Highly recommend!

    • Mary in TN says:

      Ghosts on CBS or streaming on Paramount + is delightful. As always, I recommend watching with Captions on because the dialogue is quick. We discovered this show when Mark Hamill praised it on Twitter!

      • Brigid R says:

        I second Ghosts! It’s one my husband and I watch together! We had to fill a void since Ted Lasso is between seasons.

  2. Carol in Texas says:

    After being introduced to Doc Martin on our PBS station, we joined AcornTV so we could see all 9 seasons of the doctor. We love him! On the networks we have followed Blue Bloods for its whole life. It is not as good as the first years of the show, but the characters are still well played and Tom Selleck is still one of our favorite actors.

  3. Meredith Hankins says:

    We have 2 high school girls and 1 9 year old:
    1. All Creatures Great and Small on PBS-so cozy
    2. We are rewatching Frasier with our big girls. We are laughing ALL THE TIME. It’s just as good the second or third time around.

    Shows that we feel are must-see TV as a family once someone hits middle/high school:
    1. West Wing-started this with our oldest in Middle School and it was the foundation for so many conversations. And its just THE BEST writing ever.
    2. 2 Shows we loved to watch together as an entire family-Speechless (still on Hulu) and Fresh off the Boat (Hulu). Both super relevant, funny, and conversation provoking.
    3. We added Ted Lasso in High School with our oldest when we felt the sexual content was digestable (She’s in public school.) Highly recommend and it’s probably our favorite show of all time.

    • Janna says:

      My family (kids 21 and 25) is obsessed with West Wing, and has been for years. Mama likes it – b/c Rob Lowe. 😉

  4. Brigid says:

    Loving Abbott elementary too! Two other shows we are really enjoying lately are:
    After Party on Apple TV+ (a humorous mystery with a fabulous cast that takes place after a high school reunion and each episode is a different party goer’s version of the night’s events. It’s made by the team from Lego Movie, Last man on Earth, and 21 Jump street)
    Space Force on Netflix! Another great cast in this absurd comedy. It sometimes can be over the top silly but also heartwarming at times- the first episode of the second season was especially so!

  5. Janet says:

    I have to assume that you are up to date on Ted Lasso, Apple TV+, because it is just the best. Honesty, the way I am selling this show, they should be paying me a commission! SO GOOD!

    • I was going to suggest Ted Lasso. It’s so nice to watch a show that combines personal challenges with positive messages. It’s refreshing to see a coach who is supportive of his players and staff. And the way he warms his way into the heart of his boss.

  6. Carol Auger says:

    I have not seen these shows, as my youngest is now 17. But if you’re looking for a wonderful show, that kept us enthralled for years, try Heartland. I cannot say enough good things about this show.

    • Pam says:

      I really must get back to watching some Heartland. Filmed in my part of the world. Great scenery IMHO, and lots of horses for the horse lovers out there.

  7. Ann says:

    Okay, this is not a recommendation for your age group, but just had to share. It has been a while since my kids were little and my grandkids are little bitty still.

    I stumbled upon The Thorn Birds (based on the great book by Colleen McCullough) last night on a free app called Tubi. Anyone else out there remember what a stir this series caused when it originally aired?

    The crazy thing is, I am watching with my soon to be 39 year old daughter, who was born in March of ‘83, which is when the show aired.

    My daughter says Barbara Stanwyck, who plays one of the leads, reminds her of Miley Cyrus. Now I cannot unsee that 🙃. She is right!! 🤣 Even sounds like her.

    And of course she has no idea who Barbara Stanwyck is. That is a whole other story. I want her to see her early films. What a fabulous actress!

    It IS what we are watching! I know it does not fit the bill, but hope someone gets a kick out of that story.

    Fun fact: the actors who play Meggie and Luke O’ Neil in the show married and are still together in real life.

    • Suzy says:

      Of course I remember the Thorn Birds! Richard Chamberlain was in so many good epic series back in the day! (Man in the Iron Mask, Shogun) How fun to introduce old favorites that are still so good to the younger generation! Every now and then I run across someone who hasn’t seen The Princess Bride, or The Scarlet Pimpernel, or The Man From Snowy River, or even Gone With The Wind.

    • Sue B says:

      Ahh The Thorn Birds! Reminded me that I missed the finale—we were on a road trip, and there was an accident on the freeway; causing a 4 hour delay. No vcrs then…so I just missed it!😱

      • Ann says:

        Oh no Sue! You will definitely have to watch it!

        Tubi also has The Thorn Birds: The Missing Years, which apparently aired in 1996. I am not sure if I ever watched that. Richard Chamberlain is in it, but not sure if any of the other original cast is.

        Tubi sometimes has some obscure older things: The Boy In The Plastic Bubble. John Travolta pre-Saturday Night Fever!

        The crazy thing is, my daughter was born 3/31 & I read that The Thorn Birds aired 27th thru 30th.

        You’d think I’d remember that!

        • Jane Wrenn says:

          The Thornbirds made me think of Somewhere in Time with Christopher Reece and Jane Seymour, but not a series. Call the Midwife is one of my favorite series and would be fine for middle school and older. Although they warn of graphic content.

  8. Gina says:

    Thanks for these recomentations!
    It’s just me and my husband as my kids are both in college but we’ve been loving
    1. All Creatures Great and Small (even our dog watches it with us! ha ha)
    2. We also loved Ted Lasso but wouldn’t be comfortable with my kids watching it when they were younger (language & content) We are not much into dicey language so I wouldn’t have felt comfortable watching it with my kids until they were over 18ish.
    3. My husband & I have also loved Suspicion on Apple TV. Also more adult content so definitely more for older kids.

  9. Suzy says:

    I don’t like paying extra for channels like Hulu, and so PBS has so much! Around the World in 80 Days series recently was so good, All Creatures Great and Small, Doc Martin, Call the Midwives, and further back, Monarch of the Glen was a great modern day comedy series with fabulous accents and characters! Besides that, I find watching House Hunters endlessly on HGTV to be interesting and fun for the whole family–which house will they pick?

  10. Lori says:

    We loved watching The Good Place when it was first shown on NBC. Thursday was our favorite night of the week! And now that the entire four seasons are on Netflix (and also Amazon Prime), we’ve watched it all again. With its comedy, heart (never sappy), and how it looks at big topics like life, death, love, friendship, and doing the right thing, it turns out to be perfect pandemic viewing. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

    • Molly Pisula says:

      Totally agree! All four of our family members (parents plus Middle School girls) LOVED this show so much. We also all really enjoy Brooklyn 99 and Psych. All about the snappy dialogue over here!

  11. Virginia Westlake says:

    Kim’s Convenience is a great show, so funny! The IT Crowd is hilarious, but sometimes not appropriate for younger teens. Think both are on Netflix. IT may be Prime. If you have Britbox, Waiting for God is funny about a retirement home. Great characters!
    I agree with the person who mentioned Heartland. One of our favorites!

  12. Missy Bone says:

    We are watching the Lorne Michaels parody/homage to Rogers and Hammerstein musicals on Apple TV+, “Schmigadoon!” Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key get stuck in a purgatofy town and all the townspeople think they are in a musical. So fun to watch, especially if you’re a musical fan (Oklahoma, Brigadoon…). Kristen Chenoweth and Martin Short also make appearances.

  13. Becky S says:

    Thanks for the suggestions! We started watching Corner Gas (Prime) a few years ago on your recommendation, and it’s one of our favorites now. (We have watched all seasons at least three times). Looking forward to trying out these two!

  14. Kathy says:

    So many good shows mentioned! I also loved The Durrells in Corfu (Amazon and PBS both have it, I think) and still have one season to watch. And another show my husband and I both found funny and heartwarming was Raising Hope. It looks like you can find that on Hulu.

  15. Kara says:

    We enjoy Disney+ programming and not just for Disney movies and Marvel/Star Wars shows! We also like the National Geographic content available through the service– so much nature to awe and inspire you!

  16. Ann says:

    Now that Disney+ has been mentioned, just have to give a shout out for Hayley Mills early Disney films.

    I just adore her.

    Definitely family friendly & enjoyable.

    I believe they have Pollyanna, Parent Trap & possibly That Darn Cat!

    Ms Mills also wrote her bio last year: Forever Young.

    Also we enjoyed watching The Beatles Get Back. Pretty rambling, but worth the wait for the end.

    And the latest, Encanto is colorful and fun, and I’ll warn everyone catchy songs that will stick with you!

    Another vote for PBS. Awesome programming.

  17. Mary in TN says:

    Ghosts on CBS or streaming on Paramount + is delightful. As always, I recommend watching with Captions on because the dialogue is quick. We discovered this show when Mark Hamill praised it on Twitter!

  18. Mary in TN says:

    Emily in Paris on Netflix is raunchy fun but I’m not a good judge on what teens today are used to watching. I saw a Tiktok by a French woman who said the Parisian attitudes were actually accurate. The fashion designer is from the old Sex in the City so the costumes are great.
    As always, captions on!

  19. Nicole says:

    The new version of The Wonder Years (ABC/Hulu) is a great show to watch as a family. And a big shout-out to Anne with an E on Netflix. A reimagined Anne of Green Gables, but with plenty of storylines that will still feel very relevant to today’s tweens and teens. Both these shows have led to some wonderful conversations about difficult topics in our house.

    • Lynette says:

      I had to quit ‘Anne with an E’ after the episode in season 1 where Matthew attempts suicide! I mean, Matthew would never have done that!!! 🙁

  20. Lynette says:

    My family is enjoying watching “Good Witch.” It was a Hallmark Channel show that’s now available on Netflix.

  21. Wendy Barker says:

    I don’t know how many of your subscribers are in Canada but since some of the vintage Canadian series have been mentioned (Anne with an E, Kim’s Convenience, Corner Gas) I thought I would bring to your attention a series that has just started on CBC called The Porter. It is set in Montreal during the 1930s and features a huge black cast. Not suitable for younger kids because of sexuality and language but teenagers up would probably learn something.

    • Jocelyn Dauk says:

      Fellow Canadian here… will checkout Porter as I live in Montreal. Previously lived in Saskatchewan, so I LOVED Corner Gas!
      We are currently watching Belair and Inventing Anna here.

  22. Dawn says:

    Not sure where or if these are still streaming, but we’ve enjoyed “White Collar”,(detective) “The Paradise” (set in older England), Seventh Heaven, The Cosby Show, Madame Secretary, Psych, Monk, Heartland, Eureka, (Sci-fi on prime) Where the Heart is, (many of these are from the 80’s and 90’s when there was less objectionable language and content) I also love the 1960’s black and white shows like Andy Griffith, I love Lucy, Dick Van Dyke, and the Donna Reed show, all streaming somewhere. They don’t make them like that anymore!

  23. Beverly J Wrigglesworth says:

    Lynette mentioned Good Witch on Hallmark Movies and Mysteries Channel. I haven’t seen that one, but I love the Aurora Teagarden series (she’s an amateur sleuth/librarian), and several of the other “amateur sleuth” mystery series they broadcast.
    I recently finished watching all of the 10 seasons of “Stargate SG-1” which I had never finished when it was first being aired. Also watched all 5 seasons of “Stargate Atlantis” which I had never seen. Now making my way through “Stargate Universe,” which I had also not seen before.
    On Netflix, I love “Lost in Space.” I used to watch the original series back in the 60s when I was a kid. The new series is not nearly as cheesy and campy as the original; the current series is much more dramatic, has more action, and goes deeper into some of the characters. Maureen Robinson is an engineer, so does much more than cook meals for the family, and has a much bigger role than poor June Lockhart ever had. Judy Robinson is more than a pretty biracial face, she’s a doctor. She is Maureen’s daughter, but her bio dad was lost in space before she was born. Don West is Hispanic. One of the biggest changes is that Dr. Zachary Smith is a woman (portrayed with excellence by Parker Posey), and that is not her real name anyway. The Robot is an alien robot, found on a planet rather than originally on board the Jupiter 2. And there are a lot more Jupiters, and many more families from Earth in this show, not just the Robinsons by themselves. But they are still trying to get to Alpha Centauri, which already has a colony living there.

  24. Pam says:

    Can’t recommend any children’s shows. No kids or grandkids to watch with! I like watching a variety of shows, either for escape (such as thrillers – e.g., Reacher on Amazon; Condor – I streamed with Super Channel on Amazon; watched both these with my husband; they received his stamp of approval); cozy shows about creating an attractive cocoon at home (e.g., Cabin Chronicles on discovery+); adult comedies for some belly laughs (e.g., This Way Up; love Sharon Horgan!; We Are Lady Parts; both streamed with STACKTV on Amazon Canada); workplace drama for the social interactions (e.g., recently starting watching Doctors on BritBox; half hour soap that airs four times a week); Science fiction for interest and escape (e.g., streaming Star Trek: Discovery right now). Never a shortage of things to watch!

  25. Adrienne says:

    I’m rewatching Downton Abbey on Netflix, my second time through the series, in preparation for the movie coming in May 2022. I’m almost done with Season 4 (of 6), and I’ve been surprised by how many small subplots I had forgotten, and reminded how much I LOVE the costumes.

    • Traci says:

      Adrienne – my husband & I just finished rewatching the Downtown Abbey series and movie! I didn’t know there is a second movie coming out soon! That will be fun to watch. I had forgotten about so much of what happened, too!

  26. Carolyn says:

    -All Creatures Great and Small is wonderful; beautiful scenery, a glimpse of rural life; some humor (my daughters love Tricky Woo)
    -Resident Alien (Syfy and Peacock) might be a good fit for families with older kids. The lead actor plays this part so well. Lots of laughs every episode.
    -The Gilded Age is perfect for fans of Downton Abby.

  27. Patti Butler says:

    The Canadian show Murdock Mysteries is a great blend of history/mystery. I love the way they drop in historic figures from the past.

  28. Ann W. says:

    Ok, don’t laugh, hubby and I are watching Perry Mason everyday while we eat lunch in the sunroom. My grandad watched this religiously ever week in the late 1950’s. You can find it on IMDb app. That Perry, he solves the crime every time!

  29. Bonnie says:

    If you are looking for an intriguing show, unlike anything I have ever seen, check out Severance on Apple TV. Beautifully filmed, sparingly acted, the mysteries unfold in this world, where one’s work self and private life self are severed and thus each half is unaware of what is happening during the other ‘half life’. What could go wrong?

  30. Jan says:

    Some of our favorites: Eureka, Warehouse 13, Veronica Mars, Bones, Downton Abbey, Monk, all the Star Trek series, Grimm.

  31. Kathy Kappes-Sum says:

    Several years ago we watched Chuck with our kids, who were maybe 4th and 8th grade at the time. It was good, funny, kind of campy fun and one of the few series that we’ve all watched together.

    • Denise says:

      I will second this. I don’t know why this series isn’t mentioned more, we really enjoyed it, especially the first few seasons. A great mix of comedy and action, funny characters that you grow to care about. Maybe some sexual situations etc but nothing much. Definitely fine for middle school and up.

  32. Maria says:

    I love Justified. Very cleverly written with deep character development, but also some violence, which might be an issue for some.

  33. Marie says:

    We all LOVED “Tick Tick Boom” on Netflix. Produced by Lin Manuel Miranda and it’s a musical by/about the creator of “Rent.” Music is fantastic, and it’s a wonderful, delightful insight into the creative process and what it’s like to be a struggling artist/waiter in New York.

    Also, a rec for those who don’t want to pay for streaming services – see if your library has Hoopla… which has lots of great shows and movies available.

  34. Francine Sposato says:

    Abbott Elementary is on my watch list. Ghosts on CBS is my new favorite. Also been watching The Good Wife and anything Star Trek.

  35. I don’t know anything about the new Roots, but the I love the original one. It’s difficult to watch, but I think it fosters empathy for the slave characters. In the end it’s a story of perseverance and hope. The book is one of my all time favorites.

  36. Karen Parnell says:

    Masterpiece Theatre’s Around the World in 80 Days was really fun. I also love Call the Midwife. HBO has The Gilded Age which is great for those who miss Downton Abbey.

  37. Debbie says:

    My girls were around that age when we binge-watched Buffy The Vampire Slayer. The last few seasons might be a little old for your sixth grader, but if you don’t watch as fast as we did, you will be okay (my younger daughter was in 7th grade, and there were parts that were a little too early li for her but it we just had some good discussions). We also loved Firefly (also Joss Whedon) and Freaks and Geeks and really enjoyed Veronica Mars and The Gilmore Girls (GG is the only one of these that my husband didn’t enjoy). My girls are in their 20s now, but we all love The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina and would have loved it back then too.

  38. diana madden says:

    Second Freak and Geeks, so emotionally truthful and funny, some of those episodes are absolute all-timers. My kids are now in their early 20’s, we rewatched during the lock-down and definitely stood up. Also loved We Are Lady Parts, but was only available on Peacock. Since so many folks are mentioning shows on Apple+ I want to mention the criminally under-appreciated Mythic Quest, a workplace comedy about a gaming company that may have a language warning for a middle schooler (at least for being in same room with parents), I’m sorry I hardly notice the swearing anymore.
    Gilmore Girls is iconic, but my husband was never a fan and my son knows the show probably by osmosis, on the flip he and I are Star Trek and Perry Mason fans but my daughters never really loved either of those, although we could all watch Galaxy Quest and laugh out loud.

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