With holidays coming up, I thought it would be helpful to round up our best family TV shows to watch with the kids. As the official Babes about Town, many of my readers seem to think we spend all our time trawling the city in search of fun. Sure, we get about.
But we also enjoy tons of downtime, especially on the sofa watching Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer or box sets (we prefer these to regular TV and the incessant advertising). There are loads of shows for grown-ups that I’ll binge watch with my other half. But over the past few years I’ve loved getting into family TV shows with the kids.
So I’ve listed some of the best family TV shows we’ve enjoyed of late. These are series that I look forward to as much as (sometimes more) than the boys. I’ll keep adding to this guide as we discover new shows, and feel free to recommend your favourites so we can check them out too!
A NOTE TO PARENTS: This guide features my commentary plus mini reviews from Ezra (13) and Jed (10) too. The boys and I have made age recommendations for each show, but please use your own parental discretion.
My husband and I are happy to let our children watch slightly more grown-up content from time to time, if we think it’s entertaining or educational enough. We watch these shows as a family, so we can answer any questions that come up. We also check age guidance in advance, referring to sites like Common Sense Media. Usually it’s worth taking a peek at the trailer or even previewing a couple of episodes without the kids, just to be sure!
*Please note also that I’ve suggested where you can watch each show (in parentheses), but this is subject to change as each platform updates its content seasonally.
The Best Family TV Shows to Watch with Your Kids
available on Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer or Box Set
(listed in alphabetical order)
6 word summary: Subversive, socially awkward, dysfunctional family comedy.
Why We’re Fans: It’s flat out hilarious. Jason Bateman plays the perfect straight man to a family of crazies, who are trying to hold it together after their patriarch gets jailed for dodgy dealings. Look out for fun cameos from Henry Winkler (The Fonz) as a loopy lawyer, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine from Seinfeld) as a ‘blind’ date.
Recommended Age: Jed’s been watching since he was 8. It’s got some adult themes and humour but nothing too extreme. For caution’s sake, we’d say 10+.
Ezra Says: ‘Hilarious show, contains a few adult themes. Tobias is one of the funniest characters.
Jed Says: ‘Funny family show, good for most ages.’
If you like this show, also try: Modern Family
Avatar: The Last Airbender
(Amazon Prime Video)
6 word summary: Supernatural animated saga, a cult favourite.
Why We’re Fans: We follow Aang, the last Airbender, who’s defrosted after 100 years to find the world thrown into chaos by the Fire nation. He joins forces with Waterbender Katara and her brother Sokka, on an epic journey to master the elements as the ‘Avatar’ and save mankind. Rich storytelling and endearing characters create a vibrant, mystical universe. And we’re excited to hear there’s a live action version coming from Netflix in 2020. It is simply brilliant (just ask Vice).
Recommended Age: Anyone from ages 6 to 60+
Ezra Says: ‘Fabulous animated show, great to watch with the family and an immaculate storyline.’
Jed Says: ‘Incredible TV show, funny storyline. I loved Aang’s flying bison called Appa’ (he has his own cuddly Appa toy).
If you like this show, also try: The Legend of Korra (see review below)
(Amazon Prime Video)
6 word summary: African American family, middle class angst.
Why We’re Fans: Terrific cast and jokes a-plenty. We’re especially tickled by man child Dre, eccentric mama Rainbow (fabulous Tracee Ellis Ross), co-worker Charlie, goofy Dre Jr and spooky sibling Diane. Often outrageously funny, it’s not afraid to take on thorny racial topics on multiple layers. Jenifer Lewis and Laurence Fishburne steal the show as Ruby and Pops.
Recommended Age: Some episodes are a little more ‘grown’ so we’d recommend 10+.
Ezra Says: ‘Blackish brings out lots of laughs, centred around an African American family with many problems.’
Jed Says: ‘Very funny family TV show, loved how they all had such different personalities.’
If you like this show, also try: Everybody Hates Chris (box set)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
(Amazon Prime Video)
6 word summary: Schoolgirl kicks demonic butt in suburbia.
Why We’re Fans: Engaging characters, seamless writing. Watching Buffy and her Scooby gang whip vampires into shape never gets old. Joss Whedon’s cult classic show is the reason I signed up for Prime years ago, having watched it religiously back in the ‘90s. Plus, Angel (David Boreanaz) is bae.
Recommended Age: The monster costumes and makeup are laughable now, but we’d still recommend 12+ for violence and some mature elements.
Ezra Says: ‘Good coming of age show, quite a lot of staking through the heart, very popular as you can see from its 7 seasons.’
If you like this show, also try: Charmed (original ‘90s version)
6 word summary: Stylish thief stops VILE crime syndicate.
Why We’re Fans: Carmen Sandiego is a foundling, raised by an organisation of thieves that turns out to be evil personified. She escapes and dedicates her time to thwarting their criminal efforts, while pursued by a French agent with permanent 5 o’clock shadow. The animated series is filled with snappy lines, colourful capers, and brief lessons in geography and history.
Recommended Age: 6+
Ezra Says: ‘Great show to watch with the family, actually quite impressed as it was better than I thought it was going to be.’
Jed Says: ‘Great crime TV show. I like how just when they think they’ve caught her, she slips away.’
If you like this show, also try: Spy Kids: Mission Critical (Netflix)
The Dumping Ground
(Amazon Prime Video/BBC iPlayer)
6 word summary: Inmates at children’s home redefine family.
Why We’re Fans: This Tracy Beaker spin-off earned critical acclaim for its depth of character and heart-tugging stories. I love the diversity of casting, including actors with special needs who are treated just like anybody else. I’m not ashamed to admit that a couple of episodes have brought me to tears.
Recommended Age: 6+
Ezra Says: ‘Great for kids, relatable and funny themes in each episode.’
Jed Says: ‘A great show about how kids in a children’s home become great mates and get into lots of mischief.’
If you like this show, also try: Hetty Feather (Amazon Prime Video), Tracy Beaker Returns (BBC iPlayer)
6 word summary: Bumbling hotel manager creates daily havoc.
Why We’re Fans: It’s such a treat to watch shows you loved as a kid and find they stand the test of time. I remember my dad nearly choking with laughter over the antics of manager Basil Fawlty (John Cleese at his pressure-cooker best), plaintive wife Sybil and clueless waiter Manuel at what must be the worst hotel in Torquay. It’s 12 episodes of comedy gold.
Recommended Age: 7+, it’s better for older kids but younger ones will love the slapstick humour.
Ezra Says: ‘One of the best classic shows I’ve ever watched. You’ll end up rolling on the floor at least once while watching this.’
Jed Says: *giggles* ‘Hilarious TV show about a hotel run by a very disorganised man and his wife.’
If you like this show, also try: Mr Bean (box set)
Fresh Prince of Bel Air
6 word summary: Hip-hop twist on rags to riches.
Why We’re Fans: Now this is a story all about how… ghetto kid Will (aka Fresh Prince) is sent to live with his wealthy cousins and turns their lives upside down. We can’t get enough of Will Smith’s clowning, along with loveable characters like Dr Phil, spoilt brat Hilary and her bro, creator of the ‘Carlton dance’. Still as fresh and funny as when it first aired.
Recommended Age: 6+, there’s lots of references to Will’s romantic exploits but overall it’s pretty tame.
Ezra Says: ‘One of the many classics. Will is an extremely likeable character whose story a lot of people can relate to.’
Jed Says: ‘Fantastic show about a teenager (Will Smith) who was getting bullied so he got sent to his uncle and aunt’s house and had some great adventures.’
If you like this show, also try: All About the Washingtons (on Netflix – stiff/hackneyed but occasionally cute family comedy from Rev Run of Run DMC).
6 word summary: Tangled love lives of 20-something mates.
Why We’re Fans: The jokes come thick and fast, and the actors are bang on. Even years later, the Central Perk posse and the ‘will they/won’t they’ of Ross and Rachel keep us glued.
Recommended Age: This show appeals to kids as young as 6, but we’d suggest 10+ for mature language/themes and humour.
Ezra Says: ‘Another classic, it’s so popular that you have the likes of Julia Roberts and Jean Claude Van Damme starring in some episodes.’
Jed Says: ‘Hilarious TV show about a group of friends who have lots of drama, and I love how there’s lots of twists.’
If you like this show, also try: Cheers (Amazon Prime Video, box set)
The Good Place
6 word summary: It’s hella funny in the afterlife.
Why We’re Fans: Snarky, self-centred jerk Eleanor (Kristen Bell) winds up in ’The Good Place’ after she dies, even though she clearly doesn’t deserve it. With help from her soulmate Chidi (William Jackson Harper), she tries to earn her spot. It’s clever and hugely entertaining, with lots of surprises and a refreshingly multicultural cast. Ted Danson rocks and Jameela Jamil is a revelation as do-gooder Tahani. As an Igbo chick, I get an extra buzz from seeing a mainstream character with an Igbo name and heritage (Chidi).
Recommended Age: Ages 10+ will enjoy, but for some sex/drugs references you might stick to 12+.
Ezra Says: ‘The Good Place is a really clever story with huge twists.’
If you like this show, also try: The Office (US version, Amazon Prime Video)
Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street
(Amazon Prime Video)
6 word summary: Three friends investigate eerie neighbourhood incidents.
Why We’re Fans: Every episode contains an intriguing mystery to solve. In the midst of that, the buddies cope with various coming of age issues, from dating to death in the family. It’s charming, whimsical and great fun, with some truly emotional scenes.
Recommended Age: 6+
Ezra Says: ‘Good to watch with kids, strong scenes of coming of age and adolescence.’
Jed Says: ‘Great TV show about how a young boy with his best friends go on adventures. It was really funny.’
If you like this show, also try: The Dangerous Book for Boys (Amazon Prime Video)
(Amazon Prime Video/BBC iPlayer)
6 word summary: Dyslexic schoolboy gets into multiple scrapes.
Why We’re Fans: Hank is a cheeky student, who struggles with his condition, as well as trying to stay on the good side of his teachers. Only music teacher Mr Rock (Henry Winkler) encourages him to dance to the beat of his own drum. Lots of fun and positive affirmation for fellow rebels and misfits. Based on the books by Henry Winkler, inspired by his own experiences with dyslexia.
Recommended Age: 7+
Ezra says: ‘It’s about a dyslexic, early secondary school kid. The situations that he finds himself in are utterly ridiculous.’
Jed Says: ‘Funny show about a young boy who’s always messing up. I like how it’s not only the kids who are really funny, but the teachers as well.’
If you like this show, also try: So Awkward (BBC iPlayer)
6 word summary: Kids caught in a parallel universe.
Why We’re Fans: Three kids wake in a locked room and, discovering mysterious new abilities, have to figure their way out and through the treacherous world beyond. But what’s really going on? Cool powers, likeable heroes, and some creepy moments keep us on our toes.
Recommended Age: 9+ ( it might be spooky for younger ones).
Jed Says: ‘I like how there’s loads of twists and lots of different theories about what’s going on.’
If you like this show, also try: A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix)
6 word summary: Secondary school footie drama scores big.
Why We’re Fans: The boys were nuts about the Jamie Johnson books and roped me into watching the series. Before long, I was tuning in regularly to keep up with the keepy-uppys (wink) of Jamie, his best mate Jack and others in the school team. The young cast are genuinely good at football and bring a natural quality to their acting, and the story lines are nicely developed.
Recommended Age: Jamie and his mates are 12+, but the show will appeal to all soccer mad kids aged 7+.
Ezra Says: ‘Another good show to watch with kids, especially footballers. It has quite a few footballing tips.’
Jed Says: ‘Great football show with loads of tips about how you can get better. I like how it’s not just football but it’s also drama.’
If you like this show, also try: The Real Jamie Johnson (BBC iPlayer – cast members meet real young players)
The Legend of Korra
(Amazon Prime Video)
6 word summary: Teenage Avatar tackles love and destiny.
Why We’re Fans: Korra’s not as cute as Aang (from prequel Avatar: The Last Airbender), but she’s a badass. She continues to grow in power and skills while trying to keep her fiery temper, and heart, under control. It’s lots of fun seeing surviving characters from Avatar all grown up, and following the legend to its explosive conclusion.
Recommended Age: 8+, be advised that it’s darker and more provocative than its predecessor.
Ezra Says: ‘It’s almost as good as the prequel. It sets its standards pretty high.’
Jed Says: ‘Not as good as Avatar but still a great family show, and I like how it builds off the storyline of Avatar.’
If you like this show, also try: The Dragon Prince (Netflix)
Lost in Space
6 word summary: Spaceship crash victims fight for survival.
Why We’re Fans: A high-octane remake of the vintage TV series, this show expertly blends family drama and sci-fi action. The friendship between young Will Robinson and the alien robot is convincing and there’s lots to keep you guessing from one episode to the next.
Recommended Age: We watched with Jed from 9+ and he loved it, but our suggestion is 12+ depending on your child (there are some pretty intense scenes).
Ezra Says: ‘Another great family show which stars a family lost on a foreign planet, having to collaborate to find their way out.’
Jed Says: ‘It’s also educational and shows how a family survives in outer space. I like the robot and how he helps the family to survive.’
If you like this show, also try: Star Trek (Netflix)
6 word summary: Girl power on the football pitch.
Why We’re Fans: Set in Australia, this series is brimming with feisty females, teenage angst and positive messages. It’s great to see different types of beauty, on and off the pitch, and I love the story’s ‘This Girl Can’ attitude. The show captures the awkwardness of this life stage well and (aside from a rather annoying voice-over), does it without too much cheesiness.
Recommended Age: It’s aimed at tweens and young teens, but should be ok for ages 9+.
Ezra Says: ‘Also great to watch with footballers.’
Jed Says: ‘Great show about how a girls’ football team, who start off as beginners, become one of the best girls’ teams in the league.’
If you like this show, also try: The Kicks (Amazon Prime Video)
New Legends of Monkey
6 word summary: Gods vs demons in mythical battle.
Why We’re Fans: A girl pretending to be the monk Tripitaka helps free the Monkey King god from his mountain prison, to try and save the world from evil. For those of us who remember the classic TV comedy Monkey (or Monkey Magic), this is a welcome return to the hammy legend. Expect furious fists and silly plot twists.
Recommended Age: Ages 7+ for comedy violence.
Ezra Says: ‘Good modern show with a classic storyline. Monkey is extremely funny.’
Jed Says: ‘A good action show about a god who had been trapped for 500 years and comes back to save the planet.’
If you like this show, also try: Monkey (original series boxset)
Niko and the Sword of Light
(Amazon Prime Video)
6 word summary: Light warrior with frohawk battles darkness.
Why We’re Fans: Adapted from a comic book, this show boasts a strong Princess fighter and a small but big-hearted lead. We thought it might be babyish but it’s actually fun and highly watchable. A surprise hit.
Recommended Age: 5+
Ezra Says: ‘Great show to watch with the family but the 2nd season is nowhere as good as the first.’
Jed Says: ‘I’m Niko and this is my sword of light! Great funny show about a young champion who has to save the world from evil villain Nar-Est.’
If you like this show, also try: Dragons: Dawn of the Dragon Racers (Netflix)
6 word summary: Four’s a family, five’s a riot.
Why We’re Fans: Cheerfully irreverent comedy, tracking the daily lives of two parents trying to handle their three kids (and one grandparent). Much of the show is improvised and it makes for some hilarious (and hands-over-eyes) episodes. Very convincing in showing how few of us have it all together. Youngest child Karen (Ramona Marquez) was the one to watch.
Recommended Age: 10+, quite a bit of swearing, although some of the grown-up humour and language will go over their heads.
Ezra Says: ‘Outnumbered is great, but there are a few adult themes. It stars 2 parents who are outnumbered by extremely difficult kids.’
Jed Says: ‘A show about how parents are outnumbered by their hyperactive children and how they cope with their child troublemakers.’
If you like this show, also try: 2 point 4 Children (box set)
6 word summary: Professor zooms through time changing lives.
Why We’re Fans: The Babe papa dug this one out of the archives and it was an instant hit. Sam is stuck in the quantum realm, and swaps bodies with characters from the past. He improves their situations and learns valuable lessons along the way. Smart, funny and often profound, the ‘80s show deals head-on with topics like racial justice and gender equality. Way ahead of its time.
Recommended Age: 8+. It’s a great family show but includes some adult themes, so parental discretion advised.
Ezra Says: ‘A classic, very clever storyline, jumping between time and space.’
Jed Says: ‘A great classic show to watch with the family about Sam Beckett, a quantum physicist, who goes into a time machine and leaps back in time to different places and different people, and has to make right what they did wrong.’
If you like this show, also try: Dr. Who (BBC iPlayer or box set)
(Amazon Prime Video, box set)
6 word summary: Mischief and mayhem in medical comedy.
Why We’re Fans: It’s one of those shows that I dipped in and out of way back. Watching it now with Abiye and Ezra, I’m struck again and again by its quirky genius. Lots of laughs and plenty of heart. It’s hard to pick a favourite character, but I’ll go with Dr Cox, king of the whiplash comeback.
Recommended Age: 12+ for bawdiness.
Ezra Says: ‘Extremely funny comedy starring a group of doctors and nurses in hospital. I like JD and Turk’s bromance.’
If you like this show, also try: The Big Bang Theory (Netflix)
(Amazon Prime Video)
6 word summary: Geek fights baddies with insect superman.
Why We’re Fans: After his city rids itself of super villains, nerdy accountant Arthur sets out to prove the organisation is still alive and kicking. When he discovers a suit that gives him super powers, he joins forces with the mysterious (and hilarious) The Tick. We love the show for its spoofy humour and sheer randomness.
Recommended Age: 12+, some episodes are rated 15+ for extra violence.
Ezra Says: ‘A superhero comedy with lots of action and quite a bit of fighting and gore.’
If you like this show, also try: The Umbrella Academy (Netflix)
6 word summary: Unlikely heroes battle monsters below ground.
Why We’re Fans: From the mind of Guillermo del Toro (The Shape of Water), this animated series had us hooked from the first episode. It’s that old story of good vs evil, with plenty of humour and unforgettable characters. We can’t wait to see what Trollhunter Jim and his mates get up to next.
Recommended Age: 7+ (be advised: it gets quite dark at times).
Ezra Says: ‘Another good coming of age show, an ordinary kid called Jim turns into a warrior who protects good trolls from goblins and other baddies.’
Jed Says: ‘Great family show about how an ordinary teenager finds an amulet and has to become a protector of two worlds, troll and human.’
If you like this show, also try: 3 Below: Tales from Arcadia (the sequel, on Netflix)
The Wonder Years
6 word summary: Classic comedy drama comes of age.
Why We’re Fans: This was a hit in the ‘90s and remains timeless in its expression of growing up during the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. Watch Kevin Arnold, his best friend Paul and his on/off girlfriend Winnie navigate junior high and high school. It’s family drama at its finest, and funniest. Beautifully written, effortlessly played.
Recommended Age: Great for anyone starting Year 7 and onwards (11+), but watchable for ages 9+.
Ezra Says: ‘The Wonder Years is great to watch with the family, a lot of good values. But Kevin needs to scratch up on his dancing!’
Jed Says: ‘A great family classic about how a young teenager grows, showing many different adventures, in school and outside of school. I like how it’s not just the characters who grow, but the actors as well.’
If you like this show, also try: Family Ties (box set)
What shows do you like watching with the kids? Let us know your favourites and we might add them to our list!
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