Breaking Not So Bad
April 27, 2014 12:47 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a good tv show with a long story arc that spans multiple seasons and has a great finale. The catch is I'd like something I can watch with my kids, ages 12-17, so that rules out most of the cable fare, like Breaking Bad, The Wire, The Sopranos or The Shield. It need not be a gritty cop drama, of course.
posted by mecran01 to Media & Arts (71 answers total) 47 users marked this as a favorite
Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Battlestar Galactica!
posted by pazazygeek at 12:48 PM on April 27, 2014 [21 favorites]

Babylon 5
posted by Freedomboy at 12:49 PM on April 27, 2014 [12 favorites]

Oh, oh, oh! Avatar: The Last Airbender. Seriously!
posted by PercussivePaul at 12:50 PM on April 27, 2014 [35 favorites]

Lost. (Haters gonna hate, but there you go.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:51 PM on April 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

30 Rock
posted by bleep at 12:51 PM on April 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

How about Six Feet Under? Definitely spans multiple seasons and has one of the best finales ever.
posted by Magnakai at 12:53 PM on April 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Gilmore Girls. Yes, even though you are a boy person and even if they are boy persons. (Hell, especially if they are boy persons, because then they get to learn something about how girls actually think.)
posted by Etrigan at 12:57 PM on April 27, 2014 [19 favorites]

The West Wing! I started watching it when I was 13 or so and it actually got me interested enough in American government to pay a little more attention in class.
posted by coppermoss at 12:58 PM on April 27, 2014 [20 favorites]

I'll second Buffy and Gilmore Girls and add Roswell -- it's three seasons, each with a number of reasonable arcs, and the series finale was lovely. You might also enjoy Cougar Town (sorry about the name)-- it's a fun hangout show.
posted by Margalo Epps at 1:00 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have started watching Farscape. I like it so far (I am still on season 1). But the reviews of the series is quite good.

I had liked Life; but it doesn't meet the "great finale" requirements.

Slings and Arrows is on my watch list (Thanks to the recommendations on mefi).

Battlestar Galactica (mentioned earlier on this thread) is awesome.
posted by justlooking at 1:01 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Friday Night Lights, like Buffy and Gilmore Girls, would give you some good stuff to talk to your kids with about being a teenager and stuff.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 1:01 PM on April 27, 2014 [17 favorites]

BSG's opening mini series has a scene where a cylon, with its bare hands, kills a baby in its pram. Immediately prior to a nuclear holocaust. Later episodes include a fair amount of violent death including a pretty graphic suicide. Its good but so you know, may well be fine for 12 and up.

Dr Who has series long story arcs but also recurring baddies, so might fit.

Fringe might be a good fit, its not one continuous plot but has plots that run through seasons as well as continuing across seasons. There is a fair amount of body horror in some episodes but nothing really outside the mainstream.
posted by biffa at 1:01 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

6 feet under is definitely rated adult rated.
posted by ill3 at 1:05 PM on April 27, 2014 [18 favorites]

Along the same lines as Gilmore Girls, there's Everwood. It focuses primarily on a father-son relationship, and is a little calmer/less actively zany than Gilmore Girls (although I do love GG).
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 1:07 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

On our list:
Freaks and Geeks, Friday Night Lights, Lost, Fringe...
posted by coevals at 1:07 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It's full of story arcs and honestly one of the best series I've ever watched. It's appropriate for kids and up.
posted by FelineoidEntity at 1:08 PM on April 27, 2014 [12 favorites]

I know Freaks and Geeks is only one season, but it has 18 episodes, is perfect for the age range you are looking for, is entertaining for adults, and has a sweet ending. I just watched all 18 episodes over the last few days (I couldn't stop). They are all available on YouTube.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 1:08 PM on April 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think Buffy is a natural choice here. A lot of the storylines are essentially about being a teenager and then becoming an adult.

Avatar TLA is also great, though there are only three seasons so you'll probably get through it quickly.

I love 6FU but I think there's some stuff in there that'd be pretty intense for a 12 year old. (There are parts that were pretty intense for me watching it in my 20s!)

oh, and on preview, seconding Everwood if you can get your hands on it. LOVE LOVE LOVED that show.
posted by Kosh at 1:08 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Burn notice has a long story arc and is appropriate for kids. It can be a bit cheesy at times but I always enjoy the characters and stories plus the action is pretty decent.
posted by mrdrummed at 1:08 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about Star Trek: Deep Space 9? It has a story arc (though I'm not sure about the series finale, it's been too long since I've watched it) and apart from TOS it's my favourite among the Star Trek Franchise.
posted by rjs at 1:09 PM on April 27, 2014 [9 favorites]

My son loved Smallville when he was about the age of your kids.
posted by angiep at 1:14 PM on April 27, 2014

Nthing Avatar: The Last Airbender (NOT Legend of Korra) and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 1:16 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Seconding The West Wing. I'm in the middle of watching the series for the first time (so I can't speak to the finale) and it's pretty great. So far there have been a few instances of violence, but nothing else that would rule it out for teenagers that I can remember at the moment.

I also enjoyed Sorkin's Sport Night, but it was only 2 seasons and was a little more open about the existence of sex.
posted by brentajones at 1:17 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I (mostly) loved Battlestar Galactica, but in addition to the other issues mentioned, the attempted rape of a prisoner is a key plot device, and I wouldn't want to deal with that with my 12 year old (I won't rewatch the series myself). Your mileage, of course, may vary, and maybe it would be a good discussion launching point, but. Buffy also uses rape as a plot device a couple of times.

I love The West Wing, but that depends on your tolerance for explaining what a prostitute is when you watch the first episode. It's a great show and issues like prostitution and drugs are handled well, but it is there.

On the other hand, I'd highly recommend Warehouse 13. There's some character death, but nothing gory, and it's very rompy fun whizzbang science fiction, for the most part. The last season isn't done yet, but it's soooo good. :) I haven't watched Eureka all the way through, but it is set in the same universe and I don't remember anything problematic in it, and it's also really good.
posted by joycehealy at 1:30 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]


Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated! (7.9 on IMDB)

My husband and I were addicted to this show. It's SOOOO freaking good. Great story ark. Amazing jokes and excitement for kids and adults. Both seasons on Netflix streaming.
posted by Crystalinne at 1:35 PM on April 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Slings and Arrows. It has some sex and a little swearing but as far as I recall it's PG-13, ie no graphic violence or Game of Thrones-level nudity.
posted by Ndwright at 1:37 PM on April 27, 2014

Gilmore Girls. The last few seasons are weaker, but it still ends well. It's also the best show ever.
posted by Blitz at 1:38 PM on April 27, 2014

I think you're looking for Disney's Gargoyles.
posted by bswinburn at 1:42 PM on April 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

Psych! I had been watching it from the beginning and my kids (now 14 and 17) started tuning in with me a couple years ago.
posted by cooker girl at 1:43 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I haven't seen anyone mention Heroes... I can't speak for the finale because we didn't finish the series, but my daughter and I really liked it when she was a tween.
posted by hairy terrarium at 1:44 PM on April 27, 2014

Putting in a strong, strong fourth for Friday Night Lights. Bonus points since it will be relevant to your kids' lives in some fashion.
posted by mykescipark at 1:47 PM on April 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

Whoa, did it really take this long for somebody to recommend Firefly?
posted by General Malaise at 1:54 PM on April 27, 2014 [10 favorites]

I got some really incredible answers to a similar question (minus the age-appropriateness) a few years back.

I will add my vote for Buffy and, though it's only a single season, would strongly recommend "Freaks and Geeks."
posted by 256 at 1:56 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

The original Degrassi Junior High/Degrassi High. Incredibly cheesy at times, but also very very addictive. You get to finish off with the School's Out movie which features some naughty language. One of the neatest things about the series is the decades-long romances.

Jack and Bobby was also pretty good, though only a season. Surprisingly well-written, though, about teenage siblings and their relationship.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:03 PM on April 27, 2014

Wonderfalls and Firefly are also awesome. And by Joss Whedon or his cohort as well.
posted by bartonlong at 2:05 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Casting votes for Freaks and Geeks as well as Gilmore Girls.
posted by Milau at 2:09 PM on April 27, 2014

Nthing that Avatar: The Last Airbender is really good. It's really accessible and engrossing and has a well-defined arc. I am not an anime person AT ALL so it took me a while to get around to it, even though it isn't actually anime, just evocative of it. But it's instantly relatable and fun.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:12 PM on April 27, 2014

Stargate SG-1 and Stargate Atlantis. SG-1 ran for ten seasons and had plenty of long story arcs, and the first season of Atlantis had one of my favorite ever season-long story arcs. Both shows also have their fill of episodic one-offs.
posted by coast99 at 2:18 PM on April 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

White Collar! :) Some of the older Dr Who, but certainly the reboots.
posted by tilde at 2:27 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I really wish Kyle XY wouldn't have gotten canceled after a cliffhanger. Because excepting that, it's just about ideal.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 2:30 PM on April 27, 2014

Oh yeah, definitely the original Degrassi Jr High, and Degrassi High! It is so cheesy, but the cheesiness is hilarious! Also, the first two episodes are the cheeziest of all, and then they decide to tone it down because I think it was even too cheesy for them. It's a lovable show too. Very real/non glamorous.
posted by Blitz at 2:30 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

pushing daisies!
posted by Lemmy Caution at 2:39 PM on April 27, 2014

I thought Eureka was pretty good. It's family-friendly, six or seven seasons long, and has a good ending. It's on Netflix streaming (that's how I found it).
posted by Benny Andajetz at 2:40 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

This is probably a very outdated suggestion but I absolutely love Northern Exposure... Great story arc (although whether the finale is good is debatable). The series had witty yet serious writing, and best of all, a very diverse cast of well written main characters including Aboriginal and elderly stars (not that common in 90s television or even today for that matter). The show also did a nice job of exploring issues the gay, Jewish, and female characters faced without seeming like one of those horrible after-school specials.

If you are up for it X-Files is also wonderful. I watched the entire run last year with my mom who is in her mid 60s and she was hooked, which makes me feel it can appeal even to demographics who are not interested in the supernatural or crime genres. Up to season 7 is quite good, at which point the individual episodes can be hit or miss. That said, I was relatively satisfied with the conclusion although quite a few fans weren't.
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 2:45 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

Every early-teen I know is into Dr Who. It's a little B-movie feeling at first but you get used to it. You can also basically start in any season and jump around.
posted by bluedeans at 2:48 PM on April 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

The editing portion closed but I just wanted to add my senior mom really enjoyed Breaking Bad so perhaps the X-Files suggestion is not too far off from your tastes... She kept talking about these characters like they were actual people (and I was not familiar with the show) so you can just imagine the awkward drugs-are-bad conversation that resulted when I questioned her about these new "friends".
posted by partly squamous and partly rugose at 2:55 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing Avatar: The Last Airbender. It's so good. If you or your kids are into comic books stuff Earth's Mightiest Heroes is an Avengers cartoon that draws from both the comics and the cinematic universe.
posted by calistasm at 3:23 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing Avatar. I am a 32 year old man and started watching it just this year, it's funny and very enjoyable for all ages.
posted by smoke at 3:36 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

West Wing is really great, as is Battlestar Gallactica; you can check out sketchy episodes and skip them. I just watched Friday Night Lights, loved it, and thought they really understood adolescence.
posted by theora55 at 3:54 PM on April 27, 2014

Community. It's on its last season, AFAIK.
posted by Sebmojo at 4:11 PM on April 27, 2014

Max Headroom
Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles
Dark Angel (there are two seasons but I only recommend the first one)
Jeeves and Wooster
posted by bile and syntax at 4:14 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dead Like Me
posted by Ideefixe at 4:42 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I've recently discovered Leverage and really liked it. The characters grow through the seasons and all 5 seasons are on Netflix streaming in the US.

I love Farscape, but am not so sure some of the later episodes are appropriate for the 12-14 crowd. If you try it out, I'd suggest pre-screening season 4, if not earlier episodes.
posted by wiskunde at 4:49 PM on April 27, 2014

Doc Martin
West Wing (tho I think it loses steam in the last season)
posted by artdrectr at 5:11 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well, I can't say it had a GREAT finale, but the X-Files has a great story arc and really fun monster-of-the-week episodes, and I loved it as a teenager.

Doctor Who is excellent as well. The newer series is probably of better interest to teenagers than the older ones, but hey, you never know. Bonus: It's still on, so the arc keeps going, and you can continue watching as a family after you're caught up.

Buffy might get a bit too adult in a couple later episodes for a 12-year-old's comfort level (there are some steamy scenes). Overall though, it's great.

For the non-sci-fi, I totally nth Friday Night Lights. Really, really great stuff.
posted by erst at 5:30 PM on April 27, 2014

As mentioned, Babylon 5: the visual style seemed kinda low-budget when it first aired, so it will come across as really dated-looking now, and the overall story-arc just gradually coalesces, so the first couple of seasons often just seem random. But part-way through it transforms into a deep and often profound exploration of the ideas of loyalty, morality, spirituality, political conflict, and making tough decisions. It made a big impact on me.

(This comment could also apply to Deep Space Nine).
posted by ovvl at 5:44 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Due South!
posted by a fiendish thingy at 6:00 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I initially loved the remake of Battlestar Galactica, but the show went really really dark in S3 such that I haven't actually been able to watch the rest of it. Just sayin', as others have mentioned.

Nthing Lost, Fringe, X-Files, Buffy - although all of these have a supernatural/conspiracy/weird stuff element that might not be your collective cup of tea. Gilmore Girls is also great fun, just re-watched it and it stands up quite well. The West Wing is also great. If you like fluffy mystery type things, the BBC does lots of adaptations of Agatha Christie (Marple and Poirot) that are quite good - not really story arcs, but recurring characters.

If you are open to non-American/animated stuff, there's heaps of good anime out there. Azumanga Daioh is hilarious and there's no magical stuff, just normal life with a bunch of schoolgirls. RahXephon didn't get as much press as Neon Genesis Evangelion but to my mind is by far the better series, even if they both have teenage boys piloting giant robot-type things. Last Exile is also beautiful and has both boys and girls as pilots. The drawback with all of these is that they're only one season (26 episodes).

If you want something long-running, try InuYasha (girl from modern Japan winds up in feudal Japan on a quest to retrieve all the bits of a magical talisman, along with a half-demon, half-human guy (Inuyasha), a monk, a female demon hunter and a cute little fox demon. (Demons aren't all evil and nasty.) Their arch-nemesis is, of course. Lots of plot twists, battles, funny bits and general fun. Ranma 1/2 is also pretty good and gender-bendy - Ranma fell into a magical pool which means he turns into a girl when he comes into contact with cold water; reversed when he touches hot water. His dad is the same only turns into a panda.
posted by Athanassiel at 7:11 PM on April 27, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised nobody's said it: The Good Wife. It's still on (and still good), so no finale, but it has plenty of both character development and extended developed arcs.
posted by NortonDC at 7:22 PM on April 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Going back a bit, M*A*S*H had a memorable wrap-up and 11 seasons.
posted by sageleaf at 7:26 PM on April 27, 2014

I am still emotionally scarred from the final episode of M*A*S*H*, but it was a great show. I think Pushing Up Daisies is a little dark for our kids, but there are so many great suggestions in here. As an aging purist snob I have avoided DS9 and B5, but this thread has convinced me to explore them. My children are already deeply immersed in Dr. Who. We'll have to watch the next season together. I tried to get my teen son to watch Freaks and Geeks but it didn't work for him, unfortunately. This is a great thread!
posted by mecran01 at 7:35 PM on April 27, 2014

Once Upon a Time
posted by humboldt32 at 7:40 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want a gritty cop drama, my mom and I watched and loved Third Watch, a fantastic show about NY cops and paramedics which ran from 1999 to 2005. I watched it from about 8th grade through my junior year of high school. It is still one of my favorite shows.
posted by ChuraChura at 9:29 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding Once (upon a time)
posted by zippy at 10:47 PM on April 27, 2014

I would hold off on BSG for a while, even though I love that show. Avatar: The Last Airbender is great.

Doogie Howser is also surprisingly good, though imminently corny and mockable much of the time. It has a lot of charm. It might be a bit after-school-special-y, though-- it might be the kind of thing that's fun as an adult but too embarrassingly corny as a teenager.

I couldn't finish Gilmore Girls because it went so downhill in the final seasons, but the first few are absolute gold.

There are some pretty dark parts in Buffy; you might want to check episode synopses and skip the ones with rape and attempted rape in them.

Leverage might be good, if you want a heist show-- it's generally fairly light (at least compared to most of the other stuff I enjoy), good character development, and really fun plots. There's also an RP that I've been wanting to try, so if you're huge nerds you might have another related activity to participate in from that.
posted by NoraReed at 11:16 PM on April 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel (starting with Buffy season 4, you can watch them together, here's a guide to keeping them in loose sync for crossovers). The first seasons of both shows are less serialised, but after that they have strong arcs and build up to great finales. Dollhouse is shorter, but still a great Whedon show telling a complete story. It speeds up greatly halfway through the first season, and again at the second season.

The revived Doctor Who (we'll call 2005 series 1) is quite good as well, if more loosely serialised. Series 5 provides a good entry point with a new doctor and a new showrunner, series 6 has the strongest serialisation (very close to a Buffy season, with a change of antagonist at midpoint, but with part of the story taking place in a reversed time flow). Series 7 is the latest and concludes the Matt Smith period.

If you are open to an ongoing series, Orphan Black just started its second season. It's a thriller and the narrative drive is fantastic, with a 10 episode season packing more story than most shows do in their entire run.
posted by Tobu at 3:01 AM on April 28, 2014

I never finished the first season of Orphan Black, but should revisit it based on what I've been hearing. I'm not sure I want to watch it with my twelve-year-old daughter, however!
posted by mecran01 at 3:40 AM on April 28, 2014

Sorry, I can see how OB would likely be overwhelming to someone of that age. I wouldn't want to exclude themes outright (or presume anything), but having adult concerns be more spread out and incremental (the way Buffy introduces them) sounds better. I'll put a word of defense for Pushing Daisies though, for being quite light-hearted and uplifting (stamps of approval).
posted by Tobu at 5:43 AM on April 28, 2014

Throwing my vote in for:

Babylon 5 of course (my favorite show of all time)

DS9 is fun once its gets going.
The Stargate Franchise.

I also liked West Wing.
posted by PlutoniumX at 8:55 AM on April 28, 2014

Nthing The West Wing, Friday Night Lights, Doctor Who (start with the 9th Doctor. It can be cheesy at times, but when they get to the 10th Doctor David Tennant, it gets waaaay better.)

What about Sherlock (Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman)? That's a great show and kid friendly. Each episode is like a mini movie.

I also really like My Name Is Earl. It's pretty funny and each episode is like a lesson about kindness and making amends for any wrongs that might have been done in the past. (Although the 3rd season and the ending of the series was really lame).

My all time favorite feel-good show - Northern Exposure. Great at any age.
posted by ATX Peanut at 9:29 AM on April 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

More votes for west wing, gilmore girls, once upon a time , friday night lights. You've got some great suggestions on this thread.

Also, not sure how accessible past seasons of the amzing race are, but it's engaging, exciting, and may instill some wonder of the world around them.
posted by beignet at 12:17 AM on April 29, 2014

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