TV shows while the kids get their iPads
June 29, 2016 1:42 PM   Subscribe

I need a few good TV shows to watch while the kids are watching their iPads. More details inside.

My children get a short amount of time to play with/watch things on their iPad in the evenings. I'm looking for a TV show to occasionally watch during the same time. Both children have headphones, so I am not too worried about language, but I can't exactly have them look up to see some of the scenes in the Wire, Breaking Bad, or Hannibal.

I watched or am familiar with most of the major sitcoms from the 80s/90s/pre 2010 era so no need to suggest Friends, Cheers, Frasier, and the like.

I loved the Wire, Sopranos, Hannibal, The West Wing, Breaking Bad, Arrested Development, Sherlock, Firefly, Game of Thrones, Community, House of Cards, Batman the Animated Series, Dexter, and Battlestar Galactica. Friends and HIMYM had their moments. So did Chuck. I do not like Seinfeld or Big Bang Theory. Even though I listed more drama than comedy, I am not against funny by any means.

Show length isn't really an issue. I have access to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, and iTunes. What do you have for me? Thank you in advance.
posted by Silvertree to Media & Arts (33 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My Name is Earl is surprisingly good and not at all what I expected.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 1:45 PM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Doctor Who!
posted by Hanuman1960 at 1:49 PM on June 29, 2016

Jane The Virgin and My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (currently free on iTunes apparently) are both much better than their titles might lead you to believe.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:51 PM on June 29, 2016 [4 favorites]

Friday Night Lights! It's more on the West Wing end of the spectrum than the Breaking Bad side, but it's wonderful and really well-written, and the kids will not look up to see anything horrifying. You do not need to enjoy football to like it.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:53 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Good Wife, Brooklyn 99, Avatar: The Last Airbender and Voltron: Legendary Defender if you're looking for more animation.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 2:01 PM on June 29, 2016

Happy Endings and what little there is of Don't Trust The B___ In Apartment 23 are both pretty great. (Despite the name Don't Trust The B is your standard family appropriate network sitcom. The only way it differs from the Friends/HIMYM model is that they admit that female masturbation exists.)

My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend! Also Broad City unless you are working hard to not let your kids see evidence of smoking of any kind.

Mad Men? (There's a lot of ugliness if you understand the nuance of what characters are talking about, but sex scenes are tame and there's no violence.)

What about The Americans? Like Mad Men the bad stuff is mostly implied, though it's a bit more sexually frank than Mad Men. Along these same lines and also on Amazon, The Man In The High Castle?
posted by Sara C. at 2:02 PM on June 29, 2016

Maybe my favorite somewhat-under-the-radar show of the past couple years is Catastrophe, which has the added advantage of being short (I know you said length isn't an issue, but I also try to watch my own shows with a little one in the house and it helps!). It's on Amazon and it's (a) extremely funny and (b) really real.

Mozart in the Jungle is also pretty delightful. For a far more sinister show, you might try Fortitude, although there are some disturbing scenes. It's an absolutely amazing, unique show, though, so as part of my mission to recommend it to everyone I come across, there you go.
posted by ORthey at 2:03 PM on June 29, 2016 [2 favorites]

If you have not seen Gilmore Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer you'd better get started on both of those right now.
posted by something something at 2:08 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bob's Burgers is a favorite in our household for these purposes. A bonus is that if a kid catches some audio, it's not too terrible. Most references to NSFW activities will go over their heads.
posted by witchen at 2:10 PM on June 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

Sports Night and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip - both by Aaron Sorkin
Master of None is only on Netflix, Aziz Ansari is the main character and his real dad plays his dad. It is funny but has a few brief scenes that could be too adult for kids to spy on. Most of the adult content is in the dialogue.
posted by soelo at 2:11 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hart of Dixie
posted by Sassyfras at 2:11 PM on June 29, 2016

FYI, the pilot episode of Mozart in the Jungle features people quite clearly having sex. I quit watching after the pilot (not because of that) so I don't know if sex scenes are a recurring part of the show.
posted by _Mona_ at 2:13 PM on June 29, 2016

Dead Like Me! Yeah pretty much everyone is dead but it's not exactly grey. It's a workplace comedy that's pretty dark if you follow the conversation. Loved it, miss it, but don't bother with the add-on tv movie.

If incredible alcoholism isn't a problem then the BBC's Black Books was also funny and enjoyable in a very this-was-made-by-people-who-grew-upon-the-pythons kind of way.

I've recently rematched The West Wing (mostly because of the weekly podcast, I just couldn't help racing a head and watched all of it in a month) and found much of what I liked about it in (go figure) The Newsroom

While I wasn't a fan of the movie and I didn't watch it when it was current I did really enjoy Veronica Mars which carried a lot of the funny, dramatic & crisper dialog I tend to prefer.
posted by mce at 2:14 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

If Married (on FX) is streamable than I recommend that too, but again there is an occasional adult scene.
posted by soelo at 2:14 PM on June 29, 2016

I'd suggest Madam Secretary, Mr. Robot, and The Americans.
posted by rainbowbrite at 2:20 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

I've been watching Murder She Wrote. Very mild in terms of the visuals of murders so far. (Similar with Midsomer Murders but that show is a bit slower and longer.)

You might like Farscape.

Stargate SG1 - don't forget about Stargate Atlantis and Stargate Universe. The first two are mostly campy while the last one is a bit more serious.

Fringe might be great - I love the show personally - but it can be a bit more violent (shooting, monsters, etc.)

This may be one that your kids might end up wanting to watch too but the new Scooby Doo Mystery Incorporated is AMAZING! Both seasons are on Netflix. It's a bit more serious than the campy older show but wow is it good. I legit will probably watch it a second time. (I have no kids.)

How about Parks and Recreation?
posted by Crystalinne at 2:22 PM on June 29, 2016

Better Off Ted is a lot of fun.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:24 PM on June 29, 2016 [3 favorites]

I like most of your list and I have also enjoyed:

Deadwood (Amazon Prime)
Star Trek The Next Generation (Netflix and Amazon)
Star Trek Deep Space Nine (Amazon)
Farscape (Netflix)
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix)
Orange is the New Black (Netflix -- can't vouch for the last 2 seasons)
The Americans (Amazon)
Orphan Black (Amazon)
True Blood (Amazon -- feel free to stop when it gets to silly for you, for me that was after season 5)

I am not a huge fan of Arrested Development, nor Archer, but I don't know anyone who likes AD and doesn't like Archer.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:24 PM on June 29, 2016

I really enjoyed the two series about Ewan McGregor going on a motorcycle trip with his buddy around the world. (1) Long Way Round and (2) Long Way Down. Really! There's nothing like having your support vehicle roll over in the middle of Mongolia. Or getting it stuck in mud in the middle of Africa with no way out other than through. And then the beautiful scenery! Plus, this isn't a bro-show. These guys care about each other, turn the cameras off during a rare argument and don't turn them on again until they talk it out and hug it out.
posted by jillithd at 2:25 PM on June 29, 2016

Schitt's Creek is very funny and the first season is free on Amazon right now. 30 minute comedy with Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara (so that sensibility). We're also working our way through Bored to Death on Amazon and that's good, too. Jason Schwartzman playing Jonathan Ames as a dumped novelist turned unlicensed private detective. Funny and short episodes. You might like Elementary if you liked Sherlock. It's very formulaic but enjoyable.
posted by LKWorking at 2:30 PM on June 29, 2016

Orange Is The New Black has lots of frank lesbian sex scenes that depict specific sex acts and not just "two people are in a bed" network TV type stuff.
posted by Sara C. at 2:30 PM on June 29, 2016

I LOVE The Americans, but the sex scenes are pretty graphic at times and the violence is too. So much so that I -- a middle aged woman -- would not watch it w. my parents.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 2:34 PM on June 29, 2016

I'm watching The Thick of It on Hulu and frankly I'm getting it a little confused with real life these days. Probably don't watch it with subtitles on if the kiddos can read.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 2:37 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

posted by Heloise9 at 2:48 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Have you ever watched The Office? I'd recommend that. At least through season 6. Also, Parks and Recreation. They are comedies with drama-style story arcs.

I don't know how old you are, but I enjoyed Master of None on Netflix, although I think it's geared toward the early 30s crowd and may not be interest to someone older. Another Netflix show you may like, based on your list there, is Narcos. There is violence and some sex, but I don't think it's super graphic.
posted by AppleTurnover at 4:08 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Better Off Ted and Madam Secretary and Veronica Mars. You may also want to seek out The Middleman.
posted by gudrun at 6:05 PM on June 29, 2016

Brooklyn Nine-Nine is what I watch in exactly this situation.
posted by btfreek at 7:29 PM on June 29, 2016 [1 favorite]

Seconding Middleman. You could probably skip the headphones with kids in the room, not that they need their soundtrack added to yours-- the namesake hero is a dashing boyscout who self-censors instead of swearing, and he guilts the protagonist and MM protege Wendy Wasserman, into doing the same. There is some over-the-top creature/monster stuff on screen played mainly for comedy, but it's a show that's fairly family-ready even if it would sail clean over the precious heads of your little ones.

Dead Like Me won't work here. It is a terrific show, and I would argue that DLM season 2 was some of the best TV that ever aired up to that point. But each episode has, in the first act, one or more gruesome deaths, often involving an elaborate "Final Destination" or "Rube Goldberg" setup, usually orchestrated by some nasty little creatures whose job it is to kill people when their number's up. Nightmare fuel for little ones.

Why? Because the main characters are grim reapers; it just so happens that reapers are all deceased people who get to live on in the Earthly realm for a while as afterlife functionaries; purgatory is having to live your life in a place where you can see your old life but you can't have it. It's soooo good; it has depths you'll never imagine by knowing only the premise, but yeah, people dying on screen in spectacular ways.

[Seconding] "Better Off Ted" and its spiritual ancestor "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" would work here.

As long as travel docos are on the table, pretty much anything by Michael Palin (yeah, that guy), but most essentially "Around the World in 80 Days," in which he tries to replicate that book's journey without the benefit of air travel.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:52 PM on June 29, 2016

In your same exact situation I have enjoyed (all from Netflix's Mexican catalog):
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
  • The Office (UK). (warning: a giant inflatable penis is prominently featured in an early chapter)
  • Freaks and Geeks.
  • Many stand-up specials.
  • W/Bob & David.
  • A couple Downton Abbey episodes (never remembered to go back until I read my viewing activity for this answer).

Other notes:
  • Better Call Saul worried me coming off Breaking Bad, but after watching S1 without kids in the room I think I might give S2 a try while they're entertained with something else.
  • Re-watched the pilot episode of Dead Like Me, and felt it didn't age too well. I would have kept going anyway, but it was also a lot less kid-friendly than i remembered. Sunburnt explained why perfectly in the comment above.
  • Nth-ing Better Off Ted.

posted by fjom at 7:40 AM on June 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

If it's a violence thing, ignore this suggestion, but Netflix has the first four seasons of the (now, sadly finished) Person of Interest. It's prime time TV, so almost no sex and tame language, but there are people shot and killed (or not killed, but shot in the knees).
posted by Hactar at 9:57 AM on June 30, 2016

For a sitcom, Corner gas of course. It's on youtube and when you fall in love with the show you can order the entire series on DVD through for a decent price.
posted by RichardHenryYarbo at 11:22 AM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Yes, Corner Gas. And once you're done watching the show, you can watch the Corner Gas movie, which has a great ending. Like almost as great as that one with the normal sized vs. giant gophers vs. groundhogs.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 11:27 AM on June 30, 2016 [2 favorites]

Errrr, I wouldn't recommend True Blood in this context as there are plenty of scenes you wouldn't want the kids to catch sight of!

Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries are quite fun - I think it's the 1920s, on the cosy side of mysteries.
posted by ontheradio at 1:27 AM on July 2, 2016

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