Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Joys of Shows You Can Watch With Your Kids

Doctor Who is back on saturday! Hooray! For me this is a good thing as I enjoy the show in it's own right, but also because it's one of the few shows on TV at the moment that we sit down as a family and make time to watch. We watch a lot of "grown up" telly but it tends to be when the kids are safely asleep, and with our eldest being 9 theres a little bit of a grey area between what is appropriate for him to watch, and what he finds satisfying to watch. The best stuff for this is that comparatively rare breed of show that manages a very broad range, and largely appeals to kids and their parents, and boy do I value them. So here is my Top 5 family shows currently in production, in no particular order.

1) Doctor Who - its the show that seems to be please everyone and no-one. It's return to the screens has been heralded by the usual barrage of media articles and comments saying how great it is, or how its too complex, or too deep, or too grown up, or too kiddyfield, or whatever. I enjoy it. A lot. The kids are jazzed at seeing the trailers pop up and we've already had a lot of conversations about what might be going on, many of which are very, very silly indeed. But it's a show we all love, it's a show that makes us talk as a family, and that's worth the license fee all by itself.

2) Mythbusters - Over on the Discovery Channel we have a long-running hour-long from the states that is basically about blowing things up. Sorry, no, it's about testing idioms, urban legends, and things you see in the movies against hard reality to see what works and what doesn't. (Can't imagine why this would appeal to a Dissecting Worlds Host?). With a broad range of subjects, engaging, banter-heavy hosts and a refreshingly gonzo approach to practical science, its accessible, and educational, stuff.

3) Star Wars: The Clone Wars - There are those that say that the Star Wars Prequels are cursed, and no good can ever come from them. I say that The Clone Wars proves them wrong. Always popular with the kids (as are the prequels, so I guess they're not that great a judge), the series owes it's tone more the the Classic Trilogy with it's mix of heavy action and dark undertones. There some mis-steps in it's first season but it quickly settles into a broad-ranging series that includes High Pulp Adventure, Godzilla pastiches, old-school War Stories, heroic Heroes and Villainous Villians. Sadly at some point it will become Revenge of the Sith and all the characters will become less well written, less well acted, and a lot less sympathetic. 

4) Merlin - In many ways a post-Doctor Who show, trying to capture that same spirit in a different shape, Merlin deserves credit for talking the most amount of liberties I can think of with Arthurian Myth without just becoming something totally different. Saved from its scripts at times by it's actors, especially veteran scene-stealers Tony Head and Richard Wilson, it's good fun swords'n'sorcery('n'subtext) for a saturday evening.

5) Horrible Histories - And finally, possibly the best comedy show on the TV at the moment. Based on the popular series of books (and the second attempt to make a TV show of them), a it uses all the tricks of "adult" sketch show and turns them to accessible, gruesome use with the sort of history you learned at school. The real joy of it isn't just that it's genuinely funny (it is!) but the constant barrage of pop-culture references and pastiches used to get the facts across. Long may it continue.Also, Vikings!:

Honourable Mentions go to: Ben 10 (and spin offs), Scooby-Doo Mystery Inc. (yes, really), Primeval