Parents are frequently looking for advice on what TV shows they can watch with their families. Here are a few new fall broadcast TV shows the Parents Television Council recommends – and a few to avoid.
The TV landscape can be tough going for families seeking programs to watch together. So-called "family TV" programs are rarely family-friendly, a trend well-documented by PTC; and other shows containing objectionable content might not be appropriate for kids.
Thankfully, the new crop of broadcast shows offers some upbeat, positive messages for family audiences.
Pitch tells the story of Ginny Baker, the first female pitcher in major league baseball. Drilled in pitching since childhood by her demanding father, Ginny earned her way up through the minor leagues and is now starting pitcher for the San Diego Padres. But while the media – and millions of little girls – look up to her, Ginny must strive to overcome both the sexism of her teammates and her own self-doubt.
Pitch is an impressively well-thought-out program, and Ginny herself is an inspiring creation: a strong, grounded young woman, who still struggles with doubts about whether she's worthy – and able – to be the idol of millions. While the program does feature some salty language realistic for a pro sports team, the first episode's director, Paris Barclay, accurately summarized the program: "I've been aching to have a show I can watch with my family, and now there is one."
For viewers who enjoy sports, involving family drama, or a powerful message that girls can do anything, Pitch hits it out of the park.
This Is Us (NBC)
One of the best new shows of the year, This Is Us is a touching, inspirational slice-of-life drama involving multiple characters: a plus-size woman seeking acceptance and love, a successful businessman who is confronted with the father who abandoned him at birth, a couple facing the birth of triplets, and an actor who has quit a successful sitcom out of a desire to be taken seriously. These diverse individuals will find their lives intertwining in unforeseen ways.
This Is Us offers a touching look at ordinary peoples' lives: how we all struggle with problems large and small, and how life's lemons can be turned into lemonade. Despite a bit of adult language, the program is positive and life-affirming without being saccharine, and is a solid pick for families with older children and teens.
Designated Survivor (ABC)
When the Capitol is bombed during a State of the Union address, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Tom Kirkman suddenly finds himself President of the United States. With only the help of his wife Alex, his teenage son Leo, and his chief of staff Emily, Kirkman must lead America through the crisis and deal with political rivals and enemies in the White House, all while learning the toughest job in the world.
Similar to shows like The Good Wife and Madam Secretary, Designated Survivor promises to be an involving drama with strong storytelling surrounding personalities and politics. It is particularly noteworthy for 24 action hero Kiefer Sutherland's affecting portrayal of a nervous, mild-mannered academic overwhelmed by the responsibilities he now faces, but determined to do what is right.
Unfortunately, there are a number of new shows PTC doesn't recommend for families.
Son of Zorn (FOX)
Zorn is an animated cartoon character, a barbarian warrior who is able to step out of his cartoon and enter the real, live-action world. Parents are duly warned that children watching Son of Zorn will be exposed to gory cartoon violence, foul language, and inappropriate sexual innuendo.
American Housewife (ABC)
Kate Otto is an embittered housewife obsessed with her own weight and lack of social status. Kate takes her frustrations out on her kids, despising daughter Taylor for her popularity at school (Kate never was) and son Oliver's desire to hold down a job and save money (Kate calls him a "capitalist pig" and confiscates his savings). Kate is also paranoid about the skinniness and alleged cliquishness of her neighbors, and constantly worries about her own status as "The Second Fattest Housewife in Westport" (which was this show's working title).
This program features a large amount of content inappropriate for younger viewers, continuing the Disney-owned ABC's trend of inserting inappropriate language and content into its alleged "family comedies."
Dr. Jason Bull is a Ph.D. in psychology and an expert in "reading" people and knowing how they think. Bull puts his abilities to work in the courtroom as a "fixer" for defense attorneys, predicting what the jurors will do – then using his skills to create courtroom drama and manipulate the jury into finding his clients innocent.
Frankly, Bull is not as bad as the other programs on this "worst" list; in fact, it is a better choice than FOX's sexualized and ultra-gory Scream Queens, which also airs on Tuesdays. ET. But Bull's use of adult themes and dialogue and violence make it a program inadvisable for family consumption. Families would do better to seek out NBC (The Voice) or ABC (Dancing With the Stars) on Tuesdays this fall.
For more about other family-friendly TV viewing options, check out PTC's Family Guide, weekly picks, or blog for additional reviews.
Dr. Christopher Gildemeister is the head of research operations for the Parents Television Council, a nonpartisan education organization advocating responsible entertainment.
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