Remember the shows you grew up with that the whole family could watch? What happened to those shows that gave us such great family time?

The Lost Art of the Family TV Show

Life in the 70’s and 80’s

Times were slower and easier then by comparison of today. The only phones we owned were attached with a cord and if your house was like mine, you had a time limit on how long you could be on it. (Remember busy signals and emergency break Remember the shows you grew up with that the whole family could watch? What happened to those shows that gave us such great family time?throughs when the phone stayed busy too long??) There weren’t 500+ channels to choose from, no such thing as “streaming”, and quite often in order to get the best reception, someone either had to turn the dial on the antennae or sit closer to the tv. I remember exactly when my friends got “cable” and when Video Killed the Radio Star kicked off the premiere of this little station called MTV, I was huddled around the ‘tube’ with Missy, Laura and Cathy and I don’t think we slept for the next 36 hours.

If I wasn’t with my friends watching Duran Duran on MTV, then I was most likely hanging out in the family room watching shows with my parents. Our routine was always the same – eat dinner at 6, dad would retire to the recliner to watch the evening news, Pat & Vanna came on and then prime-time tv started. I had two options at that point.. either hang out with them while they watched shows or lock myself in my bedroom until bedtime. Since I didn’t have 2,500 other things to distract me and there was no cable in my room, the choice was simple. I’d watch shows with them.  As I mentioned earlier, we only had 3, maybe four?? channels to choose from and a typical week of  scheduling looked like this: 

1982 prime-time tv schedule lineup

1982 prime-time tv schedule lineup

1982 prime-time tv schedule lineupNotice all the family shows? They were a HUGE staple in the lineup and there was always the same flow to each one of them:

  1. Show opens with family spending time together (usually around the kitchen table)
  2. Someone in the family is faced with some sort of dilemma or problem that seems too heavy or big to bring up
  3. Said person tries to figure out the problem on their own
  4. Either realizes that they can’t or someone in the family figures out there’s a problem
  5. Family unites and together, the problem is either solved or salvaged
  6. Credits roll as the family (usually) hugs and remarks how all things are possible if you stick together
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Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I did a search on Google to see what shows were considered the top “family tv shows” of all time. In no particular order, this is what I found (a couple I added myself because they were missing):

  1. Andy Griffith Show
  2. I Love Lucy
  3. The Cosby Show
  4. The Carol Burnett Show
  5. All in the Family
  6. Everybody Loves Raymond
  7. The Wonder Years
  8. America’s Funniest Home Videos (still on air)
  9. Frasier
  10. Happy Days
  11. Full House
  12. Little House on the Prairie
  13. The Simpsons (still on air)
  14. Good Luck Charlie
  15. Modern Family (still on air)
  16. Boy Meets World
  17. Father Knows Best
  18. The Waltons
  19. Fresh Prince of Bel Air
  20. The Brady Bunch

Of those 20, only Good Luck Charlie and Modern Family were produced within the past TEN years. Instead of family shows that we can watch together, our options now consist of every crime drama known to man, reality shows, and very high-brow sitcoms all of which are fine to watch with your spouse but definitely not shows you would gather around as a family to watch together. Therein lies the lost art form of the family tv show.

The Beauty of Family TV

The magic of shows  like Boy Meets World, Fresh Prince, Full House, The Wonder Years (and more) was that they gave families the opportunity to stop for a while, enjoy time together and just be one. They gave parents the opening to discuss things that were happening in the world or in their own lives because watching a TV family go thru the same thing broke it down into simpler terms. See… the Brady’s were able to work thru that problem by talking about this… maybe we can try that approach and see if it works. Or, “remember when Richie dated a girl with a ‘questionable’ past and then let his friends believe that he went “all the way”? Try being a parent in the 70’s and 80’s and finding an easy way to have THAT conversation. You knew that you could watch these shows with the whole family and not feel like you had to have your finger on the “pause” button of the remote all the time (okay.. I know there was no such thing as a pause button OR a remote back then…).Fuller House Cast with Kristen Daukas

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Netflix is Reviving the Family TV Experience

All of this was not lost on the executives at Netflix. As Ted Sarandos (Chief Content Officer for Netflix) told the audience at the TCA’s last month, Netflix is doubling down on family TV and teen/tween shows this year. They recognize that in this crazy world we live in, what families need and are craving is something that they can do together – even if it’s for only 30  minutes at a pop. But as parents, we don’t want to just watch a show because our kids like it… we want it to be something we can enjoy as well.  Two notable shows that fill the bill are Degrassi: Next Class which debuted last month and later this month we’ll get the reboot of Fuller House. They’re being tight-lipped about the other shows they have in the works, but knowing the high-quality shows that they’ve brought us as adults, I have all the faith in the world that the team at Netflix is going to do exactly as they promised.

Check out your favorite Fuller House characters who are getting their very own Netflix “collections” to celebrate the show launch. Next time your family is gathering around the TV, look to TV Time for the Fam and other Fuller House-inspired title collections to find something everyone can agree on:

I posed this question to my friends and would love to hear what your favorite family shows were growing up in the comments! I can definitely see a roundup post in the near future!

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