Last week I wrote about ‘Veronica Mars’ and how I would love to see it get a fourth season. In the process, I mentioned my dislike of the show ‘7th Heaven.’ Apparently the one line where I mentioned my distaste for the show was enough to get a few people to speak up in the comments section. How dare I speak ill of their precious show? While I stand by my opinion of the series, which I find to be extremely corny, over-dramatic and virtually unwatchable, one of the commenters raised an excellent point. Right now, ‘7th Heaven’ is of a dying breed. Family-friendly scripted TV shows are a rarity in primetime television these days.

Over the last decade or so I’ve slipped into a sort of in-between demographic. I’m no longer a kid and because I don’t have any kids myself, I never really gave the family TV genre much thought. But I do plan on having kids some day so now I’m starting to wonder – will there be any primetime programs on TV that I will be able to enjoy with my kids? I stress the word “enjoy” because I know there are plenty of kid-friendly shows on TV today. I mean, when in doubt, one can always flip to Nickelodeon, The Disney Channel or any other similar type of network geared towards kids and find a whole days worth of shows made for kids. But how much of what is aired on these networks will adults find genuinely entertaining?

I recognize that while folks like me can’t stomach ‘7th Heaven’ in all its touchy-feely corniness, families all over the country love it. I’m willing to accept that not everyone is going to agree with me and my opinions on TV shows so I will do my best not to bash ‘7th Heaven’ throughout this entire article. Lets just agree to disagree on that issue for now. In the meantime, aside from ‘7th Heaven,’ can someone tell me what scripted shows American families are watching together? I say, “scripted” because I get that shows like ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ and ‘American Idol’ are big with families but where is the modern equivalent to ‘The Cosby Show’ or ‘The Wonder Years’? Is ‘7th Heaven’ really all there is left for families to watch?

I guess we’d have to define “family-friendly” for those readers out there who, like myself, don’t have kids and don’t really think about the subject that much. If I had kids, the kind of TV shows I’d watch with them would have to involve very little violence, sex or drug use. Of course these three things could be implied in one form or another at times throughout the series as they are real issues in today’s society that affect families on a regular basis. In terms of drug use or violence, these issues would have to be shown in a negative light, often in some kind of lesson-learning experience. A family-friendly show doesn’t have to center on a traditional family (1 mom, 1 dad, 3 kids, a dog, etc). It could focus on a family where the parents are divorced or one of the parents is deceased. It could center on a number of different types of families or not on any family at all. The point is, the show has to target families as an audience and contain the type of content most parents would allow their kids to view.

The limited amount of quality family programming isn’t for lack of trying. Shows like ‘Once and Again,’ ‘Freaks and Geeks,’ ‘Life As We Know It’ and ‘My So Called Life’ all had that sort of cleaned-up drama that appealed to adults as well as kids. Unfortunately not enough people tuned in and they were cancelled. For some reason, only ‘7th Heaven’ has survived. There are other shows on The CW that families with teenaged kids could enjoy but the choices for families with younger kids seems extremely lacking, to say the least.

When I was growing up there was a ton of shows I could watch with my family. ‘Growing Pains,’ ‘Perfect Strangers,’ ‘Picket Fences,’ ‘Doogie Howser,’ ‘Diff’rent Strokes,’ ‘Facts of Life’ – the list goes on and on. I’m not arguing that all of these shows were all that high in terms of the quality of writing. Many of them have the same level of corniness that‘7th Heaven’ delivers on a weekly basis. The point is there was a variety of this type of show for families to choose from. Primetime was full of shows that families could watch together. It seems that at some point over the years, the list of choices became shorter and shorter and now families are left with talent competitions, ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ and ‘7th Heaven.’

So is this it? When I do have kids and they’re grown enough to watch primetime TV with me, will we still be left with such a small selection of shows? Who knows, at the rate things are going, maybe there wont even be one ‘7th Heaven’ type show for me to watch with my kids?

If I thought that the lack of these types of shows was due to the fact that families are too busy spending “quality” time with one another and neglecting their TVs that would be one thing but lets face it, that’s probably not the case. The kids are out with their friends or tucked away in some corner of the house updating their Myspace page and chatting online. The parents are TiVoing ‘CSI’ or ‘Heroes’ and waiting until the little ones are off to bed before relaxing after a long day. Perhaps the age of family TV is over.

What do you think? If you’re a parent or someone living with kids, what types of shows do you enjoy watching with them? Do you even watch TV with them? If you’re not a parent, are there any shows you watch now that you’d allow your kids to watch with you, if you had any? Feel free to email me your response to [email protected] or comment below!

What to Watch (3/25 to 3/31)

’Grease: You’re the One That I Want’ (NBC) 8:00 pm
Season Finale- (New!) – Its down to Ashley, Laura, Max and Austin. My money is on Laura and Max to win the coveted roles of Danny and Sandy in the new revival of the hit Broadway Musical, “Grease” After this week maybe I’ll start watching ‘The Amazing Race.’

’Battlestar Galactica’ (SCIFI) 10:00 pm
Crossroads (Part 2 of 2) - (New!) – Baltar’s trial comes to an end. Adama and the other judges decide his fate. We’ll also hopefully get to find out more about this mysterious music that some of the characters can hear.

’24’ (Fox) 9:00 pm
8:00 pm – 9:00 pm- (New!) – Gredenko movies to plan B. The people at CTU continue to deal with their seasonal mole problem and Karen tries to get things back to where they need to be at the White House.

’Black Donnellys’ (NBC) 10:00 pm
Run Like Hell- (New!) – Tommy gets drawn into his brothers bookmaking business.

’American Idol’ (Fox) 8:00 pm
(New!) – The top 10 perform a bunch of songs. The show will run five minutes over the hour so be sure to set your DVRs to cover it (or just record ‘House’ afterwards and you’ll be all set).

’House’ (Fox) 9:05 pm
Top Secret (New!) – ‘House’ is back! The episode will run TEN minutes over the hour due to Fox’s cash-cow, ‘American Idol’ spilling into ‘House’ time. Be sure to set your DVRs accordingly.

’Jericho’ (CBS) 8:00 pm
Winter’s End (New!) – April goes into premature labor and needs surgery. The mayor attempts to trade salt for food which proves to be a difficult task.

’American Idol’ (FOX) 9:00 pm
(New!) – Another forgettable contestant is let go (that’s what this portion of the competition is all about, after all) and Gwen Stefani and Akon perform.

”Lost” (ABC) 10:00 pm
Exposé (New!) – Sun learns more about why she was kidnapped by the Others. The episode is a Nikki/Paolo flashback episode. Hopefully the writers will find a way to make us care about them.

”Top Design” (Bravo) 10:00 pm
Metropolitan Home Suites (New!) – Added to the What-To-Watch by demand. Anyone not interesting in learning more about Nikki and Paulo can watch as these hopeful-designers put together a modern hotel room.

Normally I’d recommend any of the following: ‘Ugly Betty,’ ‘The Office,’ ‘My Name Is Earl,’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘Smallville,’ or ‘Men In Trees’ but since those shows are either in reruns or not on at all, here’s what I’ve got for you:

’CSI: Crime Scene Investigation’ (CBS) 9:00 pm
Empty Eyes (New!) – The thing I like about CSI is that when nothing else is on, you can always watch an episode and not feel too out of the loop for not having watched all (any) of the previously viewed episodes. In this episode, a bunch of showgirls get murdered.

’Andy Barker, P.I. (NBC) 9:30 pm
Three Days Of The Chicken (New!) – Andy investigates a chicken processing company and stumbles across a scandal involving a government official.

Casino (Bravo) 7:00 pm
Not as good as Goodfellas or The Departed but still enjoyable to watch and since its based on true events, its educational!

The Parent Trap (Hallmark) 6:00 pm
This is the Haley Mills version of the movie. If you’re in the mood for Lindsay Lohan, I suggest watching Mean Girls on TNT at 8:00 pm EST. Otherwise check out this classic movie about two girls who learn that they are twin sisters while away at summer camp and scheme to get their parents back together.


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