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Great Family TV Shows: Joan of Arcadia, Freaks & Geeks, Veronica Mars, Beverly Hills: 90210, Degrassi Jr. High

Updated on February 17, 2012

Many out there complain about not having TV shows that the entire family can enjoy. In theme or genre, any "coming of age" film (i.e., Diary of a Wimpy Kid) or TV show (like those in title above) has universal appeal. The appeal to adults is that everything in the shows may have happened to themselves years ago, at least in circumstance. The appeal to tweeners and teenagers is that they can relate well to the themes and may learn how to deal with it, if and when, that situation arises. All of the family shows share common themes, yet, deal with them on different terms. Most of the TV shows in the title of this capsule were done between 1991-2004. The exception is Degrassi Jr. High, which originally aired in the mid 80's. Though it is old, its themes and problems tweeners go through never change. I could have even listed TV shows from the late 50's (Leave it to Beaver, Dennis the Menace) because many of the situations kids find themselves are timeless, only the cars, clothing, hair differs.

Freaks and Geeks is from the late 90's. It is about a teenager and her younger brother. She is a junior in HS, while the brother is either a 8th or 9th grader. She hangs with a type of loser crowd just to be liked and because she does not like the other clicks. James Franco stars in this. The show is set in the early 80's. The show explores how the kids and parents feel about issues that every family faces. The brother hangs with geeks, and is classic nerd stuff, yet very real in the issues they face (like girls, talking about sex). Great topics and show.

Joan of Arcadia is about another family, this time, in the 2001-2004 time. Joan literally talks to God daily, not as in prayer, but as some "person" that she stumbles upon in them most unsuspecting places. Hilarious discussions about why God allows so many things in the world. God can appear as a punk rocker, a hot babe, a janitor etc. God usually wants her to improve herself somehow, usually she disagrees and does not understand why. Joan has two teenager brothers, a nerd-whiz kid with few social skills and one who was the Top jock until an accident that paralyzed him. Now, he is bound to a wheelchair. Her father is a cop, her mom, a teacher at the same HS. Once again, family dynamics and how they each face daily issues and each other makes this compelling TV!!!

Veronica Mars was a short lived TV show of three years. The setting is HS, her father is a detective. Veronica is fairly hot but she is quite level headed and has a knack for solving problems of her friends and others. Usually, the issues do not involve any murder or nasty things, but more HS issues that she tackles like a Sherlock Holmes in a techy way. The show is a cult classic among those who discovered it because it is engaging. The humor and acting in the show are excellent. 

Beverly Hills 90210 is the classic from 91-99. It remains a great show and timely. The cast of characters in the show remained during the years, from HS through college. People in their 30s now, no doubt watched it back then when they were in HS. Just about every thing life can send someone is in this series. The later years, say, 1997-99, are when they are in their 20s, and while interesting, I found the 91-96 years more engaging. Beware, once you start watching, you will get addicted. If you do, start from 1991, season 1.

Degrassi Jr. High was done in the mid-80's and showed on public TV stations. It has a old feel and look and even a sort of "film student" look about it. The students in it were really students at the school, not famous actors. It was filmed in Canada. Tweeners still watch it today because of the themes and problems that age group faces (first kiss, first sex, first anything). The new Degrassi show is High School and quite different. Both kids and parents can watch this show without feeling uncomfortable. Because it was funded for public TV, it is a very "clean" TV show.

All of the above shows offer good, clean, TV show viewing. They are all four stars for acting, themes, no dirty language or sexual situations (90% of the time). All are addicting shows and available on DVD.


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      pgorner 6 years ago from Tijuana, Mexico

      I liked all your choices, particularly Freaks and Geeks. I loved how when Millie's dog died, she was all about to go down Lindsay's path, and Kim was so excited because all she wanted ever was an was such a selfless thing she did when Millie was about to drink that beer...risking loneliness to keep Millie from ruining her life. Awesome. It was like Kim was totally about to corrupt Millie and enjoy it...until she watched Millie bitch out her mom. Everyone else was so proud of Millie, except Kim...who saw something very uncomfortably familiar, such as what goes on her OWN home with her own mother. Awesome.