And they say there’s nothing good on television! We disagree, and if you want to gather round the flatscreen this weekend for some good family viewing, you don’t even need to use a screening app.
Here’s a selection of cable and broadcast shows suitable for Junior to Nana and everyone in between (all times ET/PT):
“Great British Baking Show” — Friday, 8 p.m., PBS (whose affiliates are allowed to air shows on their own schedules, so check local listings for time and station in your area)
As addictive as the baked goods produced on the show, this British import is simultaneously charming, relaxing and incredibly tense. Diverse contestants — who, despite differences in faith, ethnicity and background, seem chosen for being generally lovely people — gather under a large tent on the lawn of a high-end British estate to compete in the creation of a dizzying array of British and international cakes, pies, biscuits, rolls, muffins, buns and cookies. Then they face the judgment of two baking experts: well-tanned Paul Hollywood, and persnickety octogenarian Mary Berry (at top).
While the competition is nerve-wracking, the hosts — the comic team of Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc — keep it light, the judges are stern but loving, and there is zero backbiting or unpleasantness among the contestants.
As a bonus, if your kids wonder how math is used in the world, just have them watch the bakers working out amounts of ingredients and cooking times, and doing complex engineering for gingerbread houses and other towering creations.
The show is also available on Netflix.
“Mulan” (1998) — Saturday, 7:30 p.m., Freeform
One of the directors of this Disney animated film is Christian Tony Bancroft (read an interview with himself and a fellow Disney animator here), and the film got four out of five stars from watchdog group Common Sense Media, which wrote:
Parents need to know that although Mulan is a decidedly Disneyfied take on a Chinese fairy tale, elements of Chinese culture and history ring true. It also offers kids a strong female character who (like Moana and Merida) stands out from the Disney Princess pack and offers a positive gender representation for young viewers (even though gender-related stereotypes are also sometimes played for laughs). Expect some scary/intense battle scenes, weapons use, explosions, sad moments, and a very menacing bad guy. The Huns destroy Chinese villages and kill people (not shown). There’s a bit of flirting/romantic tension. While Mulan ultimately becomes a hero and helps her people, she does so by rebelling against authority, which is worth discussing. But in the end, this is a story about perseverance, teamwork, and courage that’s bound to choke up dads and daughters everywhere.
The site also offers 23 parent reviews and suggestions for how to discuss the movie with kids.
“Up” (2009): — Saturday, 9:35 p.m., and Sunday, 7:20 p.m., Freeform
Upon release, this charming and heartfelt Pixar animated film was just about universally loved, and to this day, it has a 98% positive score on film-rating site Rotten Tomatoes.
Ed Asner voices elderly man Carl Fredericksen, who, together with his wife Ellie, had always dreamed of traveling to Paradise Falls in South America. After Ellie dies, Carl decides to honor her by making their dream come true, so he lashes hundreds of helium balloons to his house and floats off to find Paradise Falls. Unbeknownst to Carl, he’s got an unintended stowaway — an eager scout (voice of Justin Nagai), who has more enthusiasm than skills.
A few caveats from Common Sense Media, which gives the film 5 out of 5 stars:
Parents need to know that Up is the second Pixar movie (after The Incredibles) to receive a PG rating, mostly due to a few potentially frightening scenes involving a band of trained talking dogs trying to get rid of the protagonists, some moments where characters almost fall from a floating house, and some guns firing. That said, it’s Disney/Pixar, so the violence is mild. Viewers should note that an early wordless sequence follows an emotional and potentially upsetting trajectory that could trigger questions about old age, illness, and death.
“Harvest Love” (2017) — Saturday, 9 p.m., Hallmark Channel
This is a romance, so younger kids will probably wrinkle up their noses, but at 9 p.m., it’s after the bedtime of a lot of little ones anyway. But preteens and up — and especially moms — may enjoy this story of love after loss. Here’s how Hallmark describes it:
A widowed surgeon visits her family’s pear orchard in hopes of taking a break from her overbooked life and reconnecting with her distant son. She starts to fall for the farm manager, Will, who is growing a new hybrid pear and teaches her the importance of her heritage. Stars Jen Lilley and Ryan Paevey.
“Shark Tank” — Sunday, 8 p.m., ABC
Business magnate, inventor and philanthropist Richard Branson joins the “sharks” for the Mark Burnett-produced show’s 9th-season premiere, which runs for two hours. Here’s how ABC describes it:
An 11-year-old inventor from San Clemente, California, recycles a skateboard deck to fit inside lockers and backpacks; an entrepreneur from Meridianville, Alabama, revolutionizes aerial sports; a husband and wife team from Vicksburg, Mississippi create outdoor camping gear; and an entrepreneur from San Francisco, California, claims her five-minute meditation app will help the world reduce stress.
In “Shark Tank,” inventors pitch products and services in hopes of securing funding from the panel of wealthy potential investors. The “shark” element comes in as the panelists grill the hopefuls and also compete with each other for the most likely prospects.
While it wasn’t intended as a show for kids, it’s turned out to be one of the several reality shows that families watch together. While most of it will go over the heads of younger kids, middle-schoolers and up can get a quick masterclass on how business and investing work, and what it takes to recruit people to support your dreams.
And sometimes, as in this episode, kids come on to pitch their own ideas — and the panel doesn’t go easy on them.
Images: Courtesy BBC/PBS, Disney/Pixar, Hallmark Channel
Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.