Category: Faith and Family on the Internet

Your Childhood’s Calling: ‘Hey Arnold! The Jungle Movie’ Coming Nov. 24 to Nickelodeon

For fans of Nickelodeon’s “Hey Arnold!”, giving thanks lasts an extra day.

On Friday, Nov. 24, at 7 p.m. ET/PT, on Nick, TeenNick and Nicktoons, “Hey Arnold!: The Jungle Movie” picks up where the beloved 1996-2004 Nickelodeon series left off.

Created by Craig Bartlett, the show centered on a fourth-grader named Arnold, who lived with his grandparents in an inner-city boarding house. Together with his friends — including street-smart Gerald and bully/secret admirer Helga — Arnold negotiated the challenges of city living.

In the movie (full details here), co-written and executive produced by Bartlett, Arnold and his pals reunite on a class trip to the same jungle location where Arnold’s parents disappeared when he was a baby.

Take a look:

A lot of original fans of “Hey Arnold!” are now young adults, and those that are parents could share the show with their own little ones. According to an interview Bartlett did with the Huffington Post, a few things are different in the show, including:

Everybody’s grown up a bit:

“I said, ’Look we know we’re going to have to redesign everything from the ground up ― the characters, the backgrounds. Let’s make it so that a couple years have gone by ― a year or two, say ― so you can accept that the kids are a little older, they’ve gotten a little taller.’”

Arnold’s not actually wearing a kilt.

“That was kind of a gag between me and the designers,” Bartlett said of Arnold’s look. “Hey, maybe he’s still kind of wearing the same shirt, but he’s a little taller [in the new movie] and so now you can see more of his pants, so it’s not as kilt-like.

The saga of Pigeon Man continues.

In this scene, saddened by the destruction of his pigeon coop, Pigeon Man took his leave of Arnold.

But where did he go? Apparently some people were spreading rumors on the Internet that the Pigeon Man flying away was originally to be a suicide attempt. Bartlett says this emphatically is not true.

In the movie, we learn the Pigeon Man has taken up residence at Paris’ most famous Catholic cathedral.

Said Bartlett:

He’s basically living in Notre Dame taking care of pigeons in Paris. I was so annoyed about that rumor that I specifically put him in “The Jungle Movie” to know that he’s alive and well and in Paris.

So, is “Hey Arnold!” good for Christian kids?

If you’re worried about the content in “Hey Arnold!” — which did deal with some of the realities of city life — here’s what apologist Jimmy Akin said at Catholic review site Decent Films had to say about a 2002 feature-film (not TV-movie) version of the show:

Nickelodeon’s animated “Hey Arnold!” TV series, created by the Snee-Oosh animation house, is one of the better cartoon shows around.

It is entertaining in a low-key, kid-friendly mode, yet also far more psychologically complex than most cartoons. With its ensemble cast of quirky characters and its visual conceits — such as Arnold’s football-shaped head — it offers a stylized look at the human condition in a way that is both whimsical and grounded in reality.

Finally, Arnold himself is a great kid: decent, respectful, down to earth, and full of common sense. In his neighborhood full of eccentrics and kooky characters, Arnold is the calm eye in the hurricane — a fourth-grade Andy Griffith in the Big City. In fact, like Andy Griffith, Arnold spends much of his time solving the problems of those around him. (For more on this commendable series, see my related piece.)

The return of “Hey Arnold!”?

And there might even be a new series, as Bartlett shared at Comic-Con:

“[In season six] they would be in sixth grade and so on, and we would just watch them grow. Maybe eventually they’d even become teenagers.”

So, grown-up ’90s kids, are you going to share “Hey Arnold!” with your kids?

Image: Courtesy Nickelodeon

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.

Family Prayers by the Numbers (Including the Rosary With ‘Brother Francis’!)

Preschool and kindergarten is an interesting time, where little ones are learning about their world at a very rapid pace. While letters and numbers and language in general is important, young children also begin to learn their core values during this period. Incorporating prayer into their lives in ways that will engage and interest them presents a number of possible benefits—it can be a wonderful teaching tool, even beyond helping them develop a relationship with God.

Here’s an idea that can instill gratitude in your young child, while giving them an opportunity to practice a few other skills as well…

10 – Thank you God for my 10 fingers and 10 toes. Let’s count them all together.

9 – Thank you God for my 9 favorite animals, from the farm and the zoo and the jungle too. Let’s name each one.

8 – Thank you God for my 8 favorite foods. Let me tell you the 8 yummiest things I put in my tummy.

7 – Thank you God for the 7 days of the week. I know how to name them all.

6 – Thank you God for my 6 favorite songs. Let’s sing a verse from each one.

5 – Thank you God for my 5 senses. I use them to hear my favorite songs, taste my favorite treats, feel hugs and kisses from my favorite people, smell my favorite foods and see the beautiful world around me.

4 – Thank you God for my 4 favorite books. Can I tell you what they’re called?

3 – Thank you God for my 3 favorite activities. There are so many things I love to do. Let me see if I can name a few.

2 – Thank you God for the two people who take such good care of me every day, who feed me, read books to me, listen to me when I need to talk, play with me when I’m ready for fun and hold me when I need a hug.

1 – And thank you God for YOU! You are the one who loves me the most, who accepts me exactly as I am and who will always be there whenever I need a friend.


It can be fun to see how your child’s favorite choices will change from time to time… and they will enjoy letting you know. This is a prayer that requires time and patience to move through but the positives that it presents are endless. Give it a try!

Of course, the most famous counting prayer is the Rosary — 5 decades, 5 Our Fathers, 10 Hail Marys per decade, and so on. While a great way to pray, the Rosary is also a good tool for learning counting (and you can do it on your fingers, too).

The animated series “Brother Francis” has a whole playlist of videos (click here for that) to teach kids about the rosary. Here’s the first one to get you started:

Image: Pixabay

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.

3 for Tuesday: All Saints Edition — Thomas More, Mother Teresa, Brother Francis

It’s Halloween, and there’s plenty of spooky stuff on TV. But, it’s also All Hallows Eve, which means tomorrow is All Saints Day, and once the kids are coaxed out of their costumes and recovered from their candy coma, it’s time to teach them about the real stars of the week.

Unfortunately, a lot of great movies about saints are older, in black-and-white or foreign languages, so it’s hard to get kids to watch. So, I’ve picked two that might have appeal to teens or tweens — and one that’s aimed straight at your little future saints.

A Man for All Seasons (1966) — available on DVD or streaming on Amazon Video

The favorite movie of Bishop Robert Barron (see below), this Academy Award winner for best picture is based on the stage play by Robert Bolt. It stars Paul Scofield as Sir Thomas More, a loyal subject of King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw of “Jaws” fame), who refuses to give public approval to Henry’s intent to divorce his lawful Catholic wife, Katharine of Aragon, to marry his mistress, Anne Boleyn.

In an era where government action and Christian conscience seem to come more frequently into conflict, More’s ultimately unsuccessful attempt to obey both his king and the Church is instructive and relevant.

On top of that, it’s a wonderful script, with crackling dialogue, sumptuous costumes and sets and excellent acting (including Orson Welles as Cardinal Wolsey).

The Letters (2015) — available on DVD or streaming from Amazon Video

From the review by Sister Helena Burns of the Daughters of St. Paul at

The Letters” is another film about the life of Mother Teresa of Calcutta (acted with aplomb by Juliet Stevenson) — specifically that part of her life where, posthumously, personal letters that revealed her prolonged dark night of the soul surfaced. The stunning revelation is chronicled in the book “Come Be My Light — The Private Writings of the Saint of Calcutta.” She had wanted these letters burned at her death, but, thankfully, her spiritual advisors did nothing of the sort. To know that the woman whose name is synonymous with acts of charity struggled with not just intermittent spiritual dryness but full-blown, persistent desolation, can give courage to even the most skeptical of believers and non-believers alike.

The film’s slow, reflective pace and truly lovely soundtrack makes it suitable as a retreat film or for viewing when one is in a contemplative mood.

Brother Francis — The Saints: Our Heavenly Friends (2017) — available on DVD (also here), on YouTube and at the show’s Website.

Geared to viewers 8 and younger, this delightful animated series (with English and Spanish tracks) follows Brother Francis — a Franciscan, of course — as he guides children through all aspects of the Catholic Faith.

Regarding the episode focusing on the saints, from

Join Brother Francis as he introduces children to their heavenly friends, the saints! Learn about the wonderful comfort, encouragement, and help given through those that serve God in His Heavenly Kingdom. This episode includes: The Story of Saint John Bosco – The inspiring account of the devoted saint whose dedication to God and his calling resulted in a multitude of children whose lives were changed forever. I Will Do My Best for Jesus A musical reminder to do our best for God and others no matter what our circumstances are. Meet the Saints – Viewers will be introduced to wonderful saints like Dominic Savio, Thérèse of Lisieux, John the Baptist, and many others. Entertaining and instructive, Brother Francis: The Saints is a wonderful way to help children better understands who the saints are and why they are so very important. See also these best selling, Brother Francis DVDs and Coloring & Activity Books, The Rosary, Bread of Life, Forgiven, Lets Pray. The King is Born, Born into the Kingdom, The Sacraments, The Jesus Stories, Following in His Footsteps, and More. The Brother Francis DVDs are great teaching and compliment the Brother Francis Coloring & Activity Books. –Don Greve

Here’s a taste:

Blessed All Saints (Wednesday, Nov. 1 — A Holy Day of Obligation!) and All Souls (Thursday, Nov. 2)!

Image: Courtesy Brother Francis

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.

5 for Friday: ‘Planet Earth,’ Mickey Mouse Halloween, Dove Awards and More

We’re back, with a new lineup of family-suitable shows airing on cable and broadcast networks from tonight through Monday (all times Eastern; check local listings).

Planet Earth II — Friday, 8 p.m., BBC America

A decade after the first “Planet Earth” natural-history documentary, this 2016 follow-up, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, travels the globe to study wildlife habitats. Along with the wilderness, it also looks at how animals have adapted to urban landscapes. Four episodes air Friday — “Islands,” “Mountains,” “Jungles” and “Deserts” — and two more air Saturday (at midnight and 1 a.m., so fire up the DVR) — “Grasslands” and “Cities.”

Touchdown in Israel — Friday, 8 p.m., NFL Network

New England Patriots chairman and CEO Robert Kraft, an observant Jew, has long been involved with taking American football to Israel, helping to create leagues and building facilities.

In this NFL Films production, he takes 18 members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame on a trip to the Holy Land, on a pilgrimage that is as much about spirituality (in the clip, we see an athlete being baptized) as sports.

From NFL Films:

[They visit] historical and biblical landmarks including the Mount of Beatitudes, Jordan River, Masada, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Western Wall, City of David and the Dead Sea. Together, the football legends absorb the Holy Land’s offerings and form powerful bonds with one another.

The Scariest Story Ever: A Mickey Mouse Halloween Spooktacular — Sunday, 8:30 p.m., Disney Channel

Originally aired on Oct. 8, this half-hour special gets three more airings before Halloween, including this one. On Halloween, Mickey has decked out his house in spooky finery, and he, along with pals Donald and Goofy, plan to tell the assembled young ‘uns hair-raising tales. When the attempts fall flat, Mickey is challenged to come up with a really scary story before the stroke of midnight.

The whole thing is also posted here.

48th Annual GMA Dove Awards — Sunday, 9 p.m., TBN

From TBN:

Since 1970, the GMA Dove Awards has honored outstanding achievements and excellence in Christian Music. The show celebrates our rich musical diversity. Awards are presented to individuals representing modern Rock, Rap/Hip Hop, Pop/Contemporary, Inspirational, Southern Gospel, Urban, Bluegrass, Country, Worship and more!

Hosted by award-winning singer-songwriter Kari Jobe and Gospel Music powerhouse Tasha Cobbs Leonard, TBN’s exclusive broadcast of the Dove Awards will include memorable performances from award-winning artists and groups like Hillsong Worship, Casting Crowns, CeCe Winans, Reba McEntire, Hezekiah Walker, Danny Gokey, MercyMe, Micah Tyler, Travis Greene, Zach Williams, and more.

Among the presenters for this captivating night of music will be a host of popular singers, songwriters, artists, and Christian leaders, including Chris Tomlin, for KING & COUNTRY, Matt Maher, Beth Moore, Dr. Bobby Jones, Chonda Pierce, Jaci Velasquez, Gov. Mike Huckabee, Montell Jordan, Trace Adkins, John Gray, Tye Tribbett, and others.

The actual ceremony took place Oct. 17 in Nashville, Tennessee. After winning an award for bluegrass/country/roots album of the year for “Sing It Now: Songs of Faith and Hope,” Reba McEntire said:

“It’s not mine. It’s God’s. We’ll give Him all the glory. I’ll put it up on the mantle, and think of Him every time I look at it.”

Here’s a clip from someone at the awards:

Remember the Titans — Monday, 8 p.m., TNT

While its historical accuracy has been disputed, this 2000, fact-inspired sports drama is an uplifting story about how a newly integrated high-school football team in Alexandria, Virginia, in 1971 transcended deep racial divisions in the school and the community to come together as a team.

Considering the current controversies in professional football, it might spark some important conversations.

From CommonSense Media:

Parents need to know that Remember the Titans tells the inspirational true story about the struggles and victories of a newly-integrated high school football team in 1971 Alexandria, Virginia. As such, the film reflects the divisive nature of the times — the film begins with a near-riot scene between African-Americans and whites on the street separated by the police as bottles and windows break. The racial tensions of the town — segregation in restaurants, racial slurs, fist fights in the high school — are shown to highlight the backdrop in which the Titans must learn to get along and play together as a team. The movie includes racist comments and situations and some locker room insults. A major character is critically injured in a car accident. When the boys refer to a long-haired teammate as a “fruitcake,” he responds by kissing one of them on the mouth. There are some scuffles and threats of more serious violence. Ultimately, Remember the Titans is a deeply moving film about the courage of individuals and the power of sports to transcend perceived and ingrained differences.

BONUS: Since Family Theater Productions is a Holy Cross apostolate, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that the football Trojans of USC (which has a great Catholic center) head to Notre Dame University, a Holy Cross school, to face the Fighting Irish — Saturday, 7:30 p.m., NBC

Image: Courtesy Disney 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.

‘Father Brown,’ ‘Father Dowling’ and ‘Cadfael’: Catholic Crimesolvers We All Can Love

In a sea of negativity about the Catholic faith in entertainment, “Father Brown” is a welcome bright spot, but he doesn’t stand alone in TV history.

Father Brown — A Pastor With a Nose for Crime

The British series currently airs in America mostly on PBS stations (and independent ones, like Los Angeles’ KCET), but it’s also available on Netflix. Loosely based on the character created by Catholic British writer G.K. Chesterton, it stars Mark Williams as Father Brown, a mild-mannered but quick-witted British Catholic priest in the 1950s.

Helped by his parish secretary, Irish Mrs. McCarthy (Sorcha Cusack) and various local police inspectors and sergeants, Father Brown runs into a startling number of murders in the fictional town of Kembleford in Cotswold, where he’s the pastor of St. Mary’s Church.

It’s also worth noting how many of those involved in the crimes — whether victims, perpetrators or witnesses — are Catholic (unusual in heavily Protestant England, but apparently common in Kembleford). But, this does give Father Brown the opportunity to discuss theology and offer sacraments, especially Confession.

Perhaps because this is the cozy-mystery genre, “Father Brown” gets away with a lot more positive Catholic content than most shows, and no one in the audience seems to mind — since it’s been airing on BBC One since January 2013.

Always, as much as solving mysteries, Father Brown is focused on helping people and saving souls — which is just as it should be.

Father Dowling Mysteries — A Priest and a Nun Form a Crimesolving Team

The good Father Brown follows in the footsteps of “Father Dowling Mysteries,” based on the book series by Ralph McInerny. Starring Tom Bosley as Chicago priest Father Dowling, and Tracy Nelson as his sidekick, streetwise Sister Stephanie “Steve” Oskowski, it launched as a TV movie in November 1987. As a series, it spent one year on NBC and two more on ABC, lasting from January 1989 to May 1991.

And if you’re interested, you can check out the novels the series is based on. Author McInerny was a scholar of the Faith who taught at the University of Notre Dame (run by the Holy Cross Order, under whose auspices also sits Family Theater Productions).

From the New York Times‘ obit for him in Feb. 2010:

Mr. McInerny, who taught philosophy and medieval studies at Notre Dame, was an expert on Thomas Aquinas, the 13th-century Catholic theologian and philosopher; much of his published scholarship included biographical and exegetical texts on Aquinas, and he edited a volume of Aquinas translations for Penguin Classics. He also wrote on the sixth-century philosopher Boethius, the 12th-century Spanish Arabic scholar Averroes and later thinkers and theologians, including Cardinal Newman, Kierkegaard, Pascal and Descartes.

He was far better known, however, as a novelist, and especially as the creator of Roger Dowling, a former canon lawyer whose career was derailed by drink and who has become, in his rehabilitation, a parish priest in a Midwestern town called Fox River, where he runs across an inordinate number of murders and shows an unusual gift for solving them.

Known for their clever plotting, the clarity of their writing and Father Dowling’s perspicacity and moral rigor, the series grew to more than two dozen books after the character was introduced in “Her Death of Cold” in 1977. Transposed to Chicago, and with Father Dowling’s first name changed to Frank, the books became the basis for a television series, “The Father Dowling Mysteries,” starring Tom Bosley, which ran from 1989 to 1991. The Father Dowling books also had a religious subtext, with the main character serving as a messenger for the author’s traditional view of Catholicism. “Dowling is idealized for more than liturgical purity,” Anita Gandolfo wrote in the 1992 book “Testing the Faith: The New Catholic Fiction in America.” “Father Dowling embodies a medieval worldview with its unambiguous moral order and universally accepted recognition of the truth of that order.”

Currently, it airs on Hallmark Movies & Mysteries and is on DVD

Cadfael — A Crusader Turns Monk and Detective

In between Father Brown and Father Dowling was “Cadfael,” based on “The Cadfael Chronicles,” a series of historical murder mysteries written between 1977 and 1994 by linguist-scholar Edith Pargeter, writing under the pen name of Ellis Peters.

Between 1994 and 1998, British network ITV aired the TV adaptation, “Cadfael,” starring Derek Jacobi as the 12th-century Crusader-turned-Benedictine-monk, who lived at an abbey in Shrewsbury, England. Brother Cadfael used his knowledge of the world and human nature, along with a extensive familiarity with herbal medicine (learned in the Holy Land), to solve crimes.

The series aired on PBS as part of its former “Mystery!” anthology series.

Brother Cadfael’s violent past sometimes intrudes on his contemplative present, as he is called upon to be a medical examiner, detective, doctor and diplomat. “Cadfael” is not as gentle as either of the previous two series, and its theme of a soldier trying to move beyond the terrible things he saw in battle is both challenging and very contemporary.

But, Cadfael is a true man of faith.

“Cadfael” is currently available to stream on Amazon Prime and on DVD (and YouTube).

Image: Courtesy BBC One

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.

3 for Tuesday: ‘Nature,’ ‘Great Pumpkin,’ ‘Toy Story’

Believe it or not, there is family-suitable programming in primetime on weeknights — not a lot, but some. And we’ve got a trio for you …

Nature: Animal Reunions — Wednesday, 8 p.m., PBS (check local listings for time and channel in your area)

From PBS:

What happens when people are reunited with the wild animals with which they forged a deep bond years ago? Will these gorillas, elephants, cheetahs and chimpanzees still recognize their human caregivers and how will they react? That is the premise of this program which also raises the question whether wild creatures can really experience emotions like joy, devotion, and love. It’s a debate that many animal lovers are convinced is true and the scientific community is beginning to accept. Animal Reunions — narrated by actor Richard Thomas — contains interviews with scientists, authors, and caregivers including scenes of their journeys to reconnect with their former wild charges.

The full episode can be seen here.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown — Thursday, 8 p.m., ABC

The holiday classic is back!

From ABC:

In the 1966 animated special It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, The PEANUTS gang celebrates Halloween, with Linus hoping that, finally, he will be visited by The Great Pumpkin, while Charlie Brown is invited to a Halloween party.

The whole thing can be seen here.

Toy Story of TERROR! — Thursday, 8:30 p.m., ABC

From ABC:

Disney•Pixar presents a spooky tale featuring all of the favorite characters from the “Toy Story” films. What starts out as a fun road trip for the “Toy Story” gang takes an unexpected turn for the worse when the trip detours to a roadside motel. After one of the toys goes missing, the others find themselves caught up in a mysterious sequence of events that must be solved before they all suffer the same fate in this “Toy Story OF TERROR!”

Voices include Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Wallace Shawn, Joan Cusack, Timothy Dalton and Carl Weathers.


Image: Courtesy ABC

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.