Category: Family Movies & Television

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.

5 for Friday: ‘Great Performances,’ ‘Ninja Warrior’ ‘Tanked’ and More

NBC filming segment with Sean Bryan, “The Papal Ninja,” for “American Ninja Warrior”

It’s the weekend again, and what is there that’s suitable for the family to watch together? Fear not, we got you — and you don’t even need to subscribe to a streaming service. (All times Eastern)

Great Performances: Grammy Salute to Music Legends — Friday, 9 p.m., PBS (check local listings for time and channel in your area)

Kids won’t have heard of a lot of the folks receiving the Grammy’s Special Merit Awards for 2017, but if you start singing and dancing around the living room, they may join in. Few things bond a family more than sharing music. This year’s honorees include Shirley Caesar, Ahmad Jamal, Charley Pride, Jimmie Rodgers, Nina Simone, Sly Stone, and the Velvet Underground.

Performers include Caesar and Pride; the Velvet Underground’s John Cale and Maureen “Moe” Tucker; Kirk Franklin; Le’Andria Johnson; Randy Newman; Vernon Reid; Catherine Russell; Valerie Simpson; Russell Thompkins Jr.; Neal McCoy; Dionne Warwick; Charlie Wilson; and Dwight Yoakam.

“American Ninja Warrior” — Friday, 8 and 9 p.m., MNT; and Saturday, 8 and 9 p.m., NBCSN

The NBC reality-competition show — in which only the eventual winner (if there is one) gets any prize money — attracts dedicated athletes from around the country who train on their own, striving to achieve incredible feats. The show is very family- and faith-friendly, allowing competitors to talk about their families, backgrounds, lives and beliefs. Just be prepared for young ones wanting to jump from every piece of furniture. Some parents have even built “Ninja” courses in their backyards or taken their kids for lessons at a local gym

Sure beats video games!

Among the top competitors are several dedicated Christians, including Catholics Joe “The Weatherman” Moravsky, and one of FTP’s good friends, Sean “The Papal Ninja” Bryan.

Here’s a couple recent videos we did with Bryan.

“Tanked” — Friday, 8 and 9 p.m. (new episode), Animal Planet

Currently in its 13th season, the show follows Las Vegas-based brothers-in-law and business partners Wayde King and Brett Raymer as they travel around the country, installing outrageous and elaborate aquariums for businesses, attractions and celebrities. The show is fast, clean, funny and demonstrates the values of hard work, family, dedication to quality and teamwork.

There’s also an online aquarium game, where kids can design and build the virtual aquarium of their dreams.

Here’s a recent clip:

“Halloween Wars” — Food, Saturday 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.; Sunday, 9 p.m. (new episode)

In the reality-competition show, six teams made up of an expert pumpkin carver, a cake artist and a sugar artist go into battle to create mind-blowing Halloween-themed displays — but only one team can win! Scary but tasty … and know your kids’ tolerance for Halloween spooks and scares before you tune in.

Guy’s Grocery Games — Sunday, 8 p.m. (new episode)

I’ll admit to getting hooked on this one at the nail salon (note to self: always eat before going to the nail salon). Host Guy Fieri sends chef competitors down the aisles of a specially built supermarket set with orders to create original dishes for judges to sample. As we’ve seen in recent years, kids go crazy for cooking shows, and a lot of them turn out to be excellent in the kitchen. Well, anything good starts with good ingredients, so the sooner kids learn their way around a grocery store, the less time they’ll spend living on ramen noodles when they’re older.

Sunday’s episode is a Halloween special. From Food Network:

Aisle of Terror

In this spooktastic Halloween episode, four chefs must create dishes that don’t scare the judges! Starting off with a hearty lunch is not an easy feat when Guy shocks them with a daunting Red Light Special. In the next game, Guy tricks the chefs into making a savory treat with sweets in Single Aisle Showdown. In the final game, Guy hands the chefs his Grocery List filled with spooky items like bone marrow, blood orange and black garlic and tells them to make their best dish. Which chef will get to go on the Shopping Spree and which will be scared straight out of the grocery store?

Here’s a clip from an earlier season:


Image: Kate O’Hare for Family Theater Productions

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.

EWTN Celebrates Fatima 100 and the Rosary With Two Specials

Friday, Oct. 13, represents the 100th anniversary of the Miracle of the Sun in 1917, the most publicly spectacular manifestation of the apparitions of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal.

From eyewitness accounts at EWTN’s 100 Years of Fatima site:

From the road, where the vehicles were parked and where hundreds of people who had not dared to brave the mud were congregated, one could see the immense multitude turn toward the sun, which appeared free from clouds and in its zenith. It looked like a plaque of dull silver, and it was possible to look at it without the least discomfort. It might have been an eclipse which was taking place. But at that moment a great shout went up, and one could hear the spectators nearest at hand shouting: “A miracle! A miracle!”

Before the astonished eyes of the crowd, whose aspect was biblical as they stood bareheaded, eagerly searching the sky, the sun trembled, made sudden incredible movements outside all cosmic laws—the sun “danced” according to the typical expression of the people.

Standing at the step of an omnibus was an old man. With his face turned to the sun, he recited the Credo in a loud voice. I asked who he was and was told Senhor Joao da Cunha Vasconcelos. I saw him afterwards going up to those around him who still had their hats on, and vehemently imploring them to uncover before such an extraordinary demonstration of the existence of God.

Identical scenes were repeated elsewhere, and in one place a woman cried out: “How terrible! There are even men who do not uncover before such a stupendous miracle!”

Tomorrow, EWTN marks the occasion with two special events. From my inbox:

EWTN To Broadcast Two Special Fatima-Related Events –

At 10 a.m. ET, EWTN will broadcast the 15th annual Worldwide Children’s Eucharistic Holy Hour live from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception (BSNIC). This annual event spiritually unites the children of the world before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. The children will make reparation to console Jesus, and pray for their families, their countries and the world.

Fr. Chris Alar, MIC, Director of the Association of Marian Helpers of the Immaculate Conception, will preside at the Holy Hour. For further information, please go to

That evening, Cardinal Donald Wuerl will lead a Historic Candlelight Rosary Procession and a Prayer of Entrustment for individuals, and families to Our Lady of Fatima’s Immaculate Heart. EWTN will broadcast the event live from the BSNIC at 7 p.m. ET, Friday, Oct. 13.

“Gather your families, wherever you are on the evening of October 13, if possible, tune in to EWTN, light a candle, pray the Rosary and the prayer of Entrustment, spiritually uniting with Cardinal Wuerl,” said Connie Schneider, Director of the two events said. “We hope Catholics worldwide will join in from their dioceses, parishes, homes, nursing homes…everywhere!” 

A Family Entrustment Pamphlet is available to help families follow along with the prayers during this special event.

Click here to learn more about how Fatima, Portugal, is marking the event.

And if you’d like to pray the rosary with FTP’s founder, Father Patrick Peyton, C.S.C., the “Rosary Priest,” who traveled the world (and created our company) to promote family unity, faith and prayer, click here for an entire series of videos that let you experience the mysteries of the rosary with Father Peyton.

Here’s a sample:

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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 Morally Decent Comedy Series: ABC’s ‘The Mayor,’ ‘Home Improvement’ and More

“The Mayor”

Need a laugh? Don’t we all. But unfortunately, a large portion of the comedy series available these days tend toward the crude and indecent. Half the the time, the comedy shows I try to watch end up containing material I’m not too crazy about watching myself, let alone allowing my kids to watch with me.

But don’t despair. Here are five titles that keep the laughs coming without so much filth as we often tend to find in modern comedies.

The Mayor

I’m optimistic about this one, though since it’s a new show that’s just premiered on Tuesdays on ABC (also available at the ABC Website and on Hulu), it’s a little early to say for sure that it’s a keeper. So far, this light comedy about Courtney Rose (Brandon Micheal Hall), an unknown rapper who runs for mayor of his California town to gain publicity, is pretty funny and surprisingly a little bit sweet, as he lives with his no-nonsense mom (Yvette Nicole Brown, an outspoken Christian) who gives him life advice and a swift kick in the backside as needed.

The mother character is a Christian, too, and her son gives at least lip service to faith. In a mayoral debate in the pilot, Courtney says, “There’s only one judge that matters” — points upward — “a young carpenter!”

The show is rated PG and so far has been pretty clean — and so far, eschewing partisan politics.

Read my full review here.

(EDITOR’S NOTE: I just watched the second episode, and it continued charming, clean and heartwarming.)

Check it out:

Home Improvement

Hulu recently added this Tim Allen ’90s sitcom to their selection of streaming titles. It’s a show about a hapless handyman with his own tool show, three boys and a wife. I remember watching this show growing up, and while there is occasionally some “grown up” material (like a couple of later episodes in which Tim Allen’s character has to talk to his sons about sex and drugs), that content is pretty rare.

Most of the comedy comes from Tim’s building mistakes and his blunders with his wife, but the comedy almost never feels cheap or cheesy. Definitely a good option for some clean laughs. Check out its trailer (which, incidentally is much more 90s cheese-arific than the show itself).

The Office

Note I’m talking about the considerably cleaner U.S. version of this show starring Steve Carell (not the smuttier British one). Currently available on Netflix, this is a show that’s so funny I find myself sticking around to re-watch if someone else has it turned on. It’s essentially just the ins and outs of a group of office workers, who all have varying levels of eccentricity, and yet the comedy is often rather genius.

This show does occasionally have mild sexual material, but the good thing is that its standalone episodes make it easy to skip around past anything you’d rather not watch without getting lost plot-wise. Read my full review here.

Here’s a clip of some moments from several seasons:

Family Matters

Let’s head back to the late ’80s for a second, for a classic family sitcom. As goofy as this show about a family and their extremely nerdy, accident-prone neighbor, Steve Urkel (Jaleel White) sometimes is, it also has some moments of hilarious comedy and creativity. This show really must have done quite a few things right to have lasted on ABC for nine years and 215 episodes.

Over all the show is pretty clean, though it does occasionally deal with some issues like drinking and racism. It’s currently available on Hulu.

Here’s a cheesy promo video:

Boy Meets World

If I didn’t already own all seven seasons of this show on DVD, I would be pretty excited about its recent arrival on Hulu. It’s a classic coming-of-age sitcom about a boy (Ben Savage) and his friends growing up, made before shows about teenagers had become incredibly lame — like most of today’s Disney-channel-type fare.

I’ll admit that this show does have some very occasional cheesiness, but it’s pretty clean and mostly just a whole lot of fun.

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.

5 for Friday: Family-Friendly Historical Dramas — ‘When Calls the Heart,’ Jane Austen and More

I’ve always been a big fan of historical-fiction books, and I was delighted to discover the similar genre of TV shows. But the catch, I found, was that these shows sometimes have a bizarre and rather anachronistic amount of sexual material.

If, like me, you’d prefer a show about a more innocent time to actually be more innocent, here are five shows you might want to check out:

When Calls the Heart

This is a pretty squeaky-clean Hallmark drama, also available on Netflix, about a city girl who moves to a mining town to start a new position as a teacher.

I’ll warn you that the cheese is real in this one at times, but it does still have its moments of truly compelling story. To me, the trade-off of having virtually nothing objectionable (except maybe some pretty mild violence, like fist fights or threats from bad guys) made it worth the watch, especially when I wanted to watch something with my toddler that wasn’t animated.

Here’s the most recent season trailer:

Anne With an E

I’ve seen this Netflix original adaptation series of the beloved Anne of Green Gables novel get a lot of bad reviews. Mostly, the complaints have been centered on its darker, more grown-up tone than the novel. While I think there’s some truth in that, I still found this show about whimsical orphan Anne Shirley and her new adoptive parents to be pretty enjoyable.

It’s rated PG, mostly for those darker elements that include things like flashbacks to Anne being bullied at the orphanage, as well as some brief innuendo, but nothing too serious.

It’s also been renewed for a second season.

(Editor’s Note: Common Sense Media generally agrees with Adrienne; but a writer in Vanity Fair isn’t a fan.)

Here’s the trailer:

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

OK, technically this one’s a mini-series, but any list of historical dramas would hardly be complete without this adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic. While I do like the more recent Kiera Knightly movie adaptation, this mini-series is often called the “definitive” “Pride and Prejudice” adaptation and gives a pretty complete picture of the whole story as contained in the novel about Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy falling in love despite their pride and prejudice.

And obviously, since it’s based on a Jane Austen novel, it’s pretty clean, though this version does show Wickham’s past misdeeds a bit more clearly than some versions.

If you hunt around, all six episodes are available on YouTube; the series is also on DVD and — in meticulously rendered high-def edition — on Hulu.

(Editor’s Note: This might spark conversations with youngsters about an estate being “entailed away” (explanation here). It also could require an explanation of how few ways single women could make a decent living in the early 19th century, hence the emphasis on finding good husbands. This can be contrasted with the courage with which eldest sisters Jane and Elizabeth Bennet pursue men of character, whom they truly love, over merely rich or “respectable” men. Of course, the fact that they fall in love with good men who are also rich is a bonus.)

Take a peek:

Granite Flats

Another squeaky clean option that I’ve watched with my toddler, “Granite Flats” on Netflix is a Cold War-era drama about a boy who plays at being a spy and then actually ends up kind of becoming one, as he and his friends stumble onto some suspicious activity in their small town.

This show was made by members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints (a k a Mormons), who specifically wanted to create a show the whole family could enjoy together. I’d say: mission accomplished. It’s only rarely cheesy, typically pretty compelling, and has some pro-nondenominational Christian themes (nothing Mormon-specific). It’s currently available on Netflix.

Here’s a promo video for the show:


This NBC drama — whose fans saved it from cancellation after its freshman season — is not historical per se, but it’s a time-travel drama in which the characters go back to several very interesting points in history, so the history geek in me loved the concept.

It centers around a history professor and some scientists who are trying to stop someone evil from changing a bunch of past world events for personal gain. There is some violence – they do go back to events like Abraham Lincoln’s assassination and the Alamo, after all. But it’s otherwise pretty clean. You can find it on Hulu, with season 2 set to come out mid-season on NBC.

Image: Courtesy 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.

‘The Hobbit’ at 80: Joseph Pearce and Bishop Barron on the Catholicism of ‘Lord of the Rings’

In Sept. 1937, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” was published. leading to three more novels between 1937 and 1949 that became known as “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. In recent years, director Peter Jackson has helmed film versions of all the books, turning “The Lord of the Rings” into three movies, and the slender “Hobbit” into three movies of its own.

Underneath all of the fantasy trappings of the mythical Middle Earth, J.R.R. Tolkien intended “The Lord of the Rings,” etc., to be Catholic allegories, although that may not be obvious to casual readers or casual viewers of the movies. Because they’re set in another reality, the stories don’t explicitly deal with Christ — or actual human history at all. Instead, Tolkien took such themes as sacrificial love, sin and redemption, and plays them out across an imaginative landscape.

But better than me explaining this to you — because, to be honest, I didn’t pick up on the implicit Catholicism of the books until it was pointed out to me — let me hand the stage over to two of the modern Church’s most talented media critics and Tolkien ‘splainers, English writer and biographer Joseph Pearce and Los Angeles’ own Bishop Robert Barron.

First, Pearce focuses on “The Hobbit” on EWTN:

Here, Pearce “unlocks” the Catholicism of “The Lord of the Rings” in a 2015 lecture at Christendom College:

And lastly, in a documentary, he looks at Tolkien’s Catholic worldview, with Kevin O’Brien as J.R.R. Tolkien, and Al Marsh as C.S. Lewis:

If you don’t have time right now for almost-one-hour videos, Bishop Barron wraps it up in 10 minutes or less.

Here’s a look at “The Hobbit” movie and book:

And a two-part look at “The Lord of the Rings”:

If you want to watch the movies, they air regularly on cablenet TNT, and a bunch of “LOTR” and “Hobbit” DVDs are clustered here on Amazon, and “The Hobbit” is here on Amazon Video. And, of course, you can also read the books, which are available in many places, including your local library.

Image: Courtesy Wing Nut Films/New Line Cinema/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Warner Bros.

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.