The Best Netflix Shows To Watch With Your Family
Once upon a time, too much TV felt like the worst, laziest kind of parenting you could do – a sign of lost values, a sad replacement for books and board games.
And, well, it’s probably still a little bit true.
But lo – now there’s a ‘Worse Thing To Fret About‘.
We’ve moved on to peak individual-device-land, where everyone has their heads firmly fixed downwards watching something else by themselves, and any chat is reserved for someone on your contacts list.
As the mother of a few pre-teens, two primary kids and another one nursery-aged, I want to champion a return to those halcyon days of communal TV-watching that I remember from my childhood.
Everyone in pyjamas, some with wine, some with milk, lights low, radiators and dogs and cushions aplenty.
So, we’ve done the hard work for you.
We’ve reclaimed our own slice of early evening and have road-tested and binged on the best of mutually-agreeable TV like square-eyed pros.
A word of warning – I’ve decided (well, me and the research – wouldn’t want to take all the credit) that watching violence is no good for kids, but a bit of tasteful, consensual, non-graphic sexy bits won’t do them much harm.
In fact, better to give them a nice version of well-lit sexuality before someone shows them a Redtube clip and ruins them forever.
Therefore, we haven’t shied away from TV that confronts some slightly grown-up issues, provided it has been approached in a sensitive, respectful way.
Sometimes it takes confronting an issue to open up a dialogue with your kids, and we all want that, right?
And the best shows with the best writing will offer something up for all ages, within reason – the adult-appropriate jokes will be lost on the younger ones who just like the musical numbers and the glitter.
And when it gets a little too much, just send the youngsters off to bed one by one and settle down for some big-kid cultural bonding.
Here’s our roundup of the best Netflix series to watch with your family:
Ah, the fun we’ve had with this one.
The sharp one liners of Sue Sylvester, cruel and kind in turns, cut with the saccharine ballads of Rachel’n’Finn and the tortured campy journey of Kurt, all set in a mid-western American high school which feels both familiar and utterly fake.
It’s all big stagey musical numbers that have you belting along even though you kind of hate yourself for it, and cliched teachers and painful crushes and coordinated costumes.
The core cast are misfits and underdogs who, once fleshed out beyond their stereotypes, are shown to be powerful and wonderful just as they are.
It is funny, deliciously so, with fabulous cameos from Gwyneth Paltrow, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kate Hudson in a leotard.
At times a little racy, Glee deals with the big stuff like death, race, and sexuality, only getting boring in the later seasons when the cast get too old for us to care anymore.
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
This may well be our favourite OF ALL TIME.
The premise is pretty dark – Kimmy Schmidt has been locked in an underground bunker since she was snatched by a doomsday nutcase cult leader at age 15 (Mad Men’s John Hamm, in fine, Machiavellian form).
She is finally set free just before she turns 30 and exits the underground all wide-eyed, sweetly naive and determined to be positive about everything.
She ends up living in a cupboard in a shabby New York City flat with Titus Andromeddon, her gay best friend who is a mostly out-of-work actor that bursts frequently into song, and her dodgy landlady Lillian who is both kind and clearly criminal.
Kimmy gets work as a nanny to socialite (and secret Native American Indian) Jacqueline and her dreadful, entitled, spoilt children.
It is a study in optimism, friendship, cartoony clothes and has a song title that will have you all shouting the lyrics in familial unity.
This is an underrated, underseen comedic gem about dysfunctional families who love each other anyway.
Firstly and importantly, it stars the brilliant (and quite fanciable, if you like that sort of thing) Jason Bateman as Michael Bluth, the bewildered and frustrated son who ends up becoming responsible for resurrecting the disgraced family business.
The sprawling and formerly wealthy Bluth family are all now living all together in a Bluth show home that keeps falling apart, and every member seems intent on spending the last of the family fortune despite Michael’s hard work to save the business.
There’s an itinerant uncle and incarcerated father, a lazy twin sister, a terrible magician brother, a permanently sozzled and acerbic mother, younger cousins who share a room and one of whom feels he is in love with the other, invisible girlfriends, a psychiatrist-turned-actor brother-in-law who is a self-confessed ‘never-nude’ and can only shower in cut off denim shorts.
It is shot like a reality TV show, but one that features Liza Minelli and Charlize Theron as various Bluth arm candy.
A total delight.
Anne With an ‘E’
A newish contender – this is one for everybody, not just those who grew up with the Anne series and the excellent Canadian TV show of the mid 1980s.
This version, filmed on Prince Edward island – a kind of supplementary character in itself – is a little darker and doesn’t shy away from hinting at Anne’s earlier childhood abuse and neglect, but is also charming and wonderful story-telling with a fresh, feminist bent.
Anne is feisty and quick-tempered and eccentric and all my boys were totally hooked.
This show didn’t sound very much fun when a friend recommended it to me – it’s a New York-set show about cops who work together in the 99th precinct – but it is so good.
The cops who work together are led/driven nuts by funny guy Detective Jake Peralta who always has to win at any cost.
The premise is that the crummy precinct has just been taken over by a very serious, hard-to-please Captain and everyone is doing their best to impress him while competing against each other to solve cases.
There is a lot of hammy crime fighting and really rubbish criminals, an office roller derby, awkward office relationships and a receptionist who is only interested in entering dancing competitions instead of answering the phones.
It’s funny and quirky and will teach your kids about the importance of working in a team, even though you can barely tolerate anyone individually.
In this updated retelling of the Arthurian legend, teenage heroine Nimue (Katherine Langford) joins forces with the mercenary Arthur on a quest to find Merlin and deliver an ancient sword.
We love any reboot that includes a girl taking the lead, and the show’s female perspective provides some welcome dimension to the legend, adding a major The Mists of Avalon vibe.
We plan to catch this one with our tweens and teens.
Ginny & Georgia
This YA series centres around angsty 15-year old Ginny Miller (Antonia Gentry) and her “irresistible and dynamic” mom Georgia Miller (Brianne Howey).
After years on the run, Georgia hopes to put down roots in picturesque New England and give her family a normal life.
Unfortunately, Georgia’s past jeopardizes the endeavour. This YA series might be our new favourite for a girls’ night in with teens.
Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous
This new animated series follows a group of six teenagers attending an adventure camp on the opposite side of Isla Nublar.
When dinosaurs wreak havoc across the island, the campers must band together in order to survive.
Scott Kreamer (Pinky Malinky) and Lane Lueras (Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny) serve as showrunners and executive producers.
The series is executive produced by Steven Spielberg, Frank Marshall, and Colin Trevorrow.
We suspect it will impossible to tear your dinosaur-loving crew away from the TV.
Trash Truck is an animated series in production from Max Keane (Dear Basketball).
Six-year-old Hank and his best buddy – a honking, snorting trash truck – go on lots of fun adventures, from learning to fly to visiting the dentist.
Trash Truck promises to be a hit with the nursery school crowd.
Kid Cosmic is an animated series created by Craig McCracken (The Powerpuff Girls, Fosters Home for Imaginary Friends).
The show is about a young boy who stumbles across cosmic stones of power and subsequently acquires superpowers.
Unfortunately, the reality of being a hero doesn’t match the fantasy of being a hero.
Another series from Netflix aiming for family programming, the Kid Cosmic series looks like a lot of fun.
Archibald’s Next Big Thing
Based on a children’s book, this animated family series focuses on Archibald the chicken and the crazy adventures he goes on.
It will be an instant favourite for you and your children.
A show highlighting the beginning of hip-hop and how it has evolved into what it is today.
Featuring interviews from artists and legendary MCs while visiting iconic landmarks and neighbourhoods, this is one for older teens.
Terrace House: Tokyo
Six strangers, all sharing the same house and all looking for love in the most superficial yet addictive melodrama you can imagine.
The Mind, Explained
Narrated by Emma Stone, this series focuses on the mind and everything that goes on inside, exploring how the magnificent organ works and what exactly makes us tick.
Considering the incomplete state of mainstream physics and neuroscience, you’ll want to take any conclusions with a grain of salt, however.
The Chef Show
Collaborating with some of the biggest names in Hollywood, Chef Roy Choi and Jon Favreau reunite after the release of Chef (2014) to travel, cook, and experience different cultures and flavours.
The Last Kids on Earth
Animated family series. A monster apocalypse leaves Jack and a group of his friends in a treehouse, fighting off zombies and adapting to the aftermath of the apocalypse.
Don’t you hate when that happens?
Matt Groening is back to his comedic stylings with a medieval flair. Princess Tiabeanie “Bean” is a drunk and a rule-breaker, her friends the demon Luci and Elfo the elf.
With the events of the last season still breaking hearts, this season promises to be as exciting and dangerous as ever.
Inside Bill’s Brain: Decoding Bill Gates
Bill Gates, the mastermind behind Microsoft: this documentary purports to show us exactly how someone of his calibre thinks, along with his apparent mission to solve the world’s most complex questions.
Not sure we’re buying it, Bill. See you on the flipside aboard Jeffrey Epstein’s plane.
Fastest Car S2
When supercars and sleeper cars go head to head – sounds like a recipe for disaster. Aptly named Fastest Car’s drag races will have you on the edge of your seat and rooting for the underdogs.
The Hockey Girls/Les de l’hoquei
A team of seven young roller hockey players and their new coach tackle life outside of hockey and fight to save the female section of Club Pati Minerva.
Teen celebrity Kaylie must now embark on a new adventure: a court-ordered middle school wilderness club.
Swapping glamour for the wild? Classic fish out of water scenario in our opinion.
A feel good, soapy sitcom with acting legend Loretta Devine, rising star Talia Jackson and 90s queen Tia Mowry.
Dragons: Rescue Riders
Another series from the How to Train Your Dragon franchise, a fun family animation. Twins Dak and Leyla spend their days rescuing dragons in their small town.
This thriller is based on the Broadway show.
It’s a story about parents seeking answers to where their missing son has gone hits hard with themes of racism and its relationship to modern-day.
Kerry Washington and Jeremy Jordan star.
Sam is college-bound in season 3 and faces new challenges related to his autism.
The great actors, including Keir Gilchrist, continue to be amazing and relatable characters.
Queer Eye: We’re in Japan!
The Fab 5 are back and travelling across the Pacific to Japan.
Their fabulous fashion and self-care adventures are always fun to watch.
This historical drama based is based on Shakespeare, the plot follows a young boy as he is crowned king. Starring Timothee Chalamet, this is an unmissable watch.
Holiday in the Wild
One woman discovers that loves can pop up in the oddest places. This meet-cute movie will be perfect to play for snuggling time as the weather gets colder.
The Man Without Gravity
A gravity-defying boy grows up and longs for connection. It’s a heart-warming story of love and connection.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
She-Ra and friends are back with more adventures in this animated show.
What will these incredible characters get up to next? Anything is possible with Aimee Carrero.
Green Eggs and Ham S1
The beloved tales of Dr Seuss get a new sound with an all-star cast including Michael Douglas and Jillian Bell.
The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
Vintage Will Smith and 90s magic. It’s an absolute must-watch.
The Great British Bake Off
It’s back to baking as this fantastic baking show takes off with hilarity and delicious challenges for the bakers.
These kids are not alone on a lonely island after a disastrous plane crash. But what could be watching them?
Llama Llama S2
Llama Llama is back with more adventures for the lovable llama, his mom and his friends in this beloved kid’s show.
The Toys That Made Us
This nostalgic docuseries returns with more insight into our favourite collectable toys.
What’s your favourite family-friendly series to watch on Netflix?