The Best Family TV Shows: Past and Present

Family TV Shows from the 90s and today

Finding good TV shows that everyone in the family can agree on is no small miracle. But it’s not impossible! Whether you’re in the mood for comedy, drama, or all of the above on reality TV, the following programs provide something for everyone.

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Friday TV Dinners

During my elementary school days in the early ’90s, our family had a Friday night ritual. We would order pizza, and at 8:00 turn on ABC to watch TGIF.  Today, we still order pizza almost every Friday, but instead of waiting for a show to start, we usually spend a good half hour scrolling through Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and who knows what else to find a drama, comedy, or just any episode of one TV show or movie we’ll all enjoy.

A quality TV show has an unusual power to bring people together. But in our world of overwhelming media, it’s hard to find a sitcom episode that doesn’t have inappropriate language or a family-friendly drama that’s appropriate for your little ones. Of course, you could find an animated series appealing to the youngest members of your family. One episode of their favorite cartoon might be fine, but family TV viewing should be something you all enjoy. Not just tolerate.

Finding this balance between wholesome entertainment that we all enjoy has been a challenge in our house with a 6, 8, and 10-year-old. But it’s not an impossible task! It’s actually been really fun to discover new shows and to rewatch some of my favorite shows from decades ago, and to share them with my family.

While each child has their favorites, and this is not even close to being an extensive list, here are a few options we all enjoy.

What are the Best Reality TV Shows for the Family?

Shark Tank: Though kids are not the target audience, Shark Tank is probably our 10-year-old’s favorite, and provides great entrepreneurial education without being boring or preachy. It’s a great way to learn about new products available, and also to understand what it takes to bring a good idea to market. Bonus: after watching a few episodes, our kids are crafting their own inventive ideas!

Where can I watch Shark Tank? NBC, Hulu, YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime

Kids Baking Championship Looking for comedy, drama, or kids doing awesome things? Kids Baking Championship has it all! While there are several amazing family-friendly food-related reality TV shows, it’s really inspiring for kids to watch other kids making really amazing dishes. The only drawback is you might be cleaning a few more messes in the kitchen after your kids aspire to start making their own culinary masterpieces.

Where can I watch Kids Baking Championship? Food Network, Hulu, YouTube, Google Play, Amazon Prime

Other Great Family-Friendly Reality TV Shows: American Idol, America’s Funniest Home Videos, America’s Got Talent, Fixer-Upper, The Great British Baking Show, Love It or List It,  Nailed It!, Rehab Addict, Sugar Rush, and The Voice

What Are the Best Family TV Shows from the 1970 and 1980s?

Little House on the Prairie– Full disclosure: One of the main reasons my name is Laura is due to the fact that my mom watched a lot of this beloved drama in 1981. But nearly 40 years later, the adventures of Laura, Mary, Nellie Olsen and more are still captivating families. It’s good clean fun for the family, and it’s also a fun way for fans of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books to see their favorite characters come to life.

Where can I watch Little House on the Prairie? Stream on Amazon Prime (you’ll need to buy episodes), Vudu, iTunes, or Philo.

The Brady Bunch– Forty years after the original episode aired, the Bradys are still a big favorite in our house. We’ve also watched the cast members in TLC’s Very Brady Renovation and loved the original TV show even more. Who wouldn’t want to be part of the Brady Bunch?

Where can I watch the Brady Bunch? Hulu, Amazon Prime, and CBS streaming.

Full House- Full House (not to be confused with its spin-off Fuller House) is not a sitcom for those wanting a serious family drama. But if you’re not afraid to embrace the cheesiness, then you’ll fit right in with Danny Tanner, his brother-in-law Jesse, and BFF Joey. No problem can’t be solved with a good pep talk and a hug in 23 minutes, and in today’s crazy world, there’s something so wonderful about that.

Other Great Family Friendly Shows: Family Ties, Growing Pains, The Muppet Show, Who’s The Boss?, The Wonder Years

tv shows for the whole family

What are the Best Family TV Shows from the 1990s?

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air– Admit it– you can’t get the theme song out of your head, either! But this endearing show about street-smart Will who, though from West Philadelphia, born and raised, moves with his uncle and aunt and their family in Bel Air. Carleton’s dance moves alone make this TV series worth watching.

Where can I watch the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Philo, Amazon Prime, Vudu, iTunes

Saved by the Bell– What child of the nineties doesn’t remember watching Zach, Kelly, and the rest hanging out at the Max on Saturday mornings, or after school when TBS showed the re-runs? Must-See TV at it’s finest! I really thought high school would be just like Bayside High. Even though kids will almost definitely enjoy this more than their parents (who may or may not have already seen every episode at least 5 times), it’s always fun to see the gang again.

Where can I watch Saved by the Bell? iTunes, Hulu, YouTube, NBC, Amazon Prime

Step-by-Step: This long-running TV comedy, sort of an updated take on The Brady Bunch, was a big hit with my tween daughters. Slightly less saccharin than Full House, and more slapstick than some of the others, this show did remarkably well with my test audience. They were much more amused by the antics of the Lamberts than those of Steve Urkel.

Other Great Family ’90s Shows: Boy Meets World, Family Matters, Home Improvement

Must-See TV for Your Family

It’s impossible to please everyone when it comes to your TV selection, and the temptation to let everyone watch whatever they want on their isolated devices can be pretty tempting. But there’s also something pretty great about enjoying these shows and creating your own family water cooler conversations around a shared viewing experience.

What are your favorite family TV shows? What did we miss? Let us know in the coments, or debate it with your family on FamilyApp!

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