What are good shows for ‘family movie nights?’

I grew up watching Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and Jaques Cousteau explore the oceans. I also loved those Disney nature movies we would get to watch at school when it was raining outside.

It’s tough these days to come up with shows like these classics that the whole family can enjoy together. When we choose a show for a family movie night it invariably pleases one sex (ie princess or super hero) more than another.

We have missed having options like Wild Kingdom to watch with our kids so we have been thrilled by the new Discovery Channel series “Life,” narrated by Oprah Winfrey.

While Oprah’s voice is pleasing and serene, it’s really the amazing, never-before-seen footage of animals in their natural habitats that we find so compelling. We’ve watched pelicans fly and steal other baby birds to eat because overfishing has depleted their natural prey. We have watched birds decorate their nests with colorful flowers to attract mates and we’ve also seen cheetahs working together to take down on ostrich.

The scenes are never too gory or scary. And the children are learning so much about ecosystems and the animals’ abilities to adapt to their worlds.

They are also learning about the birds and bees (figuratively). I sort of cringe up when every time an animal goes to mount another but I guess it’s the most natural way to introduce the kids to sex.

The show is running in 11 parts and is re-running the earlier segments at different times through the week.  Here is the schedule of what will run and what did run so you can try to DVR it all. It has been a wonderful family experience for us.

Schedule

March 21, 8PM e/p Challenges of Life
March 21, 9PM e/p Reptiles and Amphibians
March 28, 8PM e/p Mammals
March 28, 9PM e/p Fish
April 4, 8PM e/p Birds
April 4, 9PM e/p Creatures of the Deep
April 11, 8PM e/p Hunters and Hunted
April 11, 9PM e/p Insects
April 18, 8PM e/p Plants
April 18, 9PM e/p Primates
April 18, 10PM e/p Making of Life

Info about each episode.

Clips of episodes.

Have you caught any of the series “Life”? What do you think of it? Did you grow up enjoying the old nature shows? Would you like more of this type of programming for your family?

What other shows are great to share with the whole family?

93 comments Add your comment

Hindu Elvis Pimp

April 8th, 2010
7:16 am

I prefer to read the bible instead of watch TV

cld

April 8th, 2010
8:10 am

We don’t have the Discovery Channel, but my husband bought the BBC special Planet Earth series a couple months ago. Now that his grad school is winding down, we’ve started watching it. It’s along the same lines. Some unbelievable footage! And our almost-two-year-old who doesn’t sit still for more than five minutes of ANYTHING loves identifying the animals. He still doesn’t sit still to watch it, but he really got a kick out of seeing a crocodile leap out of a river, and then was proud of himself for identifying a lone zebra among a herd of wildebeasts (wildabeasts?).

Kathy

April 8th, 2010
8:30 am

This is gonna sound crazy but in the summer time we love watching Wipe Out with Little E (almost 5). She loves watching the people do those crazy obstacle courses.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 8th, 2010
8:33 am

kathy — not crazy at all — we watch that too and the show it was formed after Ninja Warrior on the G4 channel — the kids love watching the people go through the obstacles and they like hearing the Japanese!

Kathy

April 8th, 2010
8:38 am

Theresa….off topic, but how is your ankle? Did you get new shoes yet?

FCM

April 8th, 2010
8:53 am

We watch Survivor believe it or not as a family On Demand. The girls were very sad about Boston Rob, hate Russell, and worry about Ruperts toe. We discuss what works–how the people behave/don’t behave as a team. It is the first year I have let them watch and the first in many that I found interested enough to stay into it.

I’ll probably get blasted for this–We watch Parenthood together too. It has really opened them up to discussing drugs, family relationships, sex, etc.

If they had Lost and Flash Forward On Demand we would watch those too.

Iron Chef, Triple D, and Food Challenge are also big in our house.

Then again there is pleany iCarly, Wizards, Hannah, Suite Life, and now Good Luck Charlie on our tube too. I did ban Sunny and Jonas (from family, they can watch but I don’t join them)– I cannot handle how stupid those are at least the others are entertaining.

I often get to pre-empt the cartoons on Saturdays so tht we can watch these things together!

Occassionally we watch the nature shows, but then I was never into the Mutual of Omaha thing…YES I watched it, we had 1 tv at time. I have one who loves animals and if there is one she wants to see of course we watch it. She will also watch HGTV with me from time to time.

Movie night we spend watching movies…either our DVD collection, HBO, or On Demand (rare). Last week it was Monsters vs Aliens. Momma Mia is big in our house (they love ABBA!). Journey to the Center of the Earth. Inkheart is on HBO right now–we saw it On Demand earlier though.

BUT Hey! Every family is different. Does it really matter what your watching is Princess or Transformers if the real point is to be together snuggling on the couch eating popcorn?

Don’t forget to turn it off too. Put a board game on the table or turn the mp3 player (ipod, stereo?) clear a space and have a dance party. Now that the weather is better go outside at night and play tag in the backyard. One of my best nights was when my (then) 3yo sat in chair on a deck with me and spoke in Martian for about 2 hours….she could carry human conversations but she only wanted to talk in gobbly gook (which is technically Troll if your a HP fan–already said I am a SciFi Geek Girl). I went along with it make similar sounds with varying inflections until she was ready for bed. We both still remember it.

FCM

April 8th, 2010
8:53 am

(sorry for the long post, MJG am I channeling you? LOL)

Roswell Jeff

April 8th, 2010
9:01 am

I haven’t had the chance to watch Life, but based on the previews, it does look interesting. We don’t watch a lot of tv. The boy might catch a half hour of Tom and Jerry in the afternoon and if there is time at night he likes to watch Modern Marvels or How it’s Made with me. He loves Dirty Job’s as well – Mike Rowe is great!

JJ

April 8th, 2010
9:01 am

Planet Earth is Awesome!!!!! I have the entire series on DVD.

I grew up watching Marlin Perkins and Mutual of Omaha……loved that show….

Ace of cakes is fun…….

House Hunters is another fav…….

“Life” is wonderful. I just found out about that one, and have only watched the reptile one, but found it very fascinating!!!!

G.R.I.T.S.

April 8th, 2010
9:03 am

i dont even have my tv service on anymore. my older kids liked tv ok…my youngest son loved it! my youngest daughter really never got into it much, i would always have it suspended during the summer and on in the winter when it got dark earlier. i have always liked documentaries and wild life shows and yes they do introduce the sex talks lol. one show my youngest daughter loved was one on remodeling houses…weird…and resuce 911…as she got older she loved the forensic shows, but she really only watched tv if there was absolutley nothing else to do. now that the kids are mostly not here i have had my direct tv turned off. i have netflix and internet if i want to watch something.

Careful, Kathy...

April 8th, 2010
9:03 am

…Theresa already warned us that to stray off topic is now a big no-no – if you get banned from this site you will now know why…

Roswell Jeff

April 8th, 2010
9:05 am

What was the warning? I haven’t been here in a while, I guess I missed it.

G.R.I.T.S.

April 8th, 2010
9:06 am

i missed the warning on getting off topoc…will someone please tell me whats that about?

motherjanegoose

April 8th, 2010
9:06 am

@ FCM….hahaha. We do not watch much together at our house ( my kids are older) , and I am not a TV person. My husband watches probably 24 hours per week of TV, at least. His family had it on 24/7 and still do. My family had a litttle 16 inch , that we had to ask to watch, with foil on the rabbit ears….in the 1970’s.

We did not have cable until my son was in middle school….I think 1990. So we did not watch that much when they were small. We took walks and went outside a lot.

My daughter and I have watched a few shows here and I usually fall asleep before they are over.

Our family does play games together and we enjoy that. My son gripes when he shows up for games but is quite good at most of them and gets into it before we are finished. My husband is SO competitive that it gets messy sometimes.

G.R.I.T.S.

April 8th, 2010
9:07 am

Jesse's Girl

April 8th, 2010
9:08 am

Love this show!!!!! We also watch a lot of the shows on the HIstory and Military Channels. Jesse bought me….he thought it was a good joke, but I adored it…..the Rick Steve’s Explore the World DVD set! The kids love it!!!!

JATL

April 8th, 2010
9:11 am

I LONG for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom and Marlon Perkins’ voice! And Jacques Cousteau instilled life-long dreams of diving and visiting all of the oceans in my lifetime. We DVR tons of nature stuff off of Discovery and PBS. My oldest is a shark freak like I am, so I DVR shark shows during Shark Week every year. I’ve DVR’d some of Life, and I’m looking forward to watching it with my oldest. The little one isn’t quite there yet. We enjoy watching a lot of sporting events together -particularly the Olympics and Olympic sports like swimming, gymnastics and track.

I just read some interview with the granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt who was saying Jacques Cousteau hit on her mercilessly one time during a flight from France to NYC. Ewwwwww -I don’t want to think of JC like that (even though he was a bikini-wearing Frenchman). If you’re a Cousteau fan, pick up the book, “The Human, the Orchid and the Octopus: Exploring Our Natural World,” by JC. Also, his son runs a number of Cousteau vacations -most notably the Cousteau Resort in Fiji -definitely taking the boys there in future years!

FCM

April 8th, 2010
9:15 am

@Roswell Jeff–you ever watch Holmes on Homes? He is awesome.

AJC that is tv, I watch it soemtimes my kids do, so still on topic.

That Kid's Mom

April 8th, 2010
9:16 am

I LOVE the Life series. I would like for it to come on at an earlier time so that my 5-year-old could enjoy it with me. Maybe I’ll have to spring for Tivo since my VCR just died! LOL

Roswell Jeff

April 8th, 2010
9:19 am

I haven’t seen Holmes on Holmes yet but want to.

JJ

April 8th, 2010
9:22 am

I LOVE Mike Holmes…….great show….Fix it, Fix it, Fix it!!!!! And he’s easy on the eyes too…..

catlady

April 8th, 2010
9:26 am

Don’t ask about someone’s health!

DB

April 8th, 2010
9:29 am

I saw the clips for “Life”, but really haven’t had a chance to catch it. I TiVO “House” and “NCIS” for the kids, who flake out on the couch and catch up when they are home from college. Other than those two, I just don’t watch much TV, unless it’s a movie on AMC or TMC that’s playing in the background while I’m working or doing housework.

motherjanegoose

April 8th, 2010
9:30 am

Ooops…we got cable in 2000, not 1990. My math is awful today. Have a great day all!

motherjanegoose

April 8th, 2010
9:31 am

DB…my son loves House too and I like NCIS…it is one show I will stop ( what I am doing) to watch.

PickinNits

April 8th, 2010
9:34 am

Theresa, like you and your family we have watched and enjoyed ‘Life” so far. However, I have to disagree strongly with you that:
“It’s tough these days to come up with shows like these classics that the whole family can enjoy together.”
You seem to be nostalgic for the great programming we had when we were kids. You and I are roughly the same age (I’ll be 40 later this year). But what I remember growing up was about ten stations on the TV and a pretty lame offering as far as kids movies at the local two screen movie theater.

These days it seems to be wall to wall kidtainment. Every other week there’s a new 3-D extravaganza at the movies. We are in the golden age of computer aided animation. Additionally there are hundreds of stations on the cable….a good portion of which are dedicated to kids or to education. There are nature documentaries on several of these stations everyday that are tons better and more engaging that Marlin Perkins and Ol’ Jacques ever thought of being.

While we did get to enjoy the Wonderful World of Disney on Sunday evening and Captain Kangaroo every morning, our kids have a much better selection overall. It’s up to us as parents to make the decision…I think that’s what you’re finding to be tough.

Either way it sure beats repeats of the same 50 cartoons and Three Stooges shorts every afternoon after school.

Wayne

April 8th, 2010
9:43 am

HOH is a great show. I like that he a) has women working with him (I was just talking to my wife about that this past Sunday) b) he treats his ‘guys’ pretty dang well, it looks like.

My oldest son liked the Food Network, so we watched that for a while. Now, it’s movies, so we have Netflix.

Wayne

April 8th, 2010
9:43 am

Oh, and I forgot… Make It Right!

G.R.I.T.S.

April 8th, 2010
9:45 am

lol..one of my favorite shows was on MTV (which i mostly dont ever watch) was boiling point…i wish they would netflix it l ike they did punked lol

Audiatur et altera pars

April 8th, 2010
9:56 am

My son is into Wipeout and The Amazing Race. He is 7, we ry to limit what he watches, skip through the talk, so that he can see the challenges, as that is what intriques him. I do let him watch the Clone Wars, but no Sponge Bob, Simpsons,Family Guy. I will tolerate I Carly, but he likes the guys doing crazy things on there. As summer approaches, I see him watching less and less TV. My choice, not necessarily his. I remember the good old days and Romper Room, Captain Kangaroo, was never a big Mr. ROgers fan, but did look forward to Sunday nights and Disney. I did not see cable TV until I went away to college, of course we did not have air conditioning until I moved away from home either. Funny thing was that was back in the mid 80’s and all of my friends thought that I had to be nuts not to have AC, cable or even atari games. I lived to be outside and play. What a walk down memory lane-

This is Mrs. Norman Maine

April 8th, 2010
10:05 am

Every Sunday, my mother would watch Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. My gawd, how I hated it! Oh, how I hated it!!! Did I tell you I hated it? Ugh. After that, there was Lawrence Welk and the nightmare wrapped up with Hee Haw. Sometimes I cried at how unjust the whole thing was.

I agree with Pickinits that we just didn’t have many options back then. (I’m 40 also). We watched those shows because there weren’t many other choices. Fortunately, we have choices now. Thank God for choices.

And as it turns out, we don’t even watch TV together that often. My son likes Cartoon Network (so do I), but that’s pretty much it.

G.R.I.T.S.

April 8th, 2010
10:08 am

the only show i willingly watched when i was a teenager was mod squad…that is when my mom would even let me watch tv…we did the lawerence welk thing too…me and my sisters thought the lennon sisters rocked lol..well..that was before we were teens…then wwe thought they were awful

JJ

April 8th, 2010
10:13 am

The Biggest Loser is my all time fav. And I’m also a Survivor junkie…..

I find lately, that I DVR EVERYTHING. I cannot stand these long commercial breaks. They are longer and longer, and show the same darn ones just about every break. I can watch a two hour show in less than 1 hour……..zipping through those pesky commercials…..Same with American Idol……..record, record, record……and American Idol should only be an hour, now that they are down to 9……they talk too much.

G.R.I.T.S.

April 8th, 2010
10:15 am

ok..i was addicted to american idol for 3 seasons…this year i refused to watch-i knew id be a goner if i started…had the tv service turned off right after it started lol…i really hate being a slave to tv..which is what i become…i was addicted to the food network for a while…now im just addicted to online classes and facebook :)

Hank Johnson

April 8th, 2010
10:30 am

i gonna watch that dizcuvery chennel, sose i kan lernt som gegraphy. i be fraid of dem litle ilans caus they be so much top hevey an such. i kan’t swem to good.

JJ

April 8th, 2010
10:55 am

I like a couple of shows on Food Network. 30 Minute Meals; Barefoot Contessa (I have made a bunch of her recipes), and of course Paula Dean….

I have a notebook of recipes I have printed off Food Network. I preview what the shows are, then record them, look up the recipe on the internet, then watch and cook at the same time. Fun…

I just love to cook!!!!!

Meg

April 8th, 2010
10:55 am

We have a projector and screen, and when we watch anything we hook up the DVD player and watch Star Trek. We’ve finished the original series, we’re mostly through The Next Generation, and we just started Deep Space Nine. We still have 7 seasons of Voyager and 4 of Enterprise to go, and then I guess we’ll watch Babylon 5.
We like some British series, too, our DVD is region free and the kids love Primeval and Doctor Who.
Except for having to buy Star Trek action figures on ebay, it’s been wonderful, and even with that I got a pretty good price!
We’re raising the next generation of geeks!
We also watch Psych and Eureka on Hulu.

FCM

April 8th, 2010
11:17 am

@ Meg–LOVE The Doctor. Especially the ones with David Tennet. I have not seen the new Doctor—Matt something I think. My children have been name to say well go fire up the Tardus and fix that then!

JJ I think I am going to breakdown and get DVR. With On Demand I have gotten so spoiled, I just hate watching ABC with all the commercials…and they never put things from ABC On Demand.

Tiger Ochocinco Mellencamp

April 8th, 2010
11:54 am

my kid loves house hunters, he digs trying to tell me the house HE thinks they should pick. He also loves Diners, Drive thrus and Dives.

Theresa Walsh Giarrusso

April 8th, 2010
12:32 pm

On the off topic stuff — it was people getting political and really off topic that my bosses objected too — you can inquire about posters’ health or other topics within reason –

Kathy — I went to Fleet Feet that weekend after the swelling had gone down — it’s oddly intimate how they examine your feet — learned more about my feet than I ever knew — high arch, high instep but narrow heel — so I tried on about four pairs until we settled on one that felt good and he thought looked right when I walked — also got the green insoles for high arches — he said it would take about two weeks to get used to that much arch support — I’m about a week and half into them and liking them this week — my toes were going numb at first but that seems to be getting better so I’m still watching them. but overall I felt like the store did a good job and I appreciated very much the suggestions. I don’t think I paid any more than I would have at a regular sporting good store and got shoes that actually fit.

Old Star Trek is good suggestion — probably would be Ok for the kids — also any contest on the Food Network they will all watch.

FCM

April 8th, 2010
12:41 pm

Tiger–I like guessing the house that they will pick (and am right about 90% of the time). My children like First Time Buyer (is that the right name?) since we are going through all that now….oy vey!

Color Splash with David B is another good one. He worked for Disney and really tries to transform a room. Too bad he is on the West Coast only…sure could use his expertise when we (finally) get the house. Guy Fieri is an all time fav in the house…my eldest wants to meet Hunter (his son).

hmmmmm maybe I should do Netflix and internet and forget the cable all together? I guess it is off topic…but I would value input on the idea. When we finally get through with getting the house I could either Dish, Cable, AT&T, or Netflix—hmmmm

Fred

April 8th, 2010
12:44 pm

I would hate to have to find something to watch for three kids (both sexes lol). I have only the 8 year old girl. I’m more liberal than most people I think when it comes to exposing my child. She watched Jericho (DVD’s) with us and Band of Brothers for instance. But there are some kids shows that i also find entertaining. iCarly is a really cute show and Phineas and Pherb would probably work for your brood Theresa as it’s got 2 brothers and a sister lol.

She has found some show, I forget the name, on APL that is about dogs. They have done shows on cross breeds that was pretty cool. SHe stumbled into a Happy Days rerun and likes it, as well as that old show where the Olsen twins got their start.

Thanks for the heads up on Life. That is right up her/our alley as well. If you like that you should get that DVD set “Planet Earth” that the BBC put out. It has some wicked cool footage of animals in the wild that was never possible to get before. They used a stealth helicopter with some super spy like camera’s to film the animals from over a mile away so the copter never disturbed them. She was a little sad in one scene where the shark caught the seal, but she was also surprisingly pragmatic about it at the same time (she was 6 when she saw that).

She USED to watch NASCAR with me…………..

penguinmom

April 8th, 2010
12:45 pm

My kids enjoy watching the Duggars on 19 Kids and Counting. Even my youngest (age 6) was happy when we found out that Baby Josie went home this week. (They are looking forward to that episode when it comes out.) We also watch a lot of Food Network – Good Eats, Challenge, Ace of Cakes, Chopped.

For awhile my kids were really into Hogan’s Heroes and a couple of other old shows. My son even wanted to dress up as Colonel Klink one year for Halloween but I explained that dressing up like a Nazi might upset some people.

We’ve recently been watching old Disney movies. We had a free preview of the Hallmark Movie Channel and recorded a bunch of really old ones off of there. My kids enjoyed Blackbeard’s Ghost, That Darn Cat (original one), The Cat from Outer Space. We are planning on getting NetFlix specifically so that we can get old shows/movies we enjoyed as kids.

I’m assuming you could get old Mutual of Omaha shows off of NetFlix as well. The ‘Life’ show sounds interesting but I’m wary of anything that might present too much of an environmentalist view of nature.

penguinmom

April 8th, 2010
12:58 pm

I agree that Original Star Trek is another good option. We’ve watched a lot of the episodes with all three.

@PickinNits – there are a lot more kid-centric shows on now but too often those are really lame and repetitive to the point of not really being funny. Or they are filled with too much middle school type humor to be enjoyable.
The nice thing about some of the older shows is that they are aimed more towards a grown-up level but don’t have anything inappropriate for the kids because that wasn’t allowed much back then in earlier time slots. course, I guess I’m a little strange since I enjoyed the Lawrence Welk show and Hee-Haw. I’m slightly older (just turned 44) but my kids (6, 10, 14) have enjoyed both of those also when we find them on reruns.

Patrick

April 8th, 2010
1:01 pm

Haven’t seen “Life”, nor do I think I’d want to.

“Holmes on Homes” is awesome. You learn all sorts of “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to home remodeling or hiring a contractor.

As for “Family Movie Night”, there’s always any film based on a classic story, preferably one that’s not too “super hero-y” or “princessy”. Disney’s “Bambi” is a good one. The Hallmark live-action version of “Alice in Wonderland” is another. To inspire your kids even more, what you should do is read the story during the week, building up to watching the movie on Movie Night, and see if they can spot the differences. Discuss what differences or changes there were, and ask their opinion why they think those differences were made.

Another more modern movie, when it comes out On Demand and DVD that this could be done with is “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: Lightning Thief”. If the kids have read the book, you’re already there. Take it a step further: read the original Greek myths the books seem to relate to. See where the author got the inspiration, and how the more modern story parallels to the original myth.

Almost any Don Bluth film is good for Family Movie Night, and isn’t as “super-hero-y” or “princessy” as Disney movies or other films. Some of my favorites have included the first Land Before Time movie (the others weren’t as good), The Secret of NIMH, Rock-A-Doodle (has a super hero, but not in the same way as movies like Spiderman or Iron Man), and All Dogs Go To Heaven. A couple of other movies I’ve enjoyed are Rover Dangerfield and Cats Don’t Dance.

I’m sure if you search Amazon or Netflix, you might find Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom on DVD. I remember my parents watching National Geographic Explorer when I was a kid on PBS some nights. Some shows we enjoy watching together today include America’s Test Kitchen on PBS, sometimes This Old House, Ghost Hunters on SciFi (I will not acknowledge their new name. EVER!) (can be scary for younger kids), World’s Dumbest on TruTV (some content might not be suitable for young kids, mainly the commentary), and a couple of other shows.

FAMUAKA

April 8th, 2010
1:06 pm

On Sunday’s we watch “Home Extreme Makeover” as a family. I have two daughters, an 8 yr old and 4 yr old. Each time we watch the show, they learn to appreciate what they have a little more each week. We also watch Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Brown’s” and “House of Payne” because it’s a message in each of his shows. I think the shows we watch are very valuable and worth watching.

JJ

April 8th, 2010
1:24 pm

FCM – once you get one, you will wonder how you lived without it….I am so hooked on my DVR…I record tons of stuff………

I still haven’t watched the final espisode of Sons of Anarchy from NOVEMBER…LOL……that is such a good show…..

Earl Waters

April 8th, 2010
1:26 pm

I don’t know how ya’ll have time to watch TV.

I’m like most Americans husbands-in the other room watching so much anal teen porn I don’t have time for another “reality” shows with a bunch of whining middle-class kids.

Ha ha!

JJ

April 8th, 2010
1:27 pm

Patrick – that is a GREAT Idea about reading the book first then watching the movie……excellent!!!

Van Jones

April 8th, 2010
1:56 pm

JATL, Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom was a Sunday night staple at our house growing up. It was a fantastic show and I fondly remember Marlon Perkins narrating scenes such as “I’ll wait in the Jeep while Jim goes to check out the pride of lions…”