It was a gloomy, rainy Saturday afternoon the first time I realized that my teens were old enough to binge watch shows that I actually wanted to watch with them. My husband had just left for a business trip (you know, back when we did those sorts of things), and I surveyed the scene of my two teens lounging on the couch with their phones illuminating their faces.
In an effort to thwart another evening where they stared at their phones while I did chores that no one wants to do on a Saturday night, I made an announcement: We would be having a binge watching picnic in our family room, complete with take out from our favorite Chinese restaurant.
At the mention of lo mein and spare ribs, both of my teens perked up, but they still eyed me dubiously.
I was caught off guard when they asked me what we were going to binge watch. I hadn’t thought my plan through, so I stared at them blankly for a moment. What on earth do you binge watch with teens? I mean, Breaking Bad and The Sopranos were definitely out. And I knew I’d lose them to their devices forever if I suggested a Little House on The Prairie marathon. There had to be other good shows to watch, right?
And then it came to me: The Office.
Now, this is the part of the story, dear reader, where I admit something to you and to you only: I never watched a single episode when The Office was on primetime back in the 2000s.
I know; I can’t believe it, either.
But on that Saturday night, something told me on that the quirky staff at Dunder Mifflin and their ridiculously hilarious quotes were about to become a language that I would be able to speak with my kids.
I wasn’t wrong.
That night, we gleefully stuffed ourselves with egg rolls and noodles and snuggled under blankets and I realized that I had hit the sweet spot of parenting.
As the months went by, I started to notice that my son would clean up the kitchen after dinner a little more quickly so we’d have time to squeeze an additional episode into our evening. My daughter delighted in Dwight’s sanctimonious management style and we all swooned when Pam and Jim finally sealed the deal. I’d often find myself laughing out loud, because who hasn’t had a cubicle best friend and a boss like Michael Scott?
When we finished watching The Office, it wasn’t long before we realized that we missed having a show that connected us when we were apart during the busy days of school and work life.
Here are few of the other shows we’ve tackled since that inaugural Saturday night binge party:
Binge-Worthy Shows to Watch With Your Family
The Wonder Years
I related to the Kevin Arnold character when I first watched The Wonder Years back in the late 1980s. I couldn’t have known back then that watching the series again with my teens would help me remember what it was like to survive those awkward teen years. Not only was the show a springboard to talking to my teens about the issues of the 1960s, it was also a way for me to see their daily dramas through a different lens.
My husband and I were obsessed with the writing of this show when Lost premiered. We couldn’t get enough of the flash forward and backward scenes of every character. We would eagerly await new episodes every week. I had forgotten about the twists and turns the writers created and now my teens hold Lost as their favorite show we’ve binged so far. Sorry, Dwight.
If I had to pick a favorite show that I’ve watched with my teens, it would undoubtedly be The Fosters. The show centers around Stef and Lena Adams-Foster and their biological and foster children as they navigate the foster system and the trials and tribulations of raising teens. More often than not, each episode led to an honest and open conversation with my teens. The show delves into challenging topics like sexuality, racial tensions, and political hot button issues.
How I Met Your Mother
Watching this show with my teens was, wait for it, legen-dary. Not only does Neil Patrick Harris steal the show as the self-absorbed Barney Stinson, but the story arc told over nine seasons is beautifully written. The show has witty dialogue and hilarious scenes that reminded me of my own 1990s love story with my husband. And I’ll never hear “500 Miles” by The Proclaimers without thinking of this show.
I admit it: I am obsessed with British royalty. And, as luck would have it, my teen son is obsessed with British history. We devoured this series together and I was amazed by how enthralled my son was with the monarchy and its pomp and circumstance.
When it comes to television shows, my teens and I diverge in one fundamental way: I dislike anything that will make me sleep with one eye open. My teens, on the other hand, can’t get enough of superheroes and fantasy-based shows. Against my better judgment, I let them talk me into watching Stranger Things. While most scenes scared the bejesus out of me, I will say that I came to love the premise of the show, particularly all of the 1980s décor and references. Thankfully, though, my recollection of the 80s did not include my friends communicating with Christmas lights.
Watching these shows together has been a way to keep us connected during our busy lives and I’m so glad I turned a regular Saturday night into an opportunity to bond with my teens.