At Home With the (Teenage) Kids

Kids have a lot of entertainment options these days.  My generation was not as fortunate.  I remember when HBO started, it didn’t even come on air til like 5 pm (remember those vertical colored bars that aired until then?) and then it felt like it was the same 5 movies every day. For some reason, all I remember is It’s Alive with the baby carriage ad, yuck.

I’m an only child so, growing up, I was alone a lot.  I did jigsaw puzzles, played hours of wall ball and read many books. I chuckle every time my son tells me he’s bored.  There are so many platforms and so many shows and books geared just for these kids; they have no idea what boredom is.  

My 16-year-old daughter and I share the same entertainment sensibilities, plus she actually enjoys my company, so we watch a lot of shows together and share some of our books.  If you are looking for some suggestions on what to watch with your teenager, try these:

Outer Banks” on Netflix, 1 season

It’s “Dawson’s Creek” meets “The O.C.” meets The Goonies.  A wrong side of the tracks (very good looking) teenager and his gang of fellow outcasts look for buried treasure in North Carolina.  All three of my kids watched this, separately of course, and then re-watched some episodes with me.  It’s very entertaining and twisty.  

Never Have I Ever” on Netflix, 1 season

I really enjoyed this show; it’s clever and often poignant and offers a viewpoint we don’t often see; the trials and tribulations of a first-generation Indian-American teen girl.  Mindy Kaling is behind it so you know it’s going to be funny and smart. Plus John McEnroe is the narrator for all but one episode, but I won’t spoil who the narrator is for that one. : )

The Half of It on Netflix, movie

At the heart of it, this is a story about a smart, quiet girl who helps a jock woo a popular girl. Also included; Chinese family integration in the US, same-sex attraction, small town religious communities, etc.  It’s got heart and integrity and is very well done.

The Last Dance” on ESPN, 10-part docuseries

We watched this with our son, while the girls checked in intermittently.  A film crew followed around the Chicago Bulls and was given an amazing amount of access as they were vying for their 6th NBA title in 8 years.  The focus is clearly on Michael Jordan who is, simply, the GOAT, but you see the team and all the dynamics that played a part in making this one of the most iconic teams of all time.  I didn’t like all of the timeline jumping, but it was great to revisit that era and now is the perfect time to watch if you are craving some sports.

Miss Americana on Netflix, documentary

People love an underdog and they love the new thing.  Once both of those are no longer true, they tend to turn on those people whom they used to love.  Not sure why, but it happens almost always – especially with girls.  I’m not gonna lie, I still love Taylor Swift.  This documentary follows her path from beginning to now.  She was loved and then reviled.  It portrays the scrutiny she is always under and how the self-doubt kicks in, no matter how famous you are.  All you can do is stand up for what you believe in and be the best person you know how to be.

My So-Called Life,” 1 season

I own this so you’re on your own as to how you can watch it.  I LOVED this series when it aired in 1994 (Claire Danes AND Jared Leto?!  Come on!!)  I’ve been making reference to it for years around my sophomore and she finally conceded to watching it with me.  It’s actually perfect timing because Danes’s Angela is a 15-year-old sophomore!  It’s as terrific as I remembered, if not better.  It is incredibly well written and well acted with many compelling arcs.  I used to be so annoyed when the storyline would follow the parents because they were so old and who cared about them?  Um, they’re 40!  With a sophomore and a middle schooler – seriously?!  I’m so old.

“Survivor: Winners at War” 

Did you know this show has been on air for 20 years?  This past season was #40 (!) and it consisted solely of past winners.  I probably haven’t watched since season 4 but my girls wanted to watch so I did.  There is a reason “Survivor” has been around for as long as it has.  It is addictively entertaining.  I think Richard Hatch turned the tide toward the scheming and shifty for this and other reality shows with his season 1 novel hidden alliances, and I wonder what reality TV would’ve been like if he hadn’t started it all off that way. Maybe it would’ve happened anyway?  I don’t know.  I don’t like that part of it but there’s no denying the ingenuity of the games and resilience of the players.  “The Amazing Race” is similarly great – both shows you can dip in and watch random seasons On Demand.

“Normal People” on Hulu, 1 season

Do NOT watch this with your teenager.  This story follows a couple from high school to college but it is heavy and a little graphic.  You may remember my listing this book by Sally Rooney in my top 10 from last year.  It’s definitely not for everyone; in fact I said I easily could have disliked it.  Once I decided to like it, however, I liked it a lot.  This adaptation is fantastic.  It is so true to the book that if you didn’t like the novel, then you probably won’t like this either.  I loved it and the casting is pitch perfect.  The relationship, which reads as a bit stilted with a lot going on in the silences, is much easier to relate to/understand when seen on screen.

Fun suggestion – Drive-In Movie!!  The girls and I and another mother/daughter met at a drive-in a couple Fridays ago.  We parked next to each other, said hello and watched the movie in our own cars.  It was really fun.  I can’t even remember the last time I went to a drive-in.  There were many (mediocre, but that’s beside the point) film choices; we opted for Bad Boys for Life (even though we hadn’t seen either Bad Boys 1 or 2) while the new Trolls and then Valley Girl were playing next to us.  

Side note, in honor of the new VG, I made my 16-year-old watch the original Valley Girl with me.  Let me begin by saying that I have a framed poster of this movie hanging in my basement and its soundtrack is the only vinyl album I still own.  Similar to Xanadu, a movie I looooooved in my youth, it has not really aged that well.  My daughter is a pretty game girl, but even she was like, “You love this movie?”

I hope this finds all of you well. It’s a crazy time but hang in there. Congrats to all the graduates!! Stay well and be safe.


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