Streaming: It’s not just for young people! Many baby boomers were early adopters of Netflix and Roku, and more and more older Americans seem to be filling their golden years with content they find through streaming services. If you’re anticipating spending more hours in front of TV with your parents soon — or just need something else to talk about over the phone — now is the perfect time to find common ground with your parents over a TV show everyone in the family can agree upon, especially if your dad still isn’t over that Ozark finale.
As luck would have it, a slew of recent comedies currently on streaming services feature nice lead characters and rarely touch on offensive (or too sexually explicit) material. They’re the kinds of shows that leave you feeling generally good about humans and probably won’t upset viewers who spent a lifetime watching network TV that was highly regulated by broadcast standards and practices. While we can’t guarantee these series won’t inspire some occasional awkward conversations, they’re definitely better to talk about than whatever story cable news decided to fixate on today or the latest drama unfolding on Facebook. And who knows — maybe you’ll convince Mom and Dad to purchase another subscription you can mooch off of.
Abbott Elementary (ABC, streaming on Hulu)
Premise: Janine (Quinta Brunson) is an eternally optimistic though sometimes naïve second-grade teacher at an underfunded Philadelphia public school. A documentary film crew follows her and fellow educators as they scheme for more resources, attempt to outsmart mischievous children, and thwart the biggest troublemaker of all, the school’s principal, Ava (Janelle James).
Recommend to your parents if: They loved the workplace comedy of The Office but hated the cringier episodes; they still keep a large storage bin full of your elementary-school projects; they used to go all out for Teacher Appreciation Week.
Don’t even think about bringing it up if: They were very against the cute slow-burn romance between The Office’s Jim and Pam.
Is everyone on this show nice? Ava is an outrageous narcissist who should never be left to manage a school, and the more experienced teachers love to dunk on Janine, but otherwise all the educators are trying their best to inspire and connect with their students.
Potential moment of discomfort if you’re watching with your parents: When the antics of the Abbott Elementary kids remind your parents of all the times you were sent home with a letter from a teacher and they want to finally get to the bottom of your childhood misbehavior. Seriously, why did you steal that girl’s special glitter pen?!
Never Have I Ever (Netflix)
Premise: Devi (Maitreyi Ramakrishnan) is a high-achieving teenager still reeling after the recent loss of her father. She enters her sophomore year in high school desperate to change her image and is hoping a boyfriend will be her ticket to being more cool.
Recommend to your parents if: They love teen romantic comedies; they appreciate stories in which a mother and daughter work through some difficult family dynamics; they fondly remember the glory days of tennis champ John McEnroe.
Don’t even think about bringing it up if: They’re still recovering from the ups and downs of your messy high-school love life.
Is everyone on this show nice? In season two, a lot of the characters can be real jerks — but all teenagers go through tough phases, and you know these kids are probably going to look back at their worst moments and cringe when they’re nice, well-adjusted adults.
Potential moment of discomfort if you’re watching with your parents: Devi is pretty vocal about wanting to lose her virginity in the first season, so it could send your parents spiraling as they think about teenagers rushing into a level of physical intimacy they’re not emotionally ready for. Which reminds them: Was anything untoward going on when you were in 11th grade and you and your “friend” acted all weird when Mom barged into the basement unannounced?
Only Murders in the Building (Hulu)
Premise: When a young man is found dead in an Upper West Side apartment building, three neighbors (Steve Martin, Martin Short, and Selena Gomez) who share a deep love for a wildly popular true-crime podcast decide to team up as amateur detectives to find the killer — and start a podcast of their own. Every other resident in the building is a suspect, and one member of the trio may know more than she’s letting on.
Recommend to your parents if: They have an insatiable thirst for murder mysteries; they are delighted when celebrities they recognize, like Nathan Lane or Sting, show up in the show they’re watching; they’ve ever been fans of Short or Martin (if one of your parents is a dad, then this is a given).
Don’t even think about bringing it up if: The subject of New York City always turns into a debate about “woke” politics.
Is everyone on this show nice? While they’re not always firmly in the “nice” bucket, they certainly are Characters with a capital C and don’t have any malicious intent— it’s not like Oliver Putnam (Short) wanted to gravely injure all those chorus boys!
Potential moment of discomfort if you’re watching with your parents: When someone in the room asks, “Why isn’t Martin Short in more things these days?” and then musings on the nature of aging in our youth-driven culture suddenly turn hostile toward you despite your being the one to suggest this show in the first place.
Schmigadoon! (Apple TV+)
Premise: When two doctors (Cecily Strong and Keegan-Michael Key) go on a couples’ retreat to fix their broken relationship, they take a wrong turn in the woods and end up stuck in a town straight out of a golden-age musical. To get out, they must sing and dance their way through various numbers that will sound familiar if you’ve ever seen any musicals by Rodgers and Hammerstein or their contemporaries.
Recommend to your parents if: They ever insisted on listening to a Broadway-musical soundtrack while cooking dinner; they still have a VHS copy of that time you were a chorus member in your high school’s production of Oklahoma!; they bought a Disney+ subscription just to watch Hamilton.
Don’t even think about bringing it up if: They have no patience for glorifying the mid-20th-century musicals that didn’t offer the sophisticated themes or complex lyricism achieved by Stephen Sondheim or other great artists of the later 20th century.
Is everyone on this show nice? This is a loving homage to corny golden-age musicals; even the most evil, closed-minded preacher’s wife learns a lesson about kindness and being good to other people.
Potential moment of discomfort if you’re watching with your parents: When you realize the finale is going to be a letdown and there will be exactly zero reprisals of “Corn Pudding.”
Schitt’s Creek (Netflix)
Premise: When members of the wealthy Rose family lose their fortune, they make do with their last remaining possession: Schitt’s Creek, a small town in Ontario that Johnny (Eugene Levy) bought as a gag gift for his son, David (Dan Levy). Johnny, his glamorous wife, Moira (Catherine O’Hara), and their spoiled adult children, David and Alexis (Annie Murphy), live in a rundown motel as they rebuild their lives and slowly become part of their new community.
Recommend to your parents if: They have a thing for fish-out-of-water comedies; they have a deep appreciation for any actor who frequently appears in Christopher Guest mockumentaries; they’re thrilled to see a real-life father-and-son team (Eugene and Dan Levy) work so well together — especially a duo with such iconic eyebrows.
Don’t even think about bringing it up if: They’re unwilling to sit through some rocky first-season episodes to get to the good stuff.
Is everyone on this show nice? Underneath the designer clothes, cruel zingers, and rampant insecurities, everyone in this family has a heart of (platinum) gold.
Potential moment of discomfort if you’re watching with your parents: Throughout the series, Alexis drops many casual references to her previous party life that usually include drugs, exotic locations, and notorious men. These stories might spur inquiries from Mom and Dad about your own social life that you’d rather avoid — even if you’ve never been on a blind date in Bali with Leo.
Ted Lasso (Apple TV+)
Premise: American college-football coach Ted Lasso (Jason Sudeikis) is hired to coach a professional British football team (or, as Americans know it, a soccer team). Although he doesn’t know a thing about offsides or relegation, his constant positivity and can-do attitude rub off on his players and everyone else around him.
Recommend to your parents if: They get emotional at the end of every sports movie; they love dad jokes; they were that soccer parent who brought orange slices to every game.
Don’t even think about bringing it up if: They hate positive masculinity.
Is everyone on this show nice? That’s sort of this show’s whole deal.
Potential moment of discomfort if you’re watching with your parents: Roy Kent (Brett Goldstein) is prone to dropping more F-bombs in one episode than most of these shows feature in an entire season, and Keeley (Juno Temple) will casually mention her sex toys from time to time. But their British accents could charm your parents into not caring. Just don’t turn on the subtitles.
The Great North (Fox, streaming on Hulu)
Premise: Beef Tobin (voiced by Nick Offerman, a favorite of many parents) is a devoted single dad living in a small Alaska town. His four quirky, outdoors-loving children — Wolf, Ham, Judy, and Moon — get into all sorts of benign high jinks while pursuing their interests and participating in the many idiosyncratic traditions of their remote, snow-covered area.
Recommend to your parents if: They’re really into “family time”; they’re always eager to get the whole brood together on a camping trip; they just want you and your siblings to know you’re loved no matter what.
Don’t even think about bringing it up if: They think The Simpsons is a cartoon meant for children.
Is everyone on this show nice? There’s not one sour sasquatch in the bunch.
Potential moment of discomfort if you’re watching with your parents: When the sight of Judy’s imaginary friend in the stars, Alanis Morissette, makes your parents vividly remember Morissette’s “You Oughta Know” lyric “Is she perverted like me / Would she go down on you in a theater?” Of course, that will lead them to tell you everything you oughta know about their thoughts on public oral sex.