My Three Sons

Five Classic Family Shows to Restore Your Faith in TV

I’ve had a heck of a time writing about good shows for families lately, mainly because there are so few on the airwaves right now. So to restore my faith in TV’s ability to produce true family shows that everyone in the house can watch, let’s reach back in time and highlight five that make the grade.

These are not only great shows for and about families, but they’re also funny and well written. If they produced more shows like these right now, I bet people would watch them.

1. My Three Sons. I’m not sure if it’s because Steve Douglas always knew just what to say or whether the boys seemed like real kids who horsed around and sometimes got into trouble, but this show with the toe-tapping theme song is one of my all-time favorites. I watched My Three Sons as a kid, so watching it now sort of transports me back to those carefree days of growing up on a cherry farm in northern Michigan, before mortgage payments and other grownup issues consumed my life.

Even though the Vietnam war was raging during the 1960s when My Three Sons aired, back on the home front, Fred MacMurray calmly raising his boys with the help of curmudgeonly Bub and later, Uncle Charlie. It was like an early version of Modern Family. In fact, have you ever noticed how many single-dad shows were on TV back then? The Courtship of Eddie’s Father and Family Affair (Uncle Bee-al!) were a couple of others.

2. The Andy Griffith Show. What can you say about this show, other than it may be the best show ever to grace our TV screens? The beauty of The Andy Griffith Show is in the simplicity of a summer’s day, a sheriff who took the afternoon off to go fishing with his son, a loving aunt who always had a chocolate cake in the oven.

Remember the episode where the stressed-out stranger breaks down and has to wait until Monday before Gomer can fix his car? The guy’s a bundle of nerves at first, but ends up wanting to stay in town. Man in a Hurry — one of my favorites.

I’d like to think those days aren’t gone forever, but parents have their work cut out for them in this age of HALO and 600 channels and double-income families. We have to work extra hard for family time (or as my kids call it, “forced family fun” – they’ll thank me later).

The Waltons3. The Waltons. My dad loved this show, probably for the same reasons I loved My Three Sons. He grew up on a farm during the Depression, so The Waltons took him right back to his own childhood (which I’m sure wasn’t as carefree as mine). Watching The Waltons with my dad opened a window into his childhood.

And it’s always fascinating to watch a show from a bygone era where moms wore hats to church, kids worked hard and had to tow the line, and dads fretted over whether they’d be able to put food on the table (well, we still do that now, don’t we?).

But amidst all the troubles, you can still feel the Waltons’ happiness coming right through the TV set.  Their love for each other echoed in their nightly ritual. Here, I’ll remind you: “Goodnight, John-Boy.”

4. The Cosby Show. It’s been nearly 30 years since this show premiered, and it’s still relevant and funny. One thing will never change: kids do both smart and dumb things, and parents have to figure out how to survive through it all.

The Cosby ShowA few years ago, we decided to watch the whole series from start to finish over the course of a summer. Even though I’d already seen every episode at least twice, the show was still engaging and fresh. Cliff and Clair Huxtable expected the best from their kids, but also allowed them to be individuals.

And every once in a while, you get the unexpected musical encounter, whether it’s Russell Huxtable playing a gig with his trombone, the family singing a snappy tune as a group, or Clair crooning a lovely tune with her dad, played by the great jazz singer Joe Williams. The Cosby Show was not afraid to elevate things to a new level, and it’s a show worth revisiting from time to time.

The Wonder Years5. [amazon_link id=”B000002IOQ” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]The Wonder Years[/amazon_link]. This show starring Fred Savage as a kid growing up in the 1960s aired from 1988 to 1993. Though it takes place during the same era as The Andy Griffith Show, The Wonder Years delves into more real-world issues, like a daughter who moves in with her boyfriend and people heading off to war. The show won 22 awards, including a Peabody in 1989 for “evoking a traditional family sitcom while pushing boundaries and using new modes of storytelling.”

But for viewers like us, The Wonder Years is just a great show that’s both funny and dramatic, with real-life characters and dialogue. The final narration by Daniel Stern says it all:

“Growing up happens in a heartbeat. One day you’re in diapers, the next day you’re gone. But the memories of childhood stay with you for the long haul. I remember a place, a town, a house, like a lot of houses. A yard like a lot of other yards. On a street like a lot of other streets. And the thing is, after all these years, I still look back … with wonder.”


11 responses to “Five Classic Family Shows to Restore Your Faith in TV”

  1. Brette Sember Avatar

    I watched ALL Of these shows. Andy Griffith and My 3 Sons were on in reruns when I was a kid and I used to see them in the afternoons. Cosby and Wonder Years are two of the shows that I watched all the time. The Wonder Years used to give me chills and I wanted Kevin and Winnie to get together. I cried when I watched the last episode. 

  2. FrugalKiwi Avatar

    For some reason, I’ve never watched the Waltons. All the others spur fond memories for me, especially Wonder Years.

  3. Living Large Avatar

    You brought back some wonderful memories with these shows. i used to watch My Three Sons everyday after school. Like your dad, my mother was Depression era and loved The Waltons (my brother used to call it The Walnuts!) and when we found it on reruns last year, i about drove my husband crazy watching some episodes. It made me think of the nights spent watching with my mom. The Andy Griffith Show still runs here everyday at noon and I sometimes watch it too. The Wonder Years? There was no better show I can remember at that time. 

  4. Sheryl Avatar

    Loved all these shows- – nice trip down memory lane!

  5. kerry dexter Avatar
    kerry dexter

    The Waltons is the only one of these I ever really watched much — although I didn’t grow up in that era, I did grow up in a place  much like that in the show and loved the family feeling the Waltons shared. I’d add my favorite family friendly and well made show to your list: Dr Quinn Medicine Woman.
    Touched by an Angel and Seventh Heaven had their moments and would be on my list too.

  6. ruth pennebaker Avatar

    I feel the same way — comforted — when I watch a more recent TV show, Friday Night Lights. All of a sudden, life seems simpler and less threatening. We all need comfort food in one form or another.

  7. merr Avatar

    What a fun – and nostalgic – post!

  8. MyKidsEatSquid Avatar

    I love the Cosby Show. What about Little House on the Prairie?

  9. Kyle Vanover Avatar

    “What can you say about this show, other than it may be the best show ever to grace our TV screens?” I completely agree! I love the simplicity, but also the morality of the show. In fact, I used it to develop my own Bible study for my church a few years ago, and then it inspired me to start my blog, where I write about lessons we learn from all sorts of TV, movies, and music… I think if everybody sat down and watched an episode of Andy every day, this world would be a better place!

    1. KyleVanover Avatar

      BTW, I think my favorite Andy episode is Mr. McBeevee, where Andy and Barney just can’t make sense of Opie’s description of the mysterious man he’s met in the woods. Andy finally decides to have faith in Opie even though Opie doesn’t seem to make sense. Great lesson more of us need to learn!

  10. ryanlwaterman Avatar

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Especially about The Cosby Show. It will always be one of the greatest shows of all time. I’ve been watching a lot of it on Nick at Nite lately and I’ve been reminded of how much I’m scared of the season 5 opening sequence. Does anyone else feel the same way about the strange music, flowy costumed dancing and THE HANDS at the end? Just me? Okay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *