My 12-year-old son has been watching “Naruto” and has been reading about how a generation grew up with this series and the characters. He’s also loved watching “Community” with us. He asked: What’s a funny ensemble show that has just started that he can watch and grow up with the characters? I know it’s a hard ask — who knows what will have potential — but any ideas would be gratefully received. — Jim
This is a tough one made tougher not just by coronavirus, which of course has janked the TV world as hard as it’s janked everything else, but also because TV longevity is at a particularly strange time. We have some unusual super-veterans: “The Simpsons” has been on for 31 seasons and counting, “Law & Order: SVU” just finished its 22nd season, “NCIS” its 17th, “Grey’s Anatomy” its 16th and “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” is due back for a 15th eventually. Those are some long-running shows! But we’re also seeing a ton of new shows getting canceled after only a few seasons on streaming; many TV fans think Netflix is particularly ruthless, although I’m not convinced. It hasn’t had original shows for long enough to make a meaningful assessment.
All that is to say: It’s never been harder to predict which shows will go the distance, and it’s likely that no brand-new shows will. Your safest bet is probably a CBS sitcom or a CW superhero show, because those rarely get canceled, but I don’t know how much a 12-year-old is going to get out of “Bob Hearts Abishola.”
So try “One Day at a Time,” a show that Netflix has in fact already canceled — but it was saved by Pop, which was a patient home to “Schitt’s Creek” for six seasons. “One Day at a Time” is funny and warm, and though it deals with serious issues like addiction and post-traumatic stress, I don’t think it’s too heavy for tweens because its message is always “help helps.” That’s a good premise to internalize as you grow! And there are teenage characters on the show who are literally growing up.
I think your sweet spot, though, is the wonderful “Bob’s Burgers,” which is already a veteran show finishing its 10th season. But I can see it going many more: Animated shows can have longer life spans than their live-action comedy counterparts, and Fox has committed pretty hard to its cartoon bloc. It sounds like your son enjoys mega commitments and likes a contemporary pop-infused sitcom, and “Bob’s” provides on both fronts. While the Belcher kids themselves don’t age, “Bob’s Burgers” does feel like it blooms in new ways season by season.
Are there any particularly enthralling travel programs you might suggest during this time? There are some obvious ones like Rick Steves and Anthony Bourdain, but are there others available that might be off the beaten path? — Bridget
My favorite offbeat travel show is “Travel Man,” starring the actor and comedian Richard Ayoade. On each episode, he’s joined by another comedian, and they visit a foreign-to-them city. It’s not that they necessarily go to the strangest places, but the episodes are funny and droll and sometimes include the real human experiences of disappointment or discomfort. I feel like lots of travel shows are appropriately focused on the ooh and aah of it all, so sometimes it’s a relief to see someone squirm a little. Not every moment of travel is exquisite joy. (It’s on Hulu.)
For something very chill, you might like the British series “Walks With My Dog,” in which celebrities show off scenic or historic footpaths with, yes, their dogs. If you like that, you will probably also like “Off the Beaten Track,” in which the host, Kate Humble, and her dog travel through Wales. (Those are both on Acorn.)
Finally, they’re not travel shows per se, but “Salt Fat Acid Heat,” starring the chef and author Samin Nosrat (who is also a contributor to The New York Times), and “Chef’s Table,” which profiles fancy chefs, both have gorgeous, vivid imagery from all over the world. (Those are on Netflix.) If you prefer something a little cheekier, try “The Wine Show.” (It’s on Hulu.)
I love nothing more than finding the answers to my friends’ television riddles — recommending “What We Do in the Shadows” for the friend missing “Parks and Rec,” or “Watchmen” to co-workers who think they’ve seen it all. I earnestly believe my friends would love the shows I suggest, but there are some people I can never quite convince to pull the trigger on any of my recommendations. Considering you’re an expert at matching people with TV shows, how do I lend credibility to my show suggestions and at what point do you suggest I throw in the towel on a recommendation (looking at you, “Great News”)? — Josh
My own parents didn’t watch “Downton Abbey” until two months ago, even though no show has ever been more up their alley and I had told them this for 10 entire years. I’m sure you are making great recommendations. Make them thoughtfully and earnestly, but then set them free.
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