I am about to share one of my top so-called parenting secrets. (This message will self-destruct in 30 seconds.) I have discovered that one of the top ways to bond with a boy in late teens is to slouch companionably on a too-small sofa, watching TV series on Netflix, which endlessly plays the next episode. Snacking as necessary, joined intermittently by a softly snoring terrier. No teachable moments, no judgments: agenda-free yucking it up, with a side of knitting.
These are two of our favorites, but the possibilities are endless, because the teens (in my house, at least), require only that a series be mildly amusing, and have plenty of episodes. Warning: UTTER ABSENCE OF ELDERLY BRITISH DETECTIVES. (I know, crazy, right?)
Family viewings of The Office have opened up an entire language in which to communicate across the generations. Most of the time, the show is a master class in how not to behave, and so much more fun to learn from the characters’ counter-examples than from Mom’s sermonettes. Can be surprisingly moving, too. We all cried at the finale.
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
Don’t just dial up this show and start watching; it’s not for everybody. I’ll let Wikipedia give a sense of how wrong this show is:
The series follows “The Gang”, a group of five depraved underachievers: twins Dennis Reynolds (Glenn Howerton) and Deandra “Sweet Dee” Reynolds (Kaitlin Olson), their friends Charlie Kelly (Charlie Day) and Ronald “Mac” McDonald (Rob McElhenney), and (from season 2 onward) Frank Reynolds (Danny DeVito), the man who raised Dennis and Dee. The Gang runs the dilapidated Paddy’s Pub, an Irish bar in South Philadelphia.
Each member of the gang shows varying degrees of dishonesty, egotism, selfishness, greed, pettiness, ignorance, laziness, and unethical behavior; they are often engaged in controversial activities. Episodes usually find them hatching elaborate schemes and conspiring against one another and others for personal gain, vengeance, or simply the entertainment of watching another’s downfall. They habitually inflict mental, emotional, and physical pain on each other and anyone who crosses their path. They also regularly use blackmail to manipulate one another and others outside of the group.
So, Leave It to Beaver it ain’t. Sometimes, I get myself Appalled, and walk away from the sofa. But there is something in a teenage boy that loves the wildly inappropriate, while recognizing that it’s wildly inappropriate. We do laugh. And one of us gets some knitting in.