When I hear MTV television shows, I usually think of reality television shows like “Jersey Shore” and “Teen Mom.”
What I don’t think of, and what I don’t think many people think of, are honest and serious shows with an in-depth look into real life.
MTV’s new four-part show, “16 and Recovering,” details the struggles and hardships of teenage addiction, and how parents and caretakers can effectively help teens with addiction.
I think that parents and teens should all sit down and watch this mini-series, whether its together or separately.
The show takes place at Northshore Recovery High School in Massachusetts, where the MTV film crew, including award-winning director Steve Liss, was given an inside look into the lives of teens with addiction, their families and their teachers.
The founder of Northshore, Michelle Lipinski, is not only the school principal but a confidant, friend and even loved one to all of the students. The students not only trust Lipinski but all of the staff at Northshore. They share their struggles, secrets and hardships with the staff members, as they would close friends.
The teachers and caretakers at Northshore don’t punish students when they relapse or make a mistake. They just express their support and love for their students and encourage them back onto the right path.
I think that the way the Northshore staff handles teen addiction is a perfect model for how parents and caretakers everywhere should handle their own teens who may be struggling. By showing only love and support, with no anger or strong discipline, the kids feel like they can always be honest with them, rather than fear them and hide their wrongdoings.
In an interview with the Washington Post, Lipinski spoke about how she did not wish for the camera crew to record the students using any drugs. She said that the show is about teenage recovery, not the drug use.
The show also shows how mental illness and addiction go hand in hand. In one scene, a student named Alba says how depression and addiction go together like “cheese and crackers.” Many of the students struggle with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, on top of the addictions.
While the series shows how the support and love of family and caretakers can help struggling youth addicts, it doesn’t hide the fact that some teens end up giving in to their addiction and are unable to survive because of it.
MTV hopes to lead the change in the entertainment industry when it comes to depicting mental illness on screen.
The show has four parts, each airing Tuesday evenings at 9 pm on MTV. The first episode aired on September 1.
Parents, does it ever seem like picking a movie to watch with the whole family gets tougher and tougher the older your kid becomes?
Parents, does it ever seem like picking a movie to watch with the whole family gets tougher and tougher the older your kid becomes?
I know when I was 14 or 15-years-old the last thing I wanted to do was watch a movie with my parents.
It’s probably difficult because tweens are at that awkward stage: Too old for “kids” movies, but not yet ready for adult movies.
Well, how about a compromise?
Instead of recommending just a one movie, I’m going to recommend an entire franchise: “Star Wars.”
What most of you remember as a 1970’s space story about a young Jedi named Luke Skywalker trying to defeat Darth Vader has evolved over the past forty-plus years into an entire fictional-universe that’s comprised of full-length films, animated and live-action television shows, video games, comics and chapter books.
I think it’s the perfect bridge between you and your kid, particularly if they are a tween.
Star Wars Basics:
“Star Wars” was created by George Lucas, owner of Lucas Films. The entire franchise was purchased by the Walt Disney Company in 2012 for $4.05 billion.
After the release of the original “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope”, Lucas went on to release “Star Wars: Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” in 1980 and Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi in 1983. These are called the original trilogy. Though they are labeled Episodes IV, V and VI, I highly recommend stating with “A New Hope.” Not only does it have one of the simplest hero arcs for a kid to understand, but it easily establishes the light and dark side the force, a key concept in all of the films. Also these are most likely the “Star Wars” films you grew up with, so it might be the perfect place to start bridging that gap.
Twenty-some years later, Lucas released three more films between 1999 and 20015. This trilogy, known as the “prequels” tells the story of how Anakin Skywalker eventually became Darth Vader.
Even though the prequels received a lot of scrutiny from critics, they’re still beautiful pieces of art. This trilogy was released when I was a kid. I confess I had a mixed bag of emotions watching Anakin grow from a young boy into a renowned Jedi, and then becoming a force for evil as he turned to dark side.
Note, this trilogy ends on a somber note as we see the relationship between Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin change (Anakin becomes head strong and refuses to listen to the advice of his elders.)
After the prequels were released, Lucas and Disney went on to make three more movies. They pick up where Episode VI ended, so these are Episodes VII, VIII and IX. Currently, “Star Wars: Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker” is still playing in some theaters after debuting Dec. 18, 2019. It serves as both the end to the Skywalker Saga.
This last trilogy is probably the one your kid knows best. It’s very female-empowering as the plot follows a young woman, Rey, who becomes the next Jedi. The cast is by far the most diverse in the franchise’s history but still includes legends such as Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford returning to play their original roles.
Importantly, all of these films can easily be streamed on Disney+, excluding “The Rise of Skywalker” which is still in some theaters. But here is where it gets interesting. There is a lot more to the Star Wars Universe!
Other Popular Star Wars Media
In addition to the prequel films, Disney and Lucas Films have also released two spin-off movies. One is “A Star Wars Story: Rogue One”. It tells the story of the rebels who stole the Death Star’s plans prior to “A New Hope”. Another is “A Star Wars Story: Solo”. It serves as Han Solo’s origin story. While these films have received mixed reviews by some critics, they both carry strong themes of bravery and justice, and I think they are excellent films.
You might not know there have been several television series in the franchise’s history. Right now there are two that stand above the rest.
“Star Wars: The Clone Wars” is an animated series that ran from 2008 to 2014 on Cartoon Network and retuned on Netflix for a sixth season later that year. Disney recently announced that the series will be returning for its seventh and final season Feb. 21, streaming exclusively on Disney+.
The show is animated, so that might make it more appealing to your kids than to you. But don’t let that stop you from watching. It has many fans of all ages. A few claim it is the best media the franchise has to offer.
A new series is really catching people’s attention, “The Mandalorian”. If you haven’t seen it, is the show responsible for the “Baby Yoda” memes you may have seen on Facebook. This show became Star Wars’ first live-action television series when it debuted on Nov. 12, 2019. It was timed to launch with Disney’s new streaming service, Disney+.
It has been confirmed that the show will return for a second season in the fall of this year.
Like all of the Star Wars movies and TV shows, it always has a good message. I would sum this one up as “Doing the right thing even when the wrong thing seems easier.”
Star Wars has also been making a strong comeback over the last several years with their video games. It’s safe to say that “Star Wars Battlefront II” is currently the space saga’s most popular game.
Available on consoles like PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC for less than $20, the game is very entertaining for the price. It is also very appropriate for tweens. While there is obviously some violence, which explains the Teen ESRB rating, it isn’t graphic. Defeated players generally just fall to the ground. If you want, check out this parent review on the game that goes into more detail.
Maybe you’re not one of those people that reads science fiction and you have a hard time buying into a fictional, galactic-spanning universe of diverse creatures (that somehow still manage to communicate with each other?). But I think it’s the perfect vehicle for bridging the gap between childhood and adulthood for kids in that tween stage. It has action and aliens, but it’s not graphic or grotesquely violent like some franchises these days.
With new content continuing to rollout, “Star Wars” could be the perfect compromise for your next family movie night. Or your next twelve.
Parents, with winter break approaching, chances are your kids will have additional screen time over the holiday.
So how about this year, instead of letting them scroll endlessly on YouTube or Netflix, watching meaningless, sub-par content, why not suggest something that could actually be worth their time?
I’m talking about Marvel’s “Hero Project,” streaming exclusively on Disney+.
A Short Series Overview
Marvel’s “Hero Project” is a Disney+’s original series shot in documentary-style. It follows young real-life heroes as they show courage and kindness. These teens inspire positivity and change across their communities.
Each kid featured in the show will have a comic book written about them – inspired by their real-life acts of heroism.
It is a 20-episode production and currently has six episodes released, with a new episode debuting every Friday.
To let you know what you can expect, here’s a quick review of Episode 1: “Sensational Jordan.”
Episode 1: “Sensational Jordan” Review
As most Marvel motion-pictures do, “Hero Project” does a great job of introducing the show. It begins with a voiceover from a Marvel editor who says how they are continuing to be inspired every day by real-life heroes.
Jordan Reeves is a 13-year old girl with a limb difference – her left arm stops just above the elbow. In the first scene, she is seen cheerleading at a junior high sporting event. Unlike most tweens who struggle with imperfection, Jordan embraces what makes her different. Stubborn and hard-headed from an early age, she comes across as a confident and intelligent teenager.
Growing up having to learn how to do things a little different than most people, Jordan always had a fascination with design and how things worked. After attending a design workshop in San Francisco, Jordan began working weekly with Sam Hobish, a design mentor, on a glitter gun for her dismembered arm.
Eventually, because of how serious Jordan took her invention, she went viral – appearing on the “Rachael Ray Show” and later pitching her idea to the cast of “Shark Tank.”
After her climb into the spotlight, Jordan wanted to do more to help others. She began holding workshops with other kids to help build things that played off their disabilities. She became an activist for more consideration for accessibility in the design community – eventually creating her own non-profit foundation, “Born Just Right”.
At the end of the episode, Marvel presents her with her own comic book and makes her an official member of the “Hero Project” because of her charitable and forward-thinking work.
Altogether, I think Disney does a great job moving an audience with such an inspirational story in just a brief 25 minutes. Even as an adult, I felt a swing of emotions throughout the short documentary, and it left me feeling positive and joyful. There were also some absolutely stunning shots in this episode.
I’m not a particularly huge Marvel Cinematic Universe fan, but I was blown away by the show’s overall concept and the beautiful execution in episode one.
In a world where there is so much pointless and commercialized content out there, that target kids specifically, I think “Hero project” is a great way to combat that. It promotes both critical thinking and positive change.
It’s a home-run for me and I think it will be with most parents struggling to find good content for their children.
What Parents Are Saying
Mom bloggers and entertainment critics Patty Holiday of No-Guilt Fangirl and Andrea Updyke of Theme Park Parents collaborate on the podcast “Now Streaming Disney Plus”. They break down all the latest Disney Plus news in addition to reviewing the different series from a tween-parent perspective. The two moms also loved the first episode and offer some great insight. You can check that out here.
It was the summer of 2011. The
final episode of Disney Channel’s “The Suite Life on Deck,” starring Dylan and
Cole Sprouse, was on. It marked the end of my childhood, as I knew it.
I was 13-years-old and three years removed from my other favorite tween cable shows, “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide,” “Drake & Josh” and “Zoey 101”. All ended, I might add, prematurely.
Growing up, my parents weren’t
always around when I got home from school. So, with my Spaghetti-O’s or Easy
Mac in hand, I watched them every afternoon. I felt like I grew up with these
actors and actresses.
When they were over, I felt lost. Like a chapter of my life was suddenly over. All the laughs, all the stories and all the countless life lessons – gone!
I knew it was time to find new show, even though the constant reruns on “Teen Nick” were some comfort. Of course, I could just wait around until ESPN decided to start speculating again if Brett Favre was going to come out of retirement. But in July, football season seemed so far way. (Yes, even at 13 I was hooked on football.)
I began exploring new channels. What
I stumbled upon was a collection of great ‘90s, coming-of-age series, like
“Saved by the Bell” and “Boy Meets World”. Thanks to Mr. Belding and Mr. Feeney
I continued to learn valuable life lessons, like, tell a close friend the truth
even if it will make them made, and, be very careful of caffeine pills.
I also came across shows more grown up shows, like “That’s 70’s Show,” “Freaks and Geeks” and “How I Met Your Mother.” Masterpieces, but I was too naive at the time to get all of the drug and sexual references went over my head. However, kids these days are exposed to more on social media. They might not be so clueless.
Today’s Tween/Teen Shows
Let’s face it. Today’s kids stream.
This means they don’t have to choose from just the 5-6 cable channels I had to
choose from. They can log into Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc… and find any
show they want.
It’s hard to single out what teens are watching from all of the data, so let’s look at the top streamed shows on Netflix, the hottest service amongst preteens/teens. In January, Netflix released data on some of its most viewed shows. It’s measured as a percentage of all Netflix shows, with the data pulled from web browsers from January 2018- November 2018.
I’ve pulled out a few of them that
I think many teens are watching. Maybe your kid is watching one of these. If
so, do you know what’s in it?
Showtime’s “Shameless” began airing
in 2011. It wasn’t until 2017 that the show exploded on Netflix. Suddenly
everyone was talking about the ups and downs of the alcoholic Frank Gallagher
and his six children.
This show can come across as extremely entertaining and seemingly realistic. However, it is very inappropriate for preteens or teens. There’s swearing, nudity, sex and drug references throughout, make it tough watch for even some adults. While some may say it teaches important lessons, overall, we agree with this review, that parents will find it is best suited for age 17+.
“13 Reasons Why”
Originally released as a Netflix
Original in March in March 2017, “13 Reasons Why” builds a story around a topic
often left out of popular media – suicide.
The show follows Clay Jensen as he
listens to a series of audio tapes left behind by Hannah, his deceased classmate
and former love interest.
Since the show’s release, there has
been both praise and disapproval of the show’s premise. Some say it commercializes
suicide and mental health related diseases.
Recently, Netflix actually removed two scenes after the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry published a study showing that suicide by people aged 10-17 “dramatically increased” in the months following the release of the show. You can check out what some parents are saying about the show and decide for yourself if your preteen/teen is ready to watch it.
Another Netflix original, “Stranger
Things,” is a science fiction horror series that has three seasons available
for streaming on Netflix.
On the surface, the show is a sci-fi that follows events in a fictitious town called Hawkins, Indiana. It’s set in 1983 and it follows the disappearance of a young boy. Many other supernatural events also take place but there’s also a lot of I’m not diving into the show myself, but I suggest you take five minutes and watch YouTube parent Nick Shell. He has a very interesting take on the show.
This show starts one of my early favorite childhood actors, Cole Sprouse (remember, the “Suite” life shows?) “Riverdale” was released in 2017 but it’s already very popular. It’s based on the Archie Comics, but it’s much darker than the comic book you might remember. I think you may want to leave this one “on the shelf” for your preteen/teen. Some of the mysteries revolve around the murder of a local boy and an affair between a student and teacher. One reviewer called it “adult content packaged as a kid show.”
Hey, there’s always going to be new TV shows. And your kid may
know about them faster than you. What can you do? For starters, you can at least look up the
title and see what others are saying about the show.
Here are two links we thought were very useful. Keep them
bookmarked. Don’t be shy about asking your kid what they’re watching.
And don’t be afraid to have them watch an old favorite. The
“Suite Life” series never gets old. Will they ever get out of that hotel or off
the boat? I hope not.