#MediaMondayTip: Two Nostalgic TV shows to Bingewatch with Your Girl

Sure most of us want to be outside this summer after a long, brutal winter. But on those days filled with rain, sunburn, or a simple desire to hole up, I’m recommending two TV shows available on Netflix. Even if you’ve seen them, it’s different to view them as a parent, and both shows offer fantastic conversation starters with your daughter around the heartaches and sweet firsts of adolescence. I’m also including a series of questions for each show you can bring up with your daughter, which I’ve test-piloted with my own pre-teen girl.


The Wonder Years – (1988 to 1993)

Half comedy, half drama, this Emmy-winning gem is set during the late ’60s and early ’70s, with historic milestones (landing on the moon, civil-rights protests, Viet Nam updates) built into the narrative. We follow young Kevin Arnold through puberty, and his complex navigations with family (including tormenting older brother Wayne), friends (particularly with best-bud Paul Pfeifer), and crushes (most intensely with next-door neighbor Winnie Cooper).

I know of no better show that captures the ups and downs of the first kiss, first fight with a friend, first failure on a test, first break-up, first play audition. All of these moments provide perfect entry points into conversations that allow you to share relationship values with your daughter, made easier because you’re talking about fictional TV characters and not the people in her world.

wonderyearsBonus: Danica McKellar, who played Kevin’s dream-girl Winnie Cooper, ended up going to UCLA, where she made mathematical history proving a groundbreaking physics theorem. It was published in a prestigious journal of physics, and she graduated summa cum laude. Talk to your daughter about the urgent need right now to get girls excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and what she thinks schools could do to entice more girls and women to enter these fields.

5 great questions about the show to ask your daughter:
  • Did you realize that boys have all these awkward moments of puberty too?
  • Why do you think Kevin has such a hard time expressing his feelings towards Winnie?
  • How would you handle it if someone had a crush on you, and you didn’t return the feelings?
  • What could you do if you felt peer-pressured into making out or drinking?
  • How could you help someone being made fun of at the risk of getting targeted too?


The Gilmore Girls – (2000 – 2007)

Creator Amy Sherman-Paladino created a charming and fictional world set in Connecticut where wise-cracking and young mom Lorelai is raising her young, studious and endearing daughter Rory. (Lorelai, we learn, got pregnant in her teen years and ran away from her upper-crust parents.) Viewers watch Rory grow up over seven seasons, and cheer on her first kiss, her ambition to become a top journalist, her passion for books, and her close relationship with her mom.

We also experience her heartbreak in dealing with break-ups, her mom’s romantic commitment-phobia, and super awkward adjustment to private school where everyone seems privileged and sure of themselves. As the seasons pass, the content does get more sexual, as Rory loses her virginity, although it’s all PG.

gilmore_girlsBonus: The show was created by writer/producer/director Amy Sherman Palladino. Talk to your daughter about the fact that women comprised only 18% of all directors, executive producers, writers, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic-grossing films. Ask her what it means for all of us when women aren’t allowed to their stories, and how media might be different girls and women were in charge?

5 great questions about the show to ask your daughter:
  • What is the danger of having one best friend and no other friends?
  • Why do you think it is so hard for Lorelai to watch Rory become more independent?
  • Why do you think Rory is interested in spending time with the bad boy in town?
  • Do you think Rory stood up for herself enough when the popular girls are mean?
  • Rory’s friend Paris is extremely competitive and ambitious; do you think ambitious girls are treated different than boys?

Note: I will say the big downfall of these shows is that they are set in suburbs with almost entirely white characters. I recommend addressing this too with your girl, and asking whether she thinks there should be more TV shows featuring girls of color, especially given that our country is expected to be one-third Hispanic by 2050. Why is it important to tell their stories too?

Michelle Cove is the Executive Director of MEDIAGIRLS®, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to critique the way girls and women are portrayed in pop culture with an emphasis on creating empowering content.

She is also an award-winning filmmaker, journalist, and author whose projects have been featured on numerous national platforms including “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” Katie Couric’s talk show “Katie,” “The Today Show,” The Washington Post, and The New York Times.

Visit www.mediagirls.org to learn more.

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