It is no secret that prime time is inundated with Reality TV shows. While most parents enjoy unwinding at the end of the day with their kids they also don’t want to expose their children to the less-than-stellar values that are prevalent on reality TV shows. After all, what parent wants their young child to be exposed the rude-is-OK-if-it’s-true attitude of Simon on American Idol or the it’s-necessary-to-look-anorexic-and-be-catty-towards-other-girls attitude of America’s Top Model. (Aren’t we trying to break our girls of this anyway?) I won’t even get into the convoluted values demonstrated in shows like The Bachelor or Wife Swap.
Luckily, there are a few reality shows that families can watch together that highlight the good and entertaining parts of reality and not the twisted and dysfunctional side that good parents want to protect their children from as long as possible.
The Crocodile Hunter Diaries (Animal Planet)
The Crocodile Hunter Diaries shows what happens behind the scenes with both the staff and the animals at the Australia Zoo.
Pros: You and your children will learn about animals, their needs and habitats, and the necessity of conservation. The Crocodile Hunter Diaries also gives a glimpse into a child’s dream job: working with animals as a zoo keeper or veterinarian.
Cons: New episodes haven’t been made for several years though reruns still regularly air on Animal Planet.
Another Good Choice: Animal Cops, also on Animal Planet, gives a behind the scenes look at the day to day lives of the SPCA in Houston, Detroit, and San Francisco.
Dancing with the Stars (ABC)
Each season, stars from the worlds of entertainment, news, and sports are paired with professional dancers to compete in a series of ballroom dances.
Pros: The competitors are always good sports towards one another and the judges are always respectful towards the competitors. And the best part is that everyone seems to be having the time of their lives.
Cons: The moves in some of the Latin dances may be a bit steamy, but chances are your child will be busy enough taking in the up-tempo music, flashy costumes, and fancy footwork to even notice that aspect of the dancing.
Extreme Makeover Home Edition (ABC)
Led by ______, a team of designers levels the home of a deserving family and rebuilds a home that surpasses their dreams. The destruction and rebuilding of the home happens in only a week’s time.
Pros: Extreme Makeover Home Edition oozes with qualities you want your kids to learn. Good things happen to good people in this show. The good feeling that comes from helping someone in need is highlighted in the interviews with the designers. The final tour of the completed house is also fascinating to watch.
Cons: Completely rebuilding and decorating a home in a week is, well, a bit unreal.
Other Good Choices: Trading Spaces, Trading Spaces: Family (TLC), and Trading Spaces Boys vs. Girls (Discovery Kids) pit neighbors against each other as they remodel a room in each other’s houses.
Throwdown with Bobby Flay (Food Network)
Food Network celebrity chef Bobby Flay challenges the best at making in one particular dish to a surprise throwdown, where each makes their version of the dish to be judged by a guest judge. Past Throwdowns include: chili, breakfast, macaroni and cheese, and ice cream.
Pros: Throwdown with Bobby Flay takes an everyday activity-cooking-and makes it extremely entertaining to watch. Good sportsmanship is always displayed on each side during the competition and when the results are revealed.
Cons: You may be rushing to the kitchen afterward for a midnight snack.
Another Good Choice: Ace of Cakes which follows Throwdown on the Food Network documents a week in the always quirky and often outrageous cake business, Charm City Cakes.