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Category: Science Fiction

TV Shows to Stream with your Kids this Summer

Finding the right programming for your tweens to watch can be a difficult exercise. Here’s a list of shows that have worked for my family.

Without the rigors of school and related activities, summertime can often be a time for children to ask for more screen time. So, it’s important for parents to stay one step ahead and have some solid choices up their sleeves. Searching for family-friendly programming at the last minute can be really stressful.

I’ve certainly tried to be ready whenever I hear the question from our eleven-year-old son, “So, what are we watching tonight?”

If you’re looking for a TV series to stream with your kids in their tween years, here’s what my family has been watching:

“Loki” on Disney+
This show, based on the Loki character from the MCU, is the best of the Marvel series on Disney+ to date.

It’s smart, character-driven and benefits from Loki’s well-established storyline from the Marvel movies. Yes, there’s a little bad language, but the violence factor isn’t as intense as what some of the other Marvel properties serve up.

The plot to protect the ‘sacred timeline’ is delightfully unexpected, and “Loki” demonstrates the true potential of a Marvel series the same way “The Mandalorian” did for a Star Wars series.

It’s so good.

“The Mysterious Benedict’s Society” on Disney+
Based on the popular books, this series follows the adventures of four gifted orphans on a mission to save the world from ‘the Emergency.’

It has the same quirky feel and cinematic flair of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” on Netflix. But this show is not as dark.

After watching the premiere, my son complained that the show’s characters had been significantly altered, compared to how he envisioned them from the books. That said, he was eager to watch episode 2.

So, we’re in for more.

“His Dark Materials” on HBO Max
This series, based on the books by Philip Pullman, contains complex themes. But if your kids like this type of storytelling challenge, this show is a must watch. There’s no bad language here, but we’ve got some violence (though not at the same level of a Marvel movie).

The emotional intensity surrounding two children in parallel universes is high. Be ready for pain and loss.

It’s big, bold and cinematic. My son and I loved it.

Season 3 comes out next year.

“Lost in Space” on Netflix
This reimagined take on the classic ‘60s sci-fi series is a pure roller coaster ride. There’s nothing campy about this version. And every episode has a major cliffhanger.

There are only a couple of ‘language moments,’ and while there’s some violence, it’s not really part of the show’s fabric.

Dr. Smith (Parker Posey) is really creepy, but the series stays true to offering pure family adventure. “Danger, Will Robinson!”

Season 3 is being released later this year.

“A Series of Unfortunate Events” on Netflix
It’s been a few years since the last of the three seasons came out, but if you haven’t checked out this fabulous show yet, you should. My son couldn’t “look away.”

Even though its plot is entirely depressing, it still manages to be a whole lot of fun for the entire family.

Neil Patrick Harris as Count Olaf is especially great.

“WandaVision” on Disney+
I expect to get to “WandaVision” with my son later this summer. I prescreened it myself earlier this year after getting burned by “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” on Disney+. (That show proved to be not for my tween. It was too violent and dark. Even he didn’t want to watch more than the first episode.)

It’ll be interesting to see how he handles the early “WandaVision” episodes, which are total throwbacks to early television sitcoms, which he’s never been exposed to.

Fun? Boring? We’ll find out…

In Search of the Next Series
Yes, there’s a fair amount of great content available for tweens. The only problem with the above series is they don’t contain that many episodes. So I’m always in search of new shows to stream with our son.

Would you have any recommendations to share? I’d appreciate it.

Thanks!

Why “Loki” is my New TV Series for Father and Son Streaming

If you’ve been looking forward to watching “Loki” on Disney+ with your kids, you won’t be disappointed. Here’s my review.

I always enjoyed watching Tom Hiddleston’s Loki throughout the Marvel movies. His god of mischief was especially interesting because of the flaws and tragic elements of his early story that made him who he was.

The end of his story in “Avengers: Endgame” was tough to watch, not only because it was so brutal, but because he would never get his chance to redeem himself.

At the end of the day, even though Loki always caused problems, we were still rooting for him…at least I was. All that pain and anger that was just under the surface and rarely revealed by the talented Hiddleston was plenty reason to forgive his naughtiness.

It was hard to say goodbye. And I’m really glad his departure was short-lived.

It’s All Part of the Plan
As I expect you already know, Disney+ has resurrected Loki and given him his own series. It picks up after that time-altering glitch during “Avengers: Endgame” when the Avengers go back in time to get the Tesseract as part of their Infinity Stone collection project. They mess up this part of their mission and Loki escapes his custody via the Tesseract, which isn’t what happened the first time around.

Beyond a momentary setback for the Avengers, it’s an amusing scene in the movie. And the consequences for Loki aren’t addressed. He’s still (spoiler alert) dead at the end of the story, but when you mess with time, there are always unexpected consequences.

It’s a fantastic bread crumb, and I applaud the architects of the larger MCU for dropping it in this way.

Loki Variant
I watched the series premiere of “Loki,” and I couldn’t be happier. Yes, Loki gets another chance to get it right, but this clever and snappy series is much more than that. It introduces so many new elements into the MCU that you’ve got to pay attention…Time Variance Authority/Multiverse/Time Keepers/Variant People/Sacred Timeline. You need a training film to keep it all straight. (Yep, they’ve got that!)

It’s fresh. It’s retro. It’s trippy.
It’s really fun.

The writers also quickly get to the heart of Loki’s flawed character and make him face his past and future choices. It’s essentially a breakthrough therapy session managed by Mobius (Owen Wilson’s TVA character). It feels quite cathartic.

I can’t wait for the next episodes where Loki and Mobius try to fix the timeline and confront the big threat. Plus, you’ve got the god of mischief being asked to follow the new rules and prevent multiverses. What could possibly go wrong?

Family Friendly?
Across the pandemic, my eleven-year-old son and I effectively consumed all the Marvel movies on Disney+. We also massively enjoyed “The Mandalorian” series.

Sure, the Marvel movies have some bad language and plenty of intense action, but it’s been okay for our kid at his particular stage of development.

My wife and I did watch the first episode of “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” with our young Padawan. (Apologies for mixing universes.) We felt the increased level of bad language and violence was a step too far for our boy. (The whole series is pretty dark.)

So, I did not suggest that we watch the next episode, and my son didn’t complain. (Instead, we moved on to “Agents of Shield” on Netflix. That series also got too dark for him.)

I enjoyed “WandaVision,” and will eventually introduce that Disney+ series to my boy. I haven’t done that yet, because it moved so slowly in those first few episodes. Plus, you’ve really got to be a child of ‘60s and ‘70s television to appreciate them.

Granted, I’ve only seen the first episode of “Loki,” but I feel this series is perfect for my son. Like me, he’s especially enjoying the humor and mind-bending quirkiness.

Plus, there’s minimal bad language (so far) and the violence is relatively tame. That’s not to say there’s no action… there’s plenty!

Yes, I did prescreen the first episode, (after being burned by “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier”) but now, I’m planning to watch the rest of the “Loki” series alongside my son.

Wednesday is the New Friday
I’m not sure why new episodes of “Loki” are dropping on Wednesdays as opposed to Fridays. Perhaps it’s a summer scheduling strategy. I’ll still plan on making it a Lester Friday night family event.

So please don’t give anything away while I time shift our viewing. We’ll be just a bit behind everyone else’s timeline.

Looking forward to a summer of Loki-goodness!

Feeling Burned by Star Trek: Discovery’s Season 3?

After watching the season finale, this Trekkie’s got some thoughts to share about the latest season of “Discovery.” Here’s my review:

You can’t blame “Star Trek: Discovery” for not trying. Season 3 attempted to envision a universe 930 years into the future, tackled big social themes and finally decided to give a little more screen time to its supporting cast of regulars.

This CBS All Access series originally insisted that is was not your parent’s “Star Trek.” It tried to be darker, edgier and bolder. Characters used four letter words, though not very convincingly (and far more awkwardly than in “Star Trek: Picard”).

The writers spent much of season 3 trying to return into the fold. There were multiple references and story devices from the old “Star Trek” manual. And in the end, we found ourselves right back where we started, with the same closing music as the original series.

This return continues a long overdue course correction. It was so obvious that there was no real need to separate itself from its heritage when we saw how the best episodes from season 2 focused on Captain Pike from the original Enterprise.

And you can’t say “Discovery’s” season 3 wasn’t earnest. No way. There was so much hugging and crying. Crying and hugging. I lost track how many times “I love you” was in the script. The writers were clearly working hard to finally evolve this crew into a “Star Trek” family.

And “Star Trek” at its core has always been about family. I just don’t know that I needed the “Discovery” writers constantly telling me that.

Warning Signs
As the credits rolled at the end of season 3’s finale, I’ve got to admit, I wasn’t pumped. But I didn’t feel burned either. Season 3 was… fine. For me, “Star Trek” is always better than no “Star Trek.” But I can’t deny I’m still a wee disappointed.

It’s not that season 3 was bad. It just couldn’t quite elevate itself beyond its own unremarkable storytelling.

The writers put a huge effort into building a diverse and inclusive set of relationships. In fact, in many ways, that’s really what season 3 was about. The Burn and (minor spoiler) rebuilding the Federation was just something for this group of Trek characters to focus on. And that’s all great.

But then, the writers ran out of steam (Dilithium?) when it came time to come up with some cutting-edge science fiction storytelling worthy of the “Star Trek” universe.

Why So Far?
Moving the story 930 years forward is a huge leap. Unfortunately, this future doesn’t look all that different. Sure, personal transporters are cool and organic tech is nice, but I would expect something more dramatic a millennia out. And that requires more writing muscle… not special effects.

Yes, I understand that the writers needed to warp Discovery into a new era that was not burdened by existing Trek canon where the Discovery doesn’t exist. (A downside of creating a prequel series.) But a hundred years forward past Picard is all they really needed to do.

Back to the Future
And it’s ironic that the writers ultimately created a new “Star Trek” future that in many ways had gone back in time.

They were pulling on the same storytelling threads as the creators of “Star Trek: Enterprise” when space was truly the final frontier… again.

Missed Opportunities
I’m happy to allow a series some leeway in plot development as long as the writers stick their landing by the end. Over the course of 13 episodes, I feel that season 3 was not entirely successful. (Spoilers ahead.)

Tilly
“Discovery” has painfully stuck with this character and promised some future payoff. I understand that Ensign Tilly (Mary Wiseman) is evolving, but after three seasons, it’s not fast enough. When Tilly finally got her big chance and sat in the captain’s chair, she essentially blew it. Later, her moment of redemption wasn’t all that satisfying.

The Mirror Universe
You know there’s a problem when “Discovery’s” best episodes focus around the linked alternate universe. But by now, this Trek storytelling device is feeling a bit tired. Even though it was the main reason that Georgiou (Michelle Yeoh) had anything to do in season 3, watching the alternate versions of our other characters as two-dimensional opposites grew boring. Sure, Georgiou evolved, but her own universe wasn’t able to.

The Source of the Burn
Really? I expect we’ll see some therapy sessions in season 4 for someone.

The Discovery’s Big Brain
Remember when Discovery’s computer acquired 100,000 years of data from the alien sphere in season 2? The only influence from that upgrade was when the computer pointed Discovery to meet up with Carl. There’s a lot of untapped plot potential that the writers ignored.

Carl
Again… Really? You can’t recycle a classic Trek plot device like that and simply rewrite it as Carl. A ‘Q’ character would have been better.

The Bad Guys
A 1960’s biker gang with a really big ship. Is that what capitalism eventually evolved into? Osyraa (Janet Kidder) needed more screen time to develop beyond her two-dimensional antagonist.

Saru
Captain Saru (Doug Jones) sits at the center of the heart of “Star Trek: Discovery.” His humanity, even in Kelpien form, shines bright. He’s the perfect Federation captain on paper.

But his evolved and balanced perspective isn’t ultimately suited for this future frontier. Not as captain of the Discovery. It’s a bittersweet conclusion.

The Good News
So, I wouldn’t be a Trekkie if I didn’t prove how geeky I am by nitpicking. Sure, season 3 could have been better, but it still had a lot going for it. The special effects were great, although I would have appreciated a few more closeups of the new starships.

It benefited from a generally strong cast. (I really liked the addition of Book’s character played by David Ajala.)

Of course, Sonequa Martin-Green is the star of the ensemble. Her Michael Burnham has often created more problems than she’s solved, but her passion and sense of purpose and drive to do what’s right has continued to power this entire series forward. Martin-Green provides almost limitless emotional and physical energy in this regard.

As it turns out, breaking the rules in the 31st century is seemingly okay as our new Prime Directive. It’s an odd conclusion that doesn’t quite fit with what the writers have otherwise been trying to accomplish. But it continues to fuel Burnham’s success. So, in what has become a season-ending Discovery ritual, it’s time to switch up the captain’s chair again.

Let’s Fly?
I’m happy that “Discovery” is embracing his own heritage.

And I’m always pleased to be watching more “Star Trek” after all of these decades. It hasn’t gotten old. In fact, its familiarity is more comforting than ever, especially in today’s unstable reality.

There’s also something to be said for watching science fiction and not feeling depressed as a result. You can count on “Star Trek: Discovery” for maintaining its sense of Trek-infused optimism.

I don’t think season 3 is the best of the series. (I prefer season 2.) It’s certainly not the boldest. But “Discovery’s” imperfections ultimately didn’t prevent me from still enjoying the ride.

Oh… and that last line in the season finale…
“Let’s fly.”

Really?
(Just go with it.)

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