Summer TV Guide for Parents

By Phill Powell

Summer TV shows provide tons of entertainment to kids during their summer vacation. Beyond that, these programs also offer parents the chance for many “teachable moments.”

The shows on this list (along with our list of recommended summer movies for families) are safe for all ages, and well worth your kids’ time.

100 Things to do Before High School (Premieres May 23)
Network: Nickelodeon
“Number 47: Act cool while walking the school halls in slow motion and shades. Stare straight ahead.” (© 2014 Nickelodeon Productions. All rights reserved.)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: Kind of like a “bucket list” for middle-schoolers, this show centers around three barely-teens who compose a massive list of cool things they need to accomplish before graduating the eighth grade and entering high school.

Parents can and should encourage their own kids to adapt the show’s list idea for themselves, as a way to learn the importance of setting priorities and working toward life goals.

Dr. Dimensionpants (Premieres June 13)
Network: Hulu
It takes a special animated kid to wear dimensionpants. Could you? (© 2014 DHX Media/Vancouver & The Factory Backwards. All rights reserved.)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: The wackiest-named show of the year earns its stripes with clever writing and lots and lots of tongue-in-cheek humor: “In a crazy world, filled with evil and stuff, the fate of humanity lies in the hands of one below-average kid.”

Kyle Lipton is that standard kid, until the cosmos open and give him a pair of…er, dimensionpants. Once in his hero garb, he gets involved with all kinds of adventures, accompanied by his pet unicorn Philip. So offbeat it could develop a cult following.

Kyle learns that super powers come at the price of increased responsibility, a timely lesson for any young people who want an increased amount of say in how they live.

Some Assembly Required (Premieres June 19)
Network: Netflix
A kid running a toy company? That’s the way-cool premise of Some Assembly Required. (© 2015 Thunderbird Films. All rights reserved.)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: This comedy begins with a bang, literally, when teenager Jarvis Raines’ house is blown up when he uses a defective chemistry set. He sues the toy company, and ends up running the company.

As CEO of Knickknack Toys, Jarvis recruits a bunch of other teens to help him kick Knickknack into shape. The show is produced in British Columbia and has already been an established hit before it arrives on Netflix.

The old saying, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,” gets a serious workout on this show. The toy designers are constantly sent back to the drawing board when a new toy backfires. Parents can use that to teach the importance of persistence.

Clangers (Premieres June 20)
Network: Sprout (Sunny Side Up Show, The Good Night Show)
Clangers are mice that live on the moon…and their adventures are perfect for young viewers. (© 2015 Coolabi Productions Limited, Smallfilms Limited & Peter Firmin.)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: This is the third version of Britain’s popular Clangers, a band of knitted pink mice creatures who inhabit a moon-like planet, and starred in their own stop-motion animated show in the early 1970s. They are an odd lot, speaking only in whistles and eating green soup and blue pudding.

Now Clangers are returning to TV, this time on the Sprout network. American viewers will surely recognize the voice of the narrator, because it belongs to TV’s Captain Kirk, William Shatner!

Each episode gives the Clangers a new problem to solve, something new to invent or new visitors to meet. The messages vary by episode, but are kept appropriately easy to understand, for younger viewers.

Dragons: Race to the Edge (Premieres June 26)
Network: Netflix
Hiccup and Toothless are back for more action and fun, in 13 episodes of Dragons: Race to the Edge. (© 2014 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All rights reserved.)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: Binge-watching TV can be a family affair, especially for this show. Netflix is unveiling 13 episodes the series, and all are available starting June 26. In this set of shows, our favorite citizens of Berk are now put into jeopardy by a super-strong artifact called the Dragon Eye.

Based on the popular “How to Train Your Dragon” films. (Would you like to learn how to make animated films for Dreamworks?)

The various missions undertaken in the “How to Train Your Dragon” series encourage self-reliance, as well as the importance of friendship and the acceptance of others.

Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything (Premieres July 24)
Network: Disney XD
With a dream job like professional game player, teen Conor (Cameron Boyce) is living large. (© Disney. All rights reserved. Disney Entertainment.)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: He’s so good at video games that he’s gone pro…until a thumb injury sidelines his pro career, and forces him to attend a regular high school for the first time. That’s the story of Conor, the hero of Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything, who serves as ringleader to his group of friends.

Producers have promised that the series will incorporate cool game effects into each episode’s visuals. Can’t wait! (Key question: Would you rather play video games or learn to make games instead?)

Explored themes include adapting to new circumstances and discovering the importance of both making friends and learning from them.

Disney Descendants (Premieres July 31)
Network: Disney Channel
Descendants of Disney movies come together in — Wait a minute! Isn’t that the guy from Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything? (© Disney. All rights reserved. Disney Entertainment.)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: What a great concept for this TV movie: Bring the direct descendants from established Disney classics together in a new setting. Now they live in a kingdom where they attend a kind of prep school.

Here they learn about growing up and sometimes have to fight for control over their own evil natures. (Also stars Cameron Boyce, from Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything, who’s one busy young actor!)

Movie can be used to start conversation about how much influence heredity has on a person’s development, and what we can do to change unwanted parts of our personality.

Dinotrux (Premieres August 14)
Network: Netflix
Dinotrux had us hooked when we heard the words “robotic dinosaurs.” (© 2015 DreamWorks Animation LLC. All rights reserved.)

Why It’s Great for Family Viewing: If your kids loved the “Transformers” movies and/or Jurassic World, chances are good they’ll enjoy Dinotrux, which features a concept so basic (robotic dinosaurs) you’ll be amazed it had to be invented.

The stories are based on an award-winning series of kids books by Chris Gall. Billed as the adventures of “two unlikely best friends,” the series will showcase dinotrux like Tyrannosaurus Trux, Tow-a-Constrictors and the vicious Scraptors.

Author Gall got the inspiration for DinoTrux while observing massive earth movers working on a highway. Parents can use the show as a way to encourage their kids to look at their world with imagination and always be able to see creative possibilities.

Summer is Here!

Summer has traditionally meant one thing to viewers: re-runs. But now it’s a new age of television, and there’s fresh programming almost year round.

It takes many talented and creative professionals to create all these shows, and each one of them started out by deciding they wanted to learn how to make films or animated features. Maybe this is your summer to learn filmmaking?