We binge-watched and uncovered the best kids’ TV shows for 10 year olds that will make the whole family happy.
It’s getting harder at our house to find TV shows that will hold all of our attention. My daughter isn’t a little kid anymore and has developed interests that are different from mine. A lot of the shows she’s developed a taste for don’t taste good to me. Given the choice between Maine Cabin Masters or Good Bones, both of which the rest of my family think are great, and watching my co-workers on Zoom, I’ll take the co-workers.
I love it when we find a show that we can all enjoy (and discuss into the ground) together. This is a list of shows that have entertained us and given us scenes to re-live, characters to root for, and another world to live in for a little bit. This list is intended to include shows that might not be on your radar. I’m not going to discuss nerdy main courses like Star Trek or the Arrowverse or The Mandalorian. If you’re at a website called Nerdy With Children, you already know about those. (Besides Star Trek: Disco is too gory and the Arrowverse is too mediocre to expose impressionable 10-year-olds to. I haven’t seen the Mandalorian because I am too cheap for Disney Plus.) My goal here is to make you think, “I hadn’t thought of watching that one with the kids. Maybe I’ll check it out.” Feel free to add your favorites in the comments, especially shows with more diverse casts!
“My name is Josh Gates, and I have seen Raiders of the Lost Ark fifty seven times.” That’s the voice over I like to do at the beginning of every episode of Expedition Unknown, while Josh Gates is doing the real one. Josh Gates is one of the tribe of nerds. He gets a little misty when he visits Indiana Jones’ bullwhip and fedora at the Smithsonian, just like I do. He says “Punch it, Chewie” when he gets into a vehicle that he is not driving, something that is possible that I do without knowing. I suspect that Mrs. Gates has not yet stopped hearing about the time a Japanese sword maker told Mr. Gates that he has “samurai DNA” during a scene where he learned how to use a katana. Expedition Unknown episodes are each structured around the search for some historical treasure, but the treasure is rarely the point. The point is that learning about history is endlessly interesting and nourishing. I like that Josh Gates shows curiosity about and respect for the past, along with being a giant colossal nerd. He’s a skillful horseman and SCUBA diver and never once makes a big deal out of it. There are a couple of Expedition Unknown spin-offs: Expedition X, in which Gates’ presumably more expendable B-Team of Phil Torres and Jessica Chobot search for monsters and ghosts, and Josh Gates Tonight, which is a talk show that I haven’t seen.
Early on in the pandemic, my daughter and I read James Herriot’s All Creatures Great and Small books out loud, so we were excited to see the recent TV adaptation of it. (There is a previous TV version that ran for years.) All Creatures Great and Small is set in the vanished world of the Yorkshire Dales in the late 1930s. Veterinary surgeon James Herriot takes his first job out of school in the village of Darrowby, and over seven episodes practices medicine, integrates into his new community, and falls in love. The show believes that hard lives don’t have to make hard people. Life in the Depression-era Yorkshire Dales meant days full of grindingly hard work, and yet nearly everyone James meets is kind at their core, where it matters. The pace is gentle and the love story is sweet. When we visited Herriot’s world, pandemic despair couldn’t get its claws into my family and me. That is the highest praise I can think of for a TV show right now.
The Lego Masters are our kind of people. Anyone like Lego Master Corey Samuels, who gave a demonstration on how to build the eight planets out of Lego at our library’s comic convention, is one of the tribe. Lego Masters features teams of builders displaying jaw-dropping levels of skill as they compete to build the best space station, the bridge that can support the most weight, and the project that is most satisfying to heave off a balcony. The judges on the show work for Lego and show that A) it’s possible to get a job designing Lego sets and B) designing Lego sets is challenging work that requires knowledge about a lot of different things, ranging from color theory to engineering to cost control in industrial processes. The show is a good entry into talking about how craft and artistry can take many forms, why you should be nice to your teammates and how to make a truly excellent Lego sphinx.
In The Pack, teams of humans and their dogs compete in tests of athletic skill, scent work, and fashion savvy. My family and I had a blast making up dialogue for the dogs, and making TV friends with the humans. For the record, the best dog is Bozley the border collie mix. Bozley is kind of a screw-up, which means that I know how he feels a lot of the time. The best human is Kentucky, who has a lot to teach about being in the moment and staying out of his own way. The Pack is generally undemanding fun, but something happened when I watched the episode that’s set in Austria. The teams went to a beer garden, and as I watched them drink beer as friends, in comradeship, I got a lot more emotional than I usually do when I watch reality TV. It was during a grimmer period of the pandemic and I wanted to do what they were doing so, so badly. I’ll remember that for a long time.
Andrew Zimmern is a Minnesota-based chef and food writer who travels the world eating strange things. On one level, his show is about traveling to places where not a lot of Americans go and eating things that don’t sound appetizing to us. On another level, it’s basically Star Trek, except with fermented walrus anus instead of dilithium crystals. It’s about exploring strange new worlds and learning how to find common ground with people with who you might not think you have any common ground with. Zimmern and his team show us that one eater’s “bizarre” is another eater’s “scrumptious”. My favorite exchange from the show comes from an episode where Andrew travels to an African country that I, unfortunately, don’t remember the name of. It goes along the lines of:
African Guy: What’s your favorite food?
Andrew: My favorite food is cheese. We let milk go bad and then cut it up into pieces and eat it.
African Guy: Sounds disgusting. My favorite food is coagulated cow’s blood, which is delicious.
Andrew: Sounds awful. Friends?
The actual video shows it better than I do- two adults good-naturedly learning about each other. Maybe coagulated cow’s blood isn’t ever going to be Andrew’s favorite food, and probably cheese isn’t ever going to be this African guy’s favorite food, but they can both envision a world in which there’s room for the other and his bizarre opinions.