QUICK QUESTION: What TV Shows Have Brought Your Family Closer Together?

I write about television for a living, so it's no surprise that it had a particularly big impact on my childhood. But after spending time with my family over the holidays, I've realized just how crucial television has been not only to me, but also to my relationships with my family. Except for those of you poor souls who grew up in households that didn't allow television (I'm not here to judge), it's probable that you and your family watched certain shows together. What were the most defining TV shows that you watched as a group while you were growing up? And alternatively, are there any shows currently on today that you and your various long-distance family members can still bond over?

Here are the six that spring to mind for me, but I'd love to hear your picks in the comments!


The Cosby Show

I was little when The Cosby Show was still on the air, but my normal bedtime was 8pm so I never really got to stay up late enough to watch primetime television. You can imagine the thrill when my parents decided my younger brother and I could stay up late on Thursday nights to watch The Cosby Show with them. The Cosby show was awesome! Even later on when I was allowed to stay up late anyway, we still watched this show together, right up until the finale when Cliff Huxtable silently danced Claire off the soundstage.


Unsolved Mysteries

As a kid I went through a bit of an urban legends phase, a nerdy obsession that centered heavily on UFOs, Bigfoot, various sea monsters, and of course, ghosts. These interests happened to overlap with my mom's fondness for true crime, so when she introduced me Unsolved Mysteries, a TV show that embraced both, it was probably the first time I ever realized how cool she was. This show was the best.


Baywatch

All right, hear me out. Many people may not remember this, but before Baywatch became the internationally syndicated, montage-heavy boobstravaganza we all remember it as, its first season aired on NBC and featured a mostly different cast and a slightly more serious tone. Because my family drove to the coast as often as possible during the summer, we all pined for the beach during the rest of the year. The existence of a show about lifeguards had our immediate attention. For that first, strange season we all gathered around the TV on Friday nights, riveted by the adventures of Mitch, Shawnee, Billy, and Jill (until she got eaten by that shark), and patiently waited for summer to return again.


Saturday Night Live

Here's the rare show that my dad and I still talk about. I was probably about 12 when I was first allowed to stay up late enough to watch SNL, and I used to have to force myself to take a nap on Saturday afternoons so that I could remain wakeful enough to see it. But my dad, my sister, and I were the ones who fancied ourselves the comedians in the family, so while everyone else was in bed, the three of us would be up and teary-eyed from Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, and Chris Farley's antics like it was our own special little club. I'll never forget the first time we saw the "Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker" sketch where Chris Farley picked up and cradled David Spade while Christina Applegate struggled not to laugh. That singular moment clarified for me that I needed to be involved with comedy somehow. I wanted in on that feeling! These days SNL's still on and actual friends of mine have been hired to work on it, which has demystified it somewhat, but still: No matter who the cast (or the show's ups and downs, quality-wise), I still view it as the show I got to stay up and watch (and laugh at) with my dad.


Battlestar Galactica

While those first examples were nostalgia driven, here's one that applies to the current state of my family. Now that I live quite a distance away from most of them, we do keep in contact regularly. Aside from the usual minutiae and family gossip, a default topic of conversation is the TV shows we're watching. When I got my dad started on Battlestar Galactica, it felt like a weird passing of the baton: The person who'd most influenced my creative life through his taste in television was now taking my recommendations. And he became just as hooked as I was! I don't know if that feeling of poignant pride makes me a grown-up, but I do know that to this day my dad and I can get lost in conversation about shows like Battlestar (and more recently, Game of Thrones or Homeland) and I have never felt more proud about getting to watch TV for a living.


The current HGTV lineup

Like a lot of people, I disapprove of the amount of cable news my parents watch, so I felt some relief when my mom told me she had cut back on the talking heads and begun watching a lot more HGTV. So had I! I never knew I'd have so much in common with a sixty-something woman, but it turns out she and I are both equally interested in learning the market values of open-concept kitchens around the world. Add to that my older brother's sudden interest in home remodeling, and suddenly we're all spending Christmas Eve dinner discussing Holmes Inspection or Income Property. Most HGTV programming alternates between education and wish fulfillment, but either way it results in the viewer feeling good. Just like being around my family does.



Now it's your turn to weigh in: Which TV shows have brought your family closer together?

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Jan 15, 2012
Leverage, Criminal Minds, NCIS & LA, Once Upon a Time, Merlin....there's so many!
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Jan 15, 2012
My children and I watched Malcolm in the Middle! Laughed so hard we cried!
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Jan 15, 2012
back then 24 and seinfeld. now, me and my dad watch curb your enthusiasm and boardwalk empire together.
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Jan 14, 2012
The first one that pops to mind - even though is kindda of recent - is Gilmore Girls. See, my mom was a single parent too and we were very close, so both of us got some kind nostalgia watching the show. Oh! And also FRIENDS which my friends and I still make jokes about and even my grandma loooved to watch;
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Jan 14, 2012
oh another one would be that 70s show becuase my parents were teenagers in wisconsin in the 70s so my mom would watch it with me and say stuff like "oh i had a skirt like that" or " i remember when gerald ford came to wisconsin"
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Jan 14, 2012
24 brought the family together every Monday. No other show gets everyone together in the living room other than 24. We all just loved the suspense each week. Very engrossing.
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Jan 14, 2012
Over the holidays I learned that my 70+ yr old in-laws watch "The Big Bang Theory" and LOVE IT! My 12 yr old son watches it and LOVES it! So I started watching it, and guess what?? I love it too! Not many shows can gather three generations around a tv like that! Castle is another one that we all enjoy as well. Love this article...need to think now about growing up; which shows I would consider.....
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Jan 14, 2012
Unsolved mysteries was the scariest when I was a kid. My childhood took place in the mid 90s to early 00s so: Saved by the Bell, Disney Chanel, Dawson's Creek, Gilmore girls, Smallville, etc.
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Jan 14, 2012
charmed

ghost whisperer

criminal minds

sons of anarchy
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Jan 14, 2012
The first one that comes to mind is Quantum Leap, oh boy! I vaguely remember Buck Rogers, Lost In Space, The Man From U.N.C.L.E - all reruns. Then there was The A Team, Knight Rider, Airwolf. The awful Aussie soaps Home & Away, Neighbours and even Prisoner Cell Block H (I remember my Mum and Brother used to watch The Tribe too). The Simpsons was what we watched whilst eating. After I got a TV in my room I know that my parents also watched a few episodes of The X Files and Buffy but they didn't stick with them, unlike me. Looking back I can't belive there weren't more UK shows. I suppose I could include Only Fools And Horses, and I should probably include Porridge, A Touch Of Frost, Open All Hours. To be honest I think most of what we watched was due to it being on at meal time, or from around two o'clockish on a Saturday and Sunday. To say that watching these shows brought my family closer together is a bit of a stretch though, it was more a focus for our attention rather than communicating with each other.
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Jan 14, 2012
As a kid, Roseanne, Twin Peaks, The Cosby Show, anything on TGIF lineup like Full House and Family Matters. I used to watch Mystery Science Theater and Kids in the Hall with my mom, we lived overseas so we would watch Saturday Night Live on Sunday morning together. I would watch Quantum Leap with dad. Today, with the kids we watch The Simpsons. The only shows my husband and I can agree on to watch together is American Idol and 30 Rock.
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Jan 14, 2012
Reruns of How the west was won,Twin Peaks, Fawlty towers, Blackadder and Married with children in the 90's. Ugly Betty with mom, Lost with dad. Me and my much younger sisters have watched Glee, Buffy, OUAT and....maybe a few episodes of Hannah Montana together.
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Jan 14, 2012
Gilligans Island

Castle

Monk
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Jan 13, 2012
LOST
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Jan 13, 2012
as a kid with my parents it was Quantum Leap and X-Files.. As a parent with my child it's Futurama. My daughter loves Futurama and so do hubby and I. It's funny, light hearted and intelligently written..
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Jan 13, 2012
Great question. Not only do I get to mosey down my own memory lane, I can stroll through the neighborhood and read other people's, hopefully, happy TV memories.



Growing up, I remember watching: Braves baseball, Touched By An Angel, Diagnosis Murder, and The Statler Brothers Show with my Granny; General Hospital and Little House on the Prairie with my Grandma; the various Star Treks (especially Next Generation), Days Of Our Lives and several other shows with my Mom; PBS with my parents; Mystery Science Theater 3000 with anyone I could get to watch with me (Mom, usually); etc. Nowadays, we watch most things together. Our faves to watch together are: Castle, NCIS, Flashpoint, Merlin, White Collar, Ghost Hunters, CSI: NY, Primeval, Harry's Law, Criminal Minds, etc.
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Jan 13, 2012
Being a teenager in the 90's, it was the X-Files. My mom loved that show. We would gather around every Sunday night together to watch Mulder and Scully.
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Jan 13, 2012
As a kid, Laverne and Shirley, mostly to laugh at Lenny and Squiggy, Happy Days,and Little House on the Prairie. My parents LOVED Hawaii 5-0, but I hated it. As an adult, me and Daddy laughed at Monk while I visited.
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Jan 13, 2012
While me and my little sis' watch a lot of the same shows, we did spend a lot of time watching family sitcoms as the whole family. It is a ritual of sorts. You get home after school/work, have lunch, and then just hang out and watch sitcoms for an hour or an hour and a half. Full House, Family Matters (Steve Urkel will forever be a huge hit in our house), even Step by Step and such. But I will also never forget how my Mom (funnily enough, unlike my dad) actually always liked fantasy and sci-fi, so we'd sometimes watch Buffy, Charmed and even Smallville together. But yeah, isn't it funny, how much we love TV shows like our parents? Trees and apples...
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Jan 13, 2012
Same with my parents-- Mom loves sci-fi and fantasy, but Dad doesn't care that much for either.
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Jan 13, 2012
Monk. It was the first and only show that everyone in my agreed upon. We would make a big production of getting together on Friday nights just to watch, bringing snacks and blankets and just be together. The night of the series finale was the only time we all cried together, and that includes funerals.
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Jan 13, 2012
I always watched The Simpsons and Futurama with my dad, he is just as into cartoons as I am. And I also used to watch shows like Smallville and Buffy with my sister (we have a 10 year age gap so it's nice to find things we're both interested in). But Breaking Bad and Dexter are definitely the two main show that both my parents and I keep up on and enjoy talking about.
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Jan 13, 2012
The show my dad let me stay up late to watch was The Streets of San Francisco. Since we lived across the Bay, about once a year we took a day trip to the City. I remember getting so excited about being at a botanical conservatory, standing in the very spot where Mike and Buddy-Boy had stood during a scene in the show. These days, my sons are young adults and we are each on our laptops or smart phones of an evening, but a few years ago we gathered around the TV to watch repeats of Whose Line is it Anyway on ABC Family. Such great laughs! As for long-distance, I have recently bonded with my sister who lives in Idaho over Downton Abbey.
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Jan 13, 2012
Cheers and Friends. Nuff said.
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Jan 13, 2012
Hmmm, I think there was a bit of Cosby in there somewhere...

But I seem to recall that my mother and I watched Twin Peaks together, at least for the first season, and that it was a relief not to have to watch the scary weirdness of it all by myself.

X-files too, in the early seasons, although she dropped off way before I did.



My sister and I share a fairly similar taste in television, as does her husband and my ex-husband. It's always (well, nearly always) a safe topic in our geek-dominated family - everything from Buffy and Babylon 5 to BBCs Sherlock, Castle, The Mentalist, Terra Nova... Now if only I can get them to run through 4 1/2 seasons of Farscape and Fringe, I'll call it a win. ;)
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Jan 13, 2012
The closest interest I've ever had with my parents regarding a TV show is "24." Other than that, we couldn't be further apart. They love "Last Man Standing" but can't even begin to comprehend the appeal of "Community."
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Jan 13, 2012
The Wonder Years! Probably the only show that has taught me some actual life lessons. Kevin Arnold ftw!
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Jan 13, 2012
Well, the roots were Gunsmoke, Rawhide, Ed Sullivan, Laugh-in, Dick Van Dyke, Red Skelton, and a few others. The dreaded "Vonderful, Vonderful" of Lawernce Welk. Sneaking down stairs on Sat late to watch the local "Count Whatever" present the censored version of a bad B monster movie. "I was a teenage werewolf, Manster, ect..." or catching the new host of the Tonght Show Johnny Carson.

As a single Dad, MTV's first 2 yrs played a binding role for me and my 2 charges. It played in the background while we sat and played board games or finished homework assignments. Later, we'd settle in for Night Court, Silver Spoons, Happy Days, Charles in Charge or any one of the 1/2 hour sitcoms current. That was it for the night...1/2 hour weeknoghts, 1 hour weekends.

Now, it's playtime with the 3 yr old triplets. No time for TV when they are around to "ride the Grumps"!! But the record light on the DVR reminds me that there is always something to scan see if it is worthy of shelf space.
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Jan 13, 2012
Oh, I should have mentioned Laugh-In, too. We always watched that. One Halloween my mom helped me and my friend dress as Ruth Buzzi's old lady character and the dirty old man. I was the old man, with a white wig and beard and a long black coat.
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Jan 13, 2012
Currently for my dad and I, it's Community. He has an Abed-like capacity to pinpoint where every show's movie and TV-references come from which can be handy for me. I'm hoping to convert him to Parks and Recreation next. He could use the Pawnee department's optimism during this campaign year.
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Jan 13, 2012
My parents always watched Law & Order and when I was a teenager I started watching it with them. My mother and I always watched CSI: Miami when it first came out. That eventually gave way to The Closer. We sat down to watch the pilot together and it became our Monay night ritual - we never missed an episode together until I moved out of state, and now we still talk about it.
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Jan 13, 2012
My family always used to get together and watch Corner Gas. It was a Canadian show, but it was funny as Hell, I was really sad when that show ended.
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Jan 13, 2012
My Mum and I always watched shows like The Simpsons, Futurama, Friends, Buffy and Charmed when I was younger (we especially liked anything that made us laugh and that we could quote) Now we love Chuck and we are totally hooked on Psych. My mum moved to Canada last year and we still spend our time on Skype talking about the latest episodes. TV definitely played a big part in my formative years!
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Jan 13, 2012
Ha of course, I would have to add Modern Family today ;) Finally I can really laugh again with a really funny TV show!
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Jan 13, 2012
FRIENDS! The only TV show I have watched each episodes like 20 times just because I wanted to share the fun of it with friends or family members. Every one of them know me for loving FRIENDS, and they all love it also. Even nowadays, if I meet a friend who hasn't really watch Friends, I would watch it all over again :)
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Jan 13, 2012
Modern Family, Switched at Birth, Pan Am, The Event, Lying Game,
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Jan 13, 2012
My brother and mother used to love watch old English comedies such as Some Mothers do ave them, Love Thy Neighbour, Mind your language and other such comedies. I felt left out, but I used to watch the Crosby Show. My bro and I did used to watch The A Team, C.H.I.P.S. and Magnum P.I together though..
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Jan 13, 2012
Believe it or not, I used to watch 24, Heroes and Lost with my mum for years as well as Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and most important: Friends!
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Jan 13, 2012
Great question! Brings a lot of memories! When I was a kid, we were watching many series in family: "Dukes of Hazard", "C.H.I.P.S.", "Charlie's Angels", "Magnum P.I.", "Love Boat", "Incredible Hulk", "Little house in the Prairie", "Bionic Women", "Three's company", "Diff'rent Strokes", "Gilligan's Island", "Matt Houston", "Baywatch", "MacGyver", etc.



Later, we gathered around "X-Files". Today, the only show we ALL watches is "Modern Family" and "Criminal Minds".
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Jan 13, 2012
I love this article, so many good memories. There was an episode of Perfect Strangers where Larry and Balki get locked in their building's flooded basement and end up making a raft to stay afloat while they went diving trying to unclog some kind of drain. For like a year afterward my sisters and I would throw one of our mattresses on the floor and pretend to go diving for the drain.
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Jan 13, 2012
YOu forgot the growing pains and family ties and who's the boss and beverly hills 90210 I could go on and on.
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Jan 13, 2012
The Middle, Criminal Minds, Friends
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Jan 13, 2012
Scrubs for sure. It's the only TV show every member of my family liked.
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Jan 13, 2012
All in the Family for sure. I remember watching that with my grandma every time I stayed over at her house.



Also Three Stooges and Full House.
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Jan 13, 2012
Used to be Simpsons, and Seinfield. Now its Breaking Bad
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Jan 13, 2012
me and my family used to always watch that 70's show together haha idk why i think because it was always on when we were eating dinner, and we also used to watch survivor together like it was a ritual, and with my siblings we would watch fresh prince and full house a lot
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Jan 13, 2012
i lived with my grandparents, and we would watch Silk Stalkings together. i know, gross, right? i would awkwardly go pop popcorn for our viewing experience when the obligatory sex scene started up (which was usually at the beginning) because who wants to watch sex scenes with their GRANDPARENTS? (answer: nobody and/or sociopaths)
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Jan 13, 2012
Friends and Full House, and probably Fresh Prince of Bel Air as well
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Jan 13, 2012
Me and my grandmother watch Two and a Half Men and get a thrill out of it. Occasionally my older brother will come into my room and watch whatever I'm watching, but we do like watching The Big Bang Theory together.
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Jan 13, 2012
Me and my dad still discuss old Hanna Barbara/Looney Tunes cartoons, and tend to watch Cartoon Network/Boomerang when I'm there, even if we've both seen them all millions of times.
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Jan 13, 2012
we watched 24

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Jan 13, 2012
And me and my dad used to watch The Flintstones together.
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