5 superb kids TV shows on Netflix to share with the family (and 5 to avoid)

Netflix has a long list of family-friendly TV shows but the quality of what's streaming varies drastically.

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Any parent worth their salt knows that if you're going to plonk your kids down to watch some TV it's responsible to at least be in earshot of what's being beamed into their brains. Young minds are impressionable, after all. Just one bump of the remote and they could be watching Scarface or an Aliens Anthology marathon.

All that being said, your sanity has to be factored into this arrangement as well. You'll want some children's programming that doesn't talk down to its intended audience, plus something that will also be palatable to your grouchy grown-up ears. Bottom line: nobody wants to get their kids hooked on something that's loud and annoying. That's where this list comes in.

The best kids shows on Netflix Australia

  • Round the Twist
  • Mister Maker
  • The Garfield Show
  • Charlie and Lola
  • Dinosaur Train

THE GOOD

1. Round the Twist (1989)

Cast:

  • Mark Mitchell as Mr Gribble
  • Esben Storm as Mr Snapper
  • Rian McLean as Pete Twist
  • Mathew Waters as Bronson Twist

Show creator Paul Jennings was/is basically the Australian Roald Dahl of children's novels. You'll not find a better weaver of weird, supernatural tales this side of a Goosebumps binge-watch, nor third-act twists more satisfying than an M. Night Shyamalan marathon. Yes, this is early 90s as heck, but great story-telling can defy awful haircuts and fashion.

2. Mister Maker (2007)

Cast:

  • Phil Gallagher as himself

Learn how to make stuff with your own two hands instead of just staring at a screen like a zombie. Ok, sure, this is a viewing experience that requires some cardboard, scissors and some glue, but I've found Mister Maker will spark the creativity of my offspring like nothing else. The problem is, in order to secure empty toilet paper rolls for building, they'll dump a full roll into the toilet without a second thought.

The Garfield Show

3. The Garfield Show (2009)

Cast:

  • Frank Welker as Garfield

The appeal of a morbidly obese, lasagne-obsessed cat (who's also kind of a jerk) is a timeless thing. More importantly, this CGI reimagining remains authentic to Jim Davis' creations and the franchise at large (this is written by Mark Evanier of Garfield and Friends fame). What we have here isn't especially message-laden stuff, though, Garfield ragging on everybody, from Jon and Odie to Arlene and Nermal, is still cat-based comedy gold.

4. Charlie and Lola (2005)

Cast:

  • Ryan Harris as Marv
  • Morgan Gayle as Lotta
  • Daniel Mayers as Charlie
  • Clementine Cowell as Lola

This series skews pretty young (think five and below) but if you have multiple kids it should be in your regular rotation. The simple fact is that the titular kids Charlie (seven) and Lola (four) are fantastic role models for healthy sibling relationships and young friendships in general. The game here is: brainwash your little ones by making them fight their natural impulses to be competitive jerks with one another, basically. Also the collage and crayons-centric art and animation is pleasing to the eye. You can't go wrong, really.

5. Dinosaur Train (2009)

Cast:

  • Ian James Corlett as Conductor
  • Erika-Shaye Gair as Shiny
  • Claire Margaret Corlett as Tiny
  • Ellen Kennedy as Mrs Pteranodon

A good children's show ought to teach you something and that's why Dinosaur Train gets the thumbs up from an old fossil like me. After the successful first run of Hey Arnold! on Nickelodeon, showrunner Craig Bartlett decided to create another children's series set during the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous eras. Better yet, each episode has a segment where a real-life palaeontologist runs through the science again.

THE BAD

1. He-Man (1983)

Cast:

  • John Erwin as He-Man
  • Alan Oppenheimer as Man-At-Arms

There's a lot of talk nowadays about how young girls are swamped with unachievable role models. Boys cop it too, folks. Allow me to present He-Man, the "master of the universe" who's always banging on about "having the power" and whose physique makes Arnold Schwarzenegger look like a stick insect. Also, this production is to be mocked for its hilarious amounts of animation reuse and it was basically the shallowest, low-budget marketing tool designed to shift toys ever conceived.

2. Pingu (1986)

Cast:

  • Carlo Bonomi as Pingu
  • David Sant as Pingu

Technically, Pingu is a short and sweet show that is a pretty good watch if you're into the pre-Wallace and Gromit years of claymation. It's the misadventures of a bunch of anthropomorphic penguins who somehow find amusing things to do in one of the bleakest environments imaginable, Antarctica. The problem here is it's basically 156 5-minute episodes of invented penguin language. That's gibberish consisting of babbling, muttering and Pingu's incessant honking. Hearing that nonsense without context is irritating as hell.

3. Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse (2012)

Cast:

  • Kate Higgins as Barbie
  • Sean Hankinson as Ken

While I know Barbie has been beloved for decades by a rabid fanbase, I just can't abide it. The Simpsons skewered Barbs best in its Lisa Lionheart episode where the toy is mercilessly roasted via a look-alike talking "Malibu Stacey" doll. Key phrases that came out of said product include "let's go bake some cookies for the boys!" and "I wish they taught shopping at school". Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse never sinks to those lows, but man, why would you even watch this tripe when we're living in the age of a sensibly redesigned She-Ra remake?

4. Care Bears (1985)

Cast:

  • Dan Hennessey as Brave Heart Lion
  • Bob Dermer as Grumpy Bear
  • Luba Goy as Treat Heart Pig

Full disclosure, I'm a child of the 1980s who lived through this series in its heyday. That said, this is just about the most wishy-washy cartoon to ever (somehow) survive that decade. And, look, I know the message is solid, they're the Care Bears and they teach you how to care, but there's a point where positivity becomes nauseating. Honestly, if you're after some good bear-related content go sort yourself out with some Gummi Bears, which is infinitely superior and has ogres in it.

5. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers (1993)

Cast:

  • Richard Steven Horvitz as Alpha 5
  • David Yost as Billy Cranston
  • Ed Neil as Putty Patroller

Here's another show that I loved in my youth but refuse to inflict upon a new generation. Great for its time, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers has since been ruined for me by Internet searches. The magic gets lost when you realise it's footage from a Japanese show called Super Sentai (hence the lip-sync) mixed with US actors who were hellaciously underpaid (and allegedly some of them were fired for trying to unionise). Also, when it came time to assign team colours did we absolutely have to make the African-American squad member the Black Ranger, the Asian-American one Yellow and a Red Ranger that had Native American heritage?


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