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What To Watch With a Conservative Family

By  · Published on June 14th, 2016

Dear FSR

What To Watch With A Conservative Family

What media spans the generations?

At some point in your life, you’ve likely been faced with a question that has no solid answer. Some people may take such a puzzle to a trusted confidant, a friendly pastor, or the esteemed annals of Yahoo! Answers. But will they have the expertise needed to solve your most pressing film predicaments?

Think of Dear FSR as an impartial arbiter for all your film concerns. Boyfriend texting while you’re trying to show him your most precious Ozu? What’s the best way to confront the guy who snuck that pungent curry into your cramped theater? This is an advice column for film fans, by a film fan.

Dear FSR,

What are your recommendations for TV shows or movies I can watch with my 86-year-old grandpa? I help take care of him fairly often and we end up watching a lot of TV. It’s hard to find things to watch because he has no short term memory and he’s a former preacher, which means I have to be careful about language/nudity (I watched Veep with him once – that was mistake).

I’ve successfully gotten him to watch Game of Thrones, but otherwise it’s usually a lot of negative comments about the stupidity of whatever is on the screen or I just give up and put on endless reruns of Gunsmoke. I’d love to find a few things we can actually enjoy together.


Aged Audience Aggravation


I know your pain. And, I’d venture to guess, so do most people. Unless your parents (or grandparents) were on the cutting edge growing up, most of their values stay locked in from a certain point onwards. This isn’t inherently bad, but it can make sharing your enjoyment of pop culture a little awkward.

So he likes Gunsmoke and tolerates Game of Thrones. Those are two pulpy soap operas masquerading as masculine adventures that are so far from modern times that you two never clash on values nor require too much catching up. One of the most self-explanatory male-oriented dramas in recent years has been the Netflix show House of Cards.

Kevin Spacey plays Frank Underwood who isn’t President yet but will get there at any cost. Little swearing, highly realistic, and simple enough to get the gist of episode-by-episode, the show also reaffirms any political suspicions a person may have regardless or their affiliations. DC is corrupt no matter whom you vote for.

However, with your grandfather’s memory problems, episodic TV seems like a better fit than the constant callbacks and references of serialized shows. In this case, I’d recommend something like Columbo— a case of the week show featuring a bumbling, lovable homicide lieutenant.

The show’s sharp writing and often stylish direction gives the show a timeless vibe (though the outfits of its stars may argue otherwise) while Peter Falk gives a career-defining performance episode after episode. Further, not to worry your religious gramps, the crook always gets caught and, not to worry your caretaking heart, there are dozens of hours of the show available on Netflix.

Going from personal experience, my parents – born and raised in rural Arkansas – love The Walking Dead, Band of Brothers, and The Big Bang Theory. I tend to politely leave the room when they want to watch the latter, but I can see why the two former appeal across time. It doesn’t matter when you’re from to imagine a zombie attack, especially when society has collapsed and all technological differences swept aside. War and fantasy do the same thing, equalizing across ages. Sci-fi shows also offer this, but if your grandpa isn’t ready to suspend disbelief, it might be better to avoid them for now.

Movie-wise, I’d stick to some of Stephen King’s most inoffensive adaptations like cable favorites Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile or anything by the nostalgia-addicted Steven Spielberg. Spielberg’s latest, Bridge of Spies, is a perfect period piece of drama with timeless appeal and highly specific throwback style. Plus, Tom Hanks. Nobody can dislike Tom Hanks even if they try.

My grandfather, not a preacher but ex-Navy, loved The Hurt Locker, so that, or anything that could be classified in the genre “dude weepy” would likely appeal to your grandfather. Yet, even if you’re not catering particularly to their tastes, the very effort put forth to bridge the gap between yourself and your more conservative family member will be what matters down the road.

Love ‘em while you’ve got ‘em,


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Jacob Oller writes everywhere (Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Playboy, FSR, Paste, etc.) about everything that matters (film, TV, video games, memes, life).