Editor’s note: Each month, TriStateVoice.com will feature this column by Michael Foust, which highlights some family-friendly streaming shows and movies.
By Michael Foust
My four young children love cartoons. All cartoons.
I, on the other hand, only like certain cartoons — you know, the ones that are largely void of crude humor and violence. And if it teaches them something educational, that’s even better.
The result: They watch PBS cartoons and typically stay away from Netflix’s animated shows, which (for the most part) lack the educational value I cherish.
But that may be changing.
Netflix recently launched a new animated series, Carmen Sandiego, that meets my approval. It doesn’t contain inappropriate humor. It’s not too violent. And it teaches them something they’ll use the rest of their lives: geography.
The series continues the tradition started by the 1980s- and 90s-era video game franchise and television shows.
Here’s the story: Sandiego is a bad thief-turned-good who travels the globe to stop the evil organization V.I.L.E., which is comprised only of people who want to steal.
Each episode spotlights a region of the world. For example, the fourth episode focuses on Ecuador, and children learn about its location, its capital, its exports and its terrain. They even learn about the equator.
The first two episodes aren’t very educational — they’re more about Sandiego’s backstory — but that’s OK. I’m simply glad to have a PBS-worthy show on Netflix.
Also streaming this month:
Old-time movies (Amazon Prime) — There are more than 50 old-time movies from the 1920s, 30s, 40s and 50s entering Amazon Prime’s lineup in February. Search for specific keywords, such as “old-time movies” or “classic movies.”
The Promise (Amazon Prime) — It’s the story of the “forgotten genocide” — the time when the Ottoman Empire turned on its own people and killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenian Christians during World War 1. Rated PG-13 for thematic material including war atrocities, violence and disturbing images, and for some sexuality. (The film’s lone bedroom scene contains no nudity and can be easily forwarded.) It contains mild language, too. Feb. 8.
Little Women (Netflix) — It’s the popular 1994 movie based on the Louisa May Alcott novel. It received high marks from critics and was one of the top 30 grossing films of the year. Rated PG for two uses of mild language. Feb. 11.
Jeopardy!: Collection 2 (Netflix) — Sure, you could just DVR this popular game show, but why do that when Netflix has it pre-packaged for you? I learn something every time I watch. Feb. 28.
Old Fashioned (Hulu) — It’s among the best faith-based romantic films of all time and contains a marvelous message about romance that swims against the cultural tide. Rated PG-13 for some thematic material. Feb. 1.
Dolphin Tale 2 (Netflix) — The popular dolphin that had her tail amputated after an injury gets a friend. It’s based on a true story. Rated PG for some mild thematic elements. Feb. 25.
Space Jam (Hulu) — Former NBA star Michael Jordan gets caught up in a Looney Tunes battle in this 1996 film. It’s not a perfect movie — for example, it contains one “h-ll” — but it has plenty of funny scenes. Parental caution is advised. Rated PG for some mild cartoon language. Feb. 1.
Michael Foust is the father of four small children and the husband of an amazing wife named Julie. He has covered the intersection of faith and entertainment more than a decade.