Don’t ignore this email! It was written by real people and we aren’t trying to sell you anything – we just want to make Netflix better. We are a family of four: husband Joel, 43, wife Julie, 42 and two girls, Lyla, 9 and Camille, 11. Our family has grown up with Netflix and our kids have never had cable.
When the kids were young there was always stuff for them to watch and as parents we can always find a show or movie to entertain us. But recently, when we want to watch something together, we find that we really don’t have a lot of good options.
We see the ‘Children and Family’ genre but they are really just slightly more sophisticated kids programming (Disney, Barbie, Angry Birds, Airbud, Pokemon, etc). True, you do have some good movies (Star Wars, Hairspray, Queen of Katwe, Billy Elliot) but when we sit down to watch a dramatic, episodic show there seems a hole in your line-up.
Programming for older children and tweens doesn’t give kids enough credit and relies on stereotypical characterization and lowest common denominator humour. Shows for older teens and adults tend to be too psychologically mature and can be distressing. This is a niche that needs filling: a well-written show where both kids and adults can see themselves in an honest and engaging way. We would love to see a show that is fun and humourous but also challenging that leaves families with things to talk about.
For the last year we have been travelling (on a family sabbatical) and have had lots of time to discuss our perfect show. It would be heavily influenced by the following:
Captain Fantastic, The Wonder Years, Modern Family, Wonder, Better Things and Little Miss Sunshine. The following is a product of all our brains, young and old. So…here is our pitch:
Working title: Inheritance
One line synopsis: A slightly dysfunctional family travels around on a season-long trip following specific instructions from the now-deceased matriarch in order to collect their massive inheritance.
The opening credits is a quick sequence of photographs of a woman travelling throughout her life and ends with an awkward family photo at her funeral.
The pilot starts with the family in a lawyer’s office finding out that their mischievous matriarch (Josie) had put some unusual conditions on their inheritance (whose sum is very large but unknown). It seems she was disapproving of some of their life decisions and habits. This is revealed through short flashbacks that introduce the characters. Instead of a sheltered, screen-filled life in suburbia they must join together on a worldwide journey visiting various places previously visited by Josie. The lawyer (Josie’s best friend) gives the family a ‘mission’ each episode to complete in order to work their way through the long list of tasks required before the inheritance can be transferred. A sample of a mission could be take a poloroid photo from the top of Mount Cook in New Zealand or rebuild a chicken shed for Matua Tim in rural Taranaki. Smartphone use is restricted since Josie always felt that they were toxic to human connection. The interplay between the characters and their motivations during this epic (Little Miss Sunshine-esque) roadtrip is really what the show is about. A Wonder Years-style reflective narration ends each episode.
Perhaps each episode focuses on a different character (similar to the film/book Wonder) and we see things from their perspective and it is their voice in the narration. Throughout the season we watch the characters struggle, grow and change as individuals as well as a family unit. Like in real life, this growth is funny, sad and complicated.
Josie – Family matriarch, hippy/successful entrepreneur (only appears in flashbacks)
Jack – Josie’s husband, quiet and reserved ex-alcoholic, doesn’t like change (never joined in on Josie’s adventures)
Bonnie – Josie’s best friend, lawyer and executor of the will. Dry and witty, she is the one that delivers the tasks and approves their completion from back home.
Willow – Josie’s daughter from previous relationship, straight-laced, neurotic.
Leaf – Willow’s ex-husband, free-spirit and recently out of the closet.
Owen – Leaf’s new husband and considered third parent to Willow and Leaf’s 3 children. Salt of the earth from rural Newfoundland, doesn’t drink fancy wine, has his priorities straight.
Ash – Willow and Leaf’s eldest daughter, 16, instagram-obsessed but also had the strongest (and unlikely) connection with Josie.
Roxy – 12, emotional and philosophical middle child, perhaps portrayed by the actress Clara Poppy Kushnir (48 Christmas Wishes on Netflix).
Archie – 7, cute comic relief, super-easy going, constantly getting into sticky situations.
Ok, Netflix, run with it! Or at very least could you look into producing some quality content for families to enjoy together. A show that aims to make the world a better place through meaningful engagement and honest conversations.
Julie, Joel, Camille and Lyla