My kids have been watching The Simpsons for several years now. It's not always appropriate, but it's always funny, often educational and sometimes even "educational." We limited them to one show per day, not because of time but we just figured that was enough "education" for one day.
I'm sure more than a few thesis have been written about The Simpsons and their commentary on culture, politics etc. -- and my kids are the stellar examples of that Simpson influence. They've seen most of the episodes by now covering references from Nixon's Watergate to Shakespeare. Often, in the middle of a dinner table conversation we turn to explain something to the kids and they say "oh, we know."
"Really?" I'm always surprised. "Where did you hear about that?"
It's an invariable answer -- I've heard it so much I'd roll my eyes if I wasn't so impressed with how complete the education is. Granted it's a superficial, humorous version of events or works, but what they know works like a hangar for the rest of what they learn on those subjects. It means they can sit at the dinner table and not be lost around adult conversation. I'm convinced it makes them more savvy in their understanding of our culture.
The other day Maia rattled of a speech from Macbeth. "Where did you learn that?" I asked.
"The Simpsons," she said. I rolled my eyes. "Well, I heard some of it on The Simpsons, and then I found it online and memorized it."
And isn't that the best thing an educator can hope for? When students learn enough on a subject to so thoroughly peak their interest, that they go out and deepen their understanding on their own.