As a nineties baby—even if I’m admittedly right on the cusp—it’s hard to believe thirty years have passed since the start of that iconic decade. Despite the time that’s passed, shows that rose out of the nineties are still widely loved and relevant, and the sense of nostalgia they evoke in us makes them absolutely worthwhile. Some of my favorite shows started during this decade and there are also a lot of 90s shows on my to-be-watched list; even three decades later these iconic pieces of entertainment refuse to be forgotten. Although these shows are great pieces of entertainment, they also show that the TV industry had a lot of room for growth. Namely, the lack of diversity in TV at this time shows that we have come a long way in the entertainment industry, but we still have a long, long way to go from here as well. These shows range from mysteries to comedies, but all of them are shows that haven’t lost their sparks since their release in the 90s.
When it comes to the crossover of crime-solving and science fiction, nothing will ever beat the X-files. Scully and Mulder’s legendary characters and the conspiratorial nature of the show are what made it so memorable. The two FBI agents, who couldn’t be more different on their opinions of the supernatural, are forced to team up in order to investigate a series of unsolved cases known as the x-files. Scully is highly skeptical of Mulder’s beliefs about the extraterrestrial, but as the series goes on, it gets increasingly harder to find scientific explanations for all the mysterious occurrences. This show really set the stage for a lot of the more recent crime and sci-fi shows I’ve seen, and in my opinion, it set the bar pretty high. I admit that the show could be cheesy at times —it’s difficult not to be when dealing with the supernatural—but it was certainly always entertaining. This show’s appeal comes from its mysterious and thrilling side and the development of Scully and Mulder’s relationship. I have yet to watch the reboot from a few years ago, but it goes to show that this show’s fans can never get enough, and perhaps the original ending didn’t leave many of us fully satisfied.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Everything about Fresh Prince—starting with the theme song—is iconic. Although I haven’t gotten around to watching the show in full, every episode I’ve seen is outrageously funny. Not a lot of shows make me laugh out loud until my stomach hurts, but this is definitely one of them. And for all its hilarious moments, it has its deeper and more heartwarming ones too. Will Smith plays his character, also named Will, so flawlessly. When he moves from inner-city Philly to the mansions of Bel-Air, the change is quite immense. The contrast between his previous lifestyle and the lifestyles of his spoiled cousins plays out in a hilarious way that never loses its edge.
My So-Called Life
Although My So-Called Life only ran for one season, that was all it needed to become one of my favorite 90s shows. There’s nothing more timeless than teen angst and this show is filled with it. Young Jared Leto and Claire Danes are among this phenomenal cast, and this show can be credited for launched them into stardom. The show deals with all the classic 90’s teenage tropes from sex and drugs to navigating different types of relationships. The dialogue is excellent, and it really digs into the awkwardness and struggles that come with growing up. Although this show (like most shows at the time) has a long way to go in terms of diversity, it does feature Rickie, the first opening gay teenager to be a character on American Network TV. Overall, I think this show was able to get a little deeper than some of the 90’s sitcom style shows without losing any of its entertainment qualities.
For me, Full House is a timeless classic. This show is deeply woven into memories of my childhood, and even the mention of it brings a strong wave of nostalgia. I would definitely consider this show light-hearted, which makes it perfect for the whole family and whenever you’re looking for something a little less heavy than many of today’s shows. In general, I am pretty skeptical of spin-offs, so I have not seen Fuller House. I think the 90’s charm in this show would likely be impossible to replicate in modern times.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer
My guilty pleasure of vampire TV shows can all be rooted back to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This show was a staple for me growing up, and I always loved how it was centered around a teenage girl kicking the asses of scary monsters. I do admit this show’s plot unraveled a little bit as it went on, but my enjoyment of it never ceased. It can be difficult for some people to watch since special effects have come such a long way, but I think the more retro effects and constant 90’s pop culture references are part of the fun of watching it. I also love all the characters in this show, and I think the character development (as many of them move from high school to college) can really resonate with a lot of us. Similarly to My So-Called Life, Buffy was one of the first shows to have a lesbian couple central in the show. So, although some aspects of the show are definitely dated, it was considered groundbreaking at the time!
Bringing up Friends honestly feels like a no-brainer since its popularity has in no way declined over the years. I don’t know many people who haven’t watched this entire series through at least once and even fewer people who have negative things to say about it. While the show may not be all that realistic, it is certainly a fun sitcom to watch. It’s the type of show I enjoyed watching 5 years ago, but I also love it today. The obvious humor (complete with cheesy studio background laughter) may not be for everyone, but it’s perfect when I need something to lift my mood. The 90’s aesthetic of this show is a huge part of why I find it so fun to watch, but the characters and their bonds of friendship are what really make the show a home run. Fans are still vying for more, and they’ve recently announced that although they won’t do a reboot, the six iconic actors will come back together to discuss the show in-depth on television.
Twins Peaks provides a sharp contrast to many of the more light-hearted sitcom shows on this list. It starts the same way many mysterious and provoking shows do: with a dead body. Not just any dead body, but that of the small town’s popular teenage prom queen. This triggers an FBI investigation, but it definitely doesn’t play out like your standard murder mystery. I’ll be the first to admit that this show is kind of odd and confusing, but the shows enigmatic presence is what makes it so alluring. Since you want to shed yourself of the confusion and solve the mysteries, you just have to keep watching. This show is mind-bending and at times it’s hard to tell where reality begins. This show would draw in fans of more modern shows like American Horror Story or Stranger Things who like a combination of distortion, mystery, and aesthetic detail.
That 70’s Show
Although this show does not take place in the 90’s, its filming does begin in this decade. I find this show absolutely hilarious. Although a lot of things have changed since both the 70’s and the 90’s, there are a lot of elements of these characters that I think teens and young adults can still relate to. While these characters range from annoying to awkward to downright comical, in the end, they’re all lovable and combine to make one of the funniest shows I’ve seen. It’s a very easy-going show, in which the characters spend half their time trying not to get caught by the parents for stealing beers or smoking weed. The episode plots range from relatable to absurd, but without ever losing its hilarity. This show is the beginning of the popular actors and couple Aston Kutcher and Mila Kunis, but all six of these characters are needed for the perfect combination of adorable relationships and endless comedic mastery.
Sex and the City
The popularity of Sex and the City has barely faded since its original airing starting in 1998. This show combines the excitement of New York City life with the casual discussion of dating and sex that was somewhat revolutionary at the time. The show follows four best friends, Sarah Jessica Parker’s “Carrie” as the central character, through all their hilarious escapades and heartwarming romantic relationships. Above all, this story is about friendship and love, but their exciting lifestyle and phenomenal fashion are another huge part of its entertainment value. Just the show wasn’t enough for viewers, so it was followed by two movies that tie up the plots into the perfect endings we were looking for. Additionally, the much more recent show The Carrie Diaries is one spin-off I can vouch for. Although it may not capture the exact same audience, it introduces Carrie as a teenager and lets us discover how she became the woman she is in the original show.
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