Let’s face it, the 90s were awesome. A time of grunge music, huge cellular phones, the Chicago Bulls, 3-way calling, the f-ing internet, Napster, Power Wheels, and of course, Steve Urkel, Kelly Kapowski, Kramer, and many more legendary television characters made famous by some of the best half-hour entertainment to hit the airwaves.
If nothing else, it was the decade of no shortage of boy bands, teen idles, and TV sitcoms. The “baby boom” of popular culture, if you will, and with all those sitcoms there were bound to be ones we loved, ones we hated and others we watched between commercial breaks. Or at least we tried to watch between tobacco and My Little Pony ads, but you know you ended up forgetting to switch it back to your first choice and wound up only seeing parts of Seinfeld but most of the friggin’ Nanny.
Between the Thank God It’s Friday Night lineup and the rivalry of comedies and hospital dramas between the major American networks (NBC, CBS, ABC, and even FOX) there was no shortage of idiot-box choices to peruse on any given evening or Saturday morning.
In all the situational abundance that was TV in the 90s there were as many sitcom stinkers as there were roses. The former shows continued to run season after season despite played-out catchphrase-riddled characters who were once cute and adorable, despite waning popularity, and despite any inkling of strengthening plots and comedic relevance.
Some survived by what seemed the skin of their teeth or by the hand of the TV Gods who wouldn’t let them depart this life for one reason or another citing a bigger purpose we weren’t privy to.
With that in mind, here are 15 sitcoms from the 90s that should have been canned long before they died a natural death.
15. The Nanny
While the premise of the show isn’t bad: a bosomy beautician from Flushing, Queens, New York who finds herself in a Manhattan mansion looking after three poindexter kids for their famed Broadway producer father and his apathetic butler, Niles.
Not bad. Not great, though.
Why’d they need the nanny if they have a butler? A mother figure? What kind of mother figure was the nanny, really?
There was the after-school-special, “I learned something today…” wrap-ups, and nicely packaged spewing of lessons learned that would note a mother’s touch from the show’s main character played by Fran Drescher…but based on appearances and actions she was a bit of a floozy (I use that term lightly), a bit of a horn-dog (not as lightly), and appeared, at least at first, to be after Mr. Sheffield’s money.
As the show ran along nanny Fine (super creative surname, too… good grief) would bear redeeming characteristics in character and demonstrate her sweet, empathetic motherly side…
…But that f*cking laugh.
A voice that would keep a Grizzly bear from drinking from the river and perhaps the show’s biggest defining attribute, Drescher became a household name and mealtime topic with that nostril-powered vibrato she called a laugh. And while it did the job in making the show popular, for better or worse, it’s the reason that show should have been shampooed off television.
An up-its-own-ass, elitist, espresso-sipping spin-off of the legendary classic, Cheers, this psychoanalytical silver screen piece of misdiagnosed drivel should have been diagnosed with an incurable personality disorder and sent to live in TV obscurity after three or four seasons, not 11.
Annoying from top to bottom the language of every character on this show was enough to roll both eyes and change the channel. Dubbed the smartest show on TV for the time, it may have catered to uppity, white-collared people, vain and self-obsessed, who kid themselves into thinking they’re making themselves smarter by watching, but for the rest of us, it was a waste of 22 minutes.
And, while Dr. Frasier Crane’s (Kelsey Grammer) 20 year TV run is impressive, it’s not without its contrived, force-fed psychological jargon that just screams, ‘gimme a f*cking break’, more often than not. Frig Frasier. His brother too.
13. Saved By The Bell
Now, before you rip me apart for this one, hear me out. Do you remember the last season of this classic? And the first season with an entirely different setting (Indiana not California) and a different name (Good Morning, Miss Bliss). I f*cking do. Despite the failure in continuity I loved the show.
Until the final season.
No Kelly Kapowski or Jessie Spano, instead it featured a new, tough, motorcycle ridin’, curly-haired creature they called Tori Scott (Leanna Creel).
And, what’s more, they already graduated from Bayside in the previous season. What the f*cking zoinks was that about!?
Like we wouldn’t remember the gang getting their diplomas last year, they decide to come back for another school year without two of the best female characters the show had to offer and tried to pretend we wouldn’t notice. Get a grip. Don’t even get me started on the College Years.
12. Just Shoot Me
That’s exactly what David Spade should have said after season two. This show had its moments but in the end was a pathetic attempt at a sitcom with an already reaching premise.
That said, Spade did make a fitting fashion magazine assistant and in his defense it worked for a few years, but like his Adam Sandler movie buddy, Rob Schneider, he gets super annoying, super fast.
It’s obvious now after seeing Spade in ten thousand other shitty sitcoms that followed this one that this show ran too long. Maybe if it didn’t, his career might have rebounded a bit better.
Like all the shows on this list it had its moments. Spade was hilarious by times. But only by times. In no way should this have gone on for as long as it did… kinda like Spade’s movie career after Joe Dirt.
11. The King Of Queens
This long-running ‘com shouldn’t have made it past a couple seasons either. The only good character was Jerry Stiller as the senile, self-absorbed father of Carrie and Doug Heffernan.
The constant fighting between Doug and Carrie was, at times, cute and almost attune to life. Probably why it stayed on the air as long as it did. That said, how many you’re-too-fat and credit card spending jokes and arguments are you supposed to watch before you realize this show had no substance whatsoever.
Kevin James‘ penchant for making fart noises with his hand and his appetite for low-brow comedy came off as amateur and sad. How this middle-aged dumpster reach-around of a show went on for almost a decade I’ll never understand. The only good thing about it was that it ended the way it should have ended five seasons earlier: in divorce.
10. Murphy Brown
This show sucked and you know it. How many receptionist jokes does one have to sit through in order to see through the pants-suit wearing, out of wedlock baby having, investigative drivel toting main character played by Candice Bergen before seeing how lame this show was. There were 93 receptionists cast during this show’s life! 93!!
Yeah, it was driven by a feminist movement that was gaining deserving attention at the time, and yeah, they made fun of Dan Quayle and is prehistoric take on lifestyle choices, but the show still ran for too long. Even the show’s creator jumped off the ship after season five. When the captain won’t go down with the shitty ship, that should speak volumes. ‘Nuff said.
9. Malcolm In The Middle
It began with fantastic hype and adoration. It was new, risky, and about a family a lot of us grew up in, or around. It ended quietly with the bright young stars growing up into awkward, no-longer-lovable characters.
The show premiered with a bang. Two ne’er-do-well, doing-it-as-they-go parents and their three troublesome, academically challenged sons and their genius middle son, Malcolm (Frankie Muniz). Even the secondary characters were dope.
It was an awesome show for a few seasons. Ahead of its time and insanely creative. Then, like many other shows that didn’t know when to call a spade a spade (See Just Shoot Me), the main characters, especially Dewy (Erik Per Sullivan) grew older and lost the cute, mischievous, comedic appeal that once gave the show its shine, deteriorated quickly, much like the house the show was set in.
Bryan Cranston‘s character, Hal (father) was the only reason to watch the show as it slid deeper into TV poverty.
8. Mad About You
This one was tough to add to the list but it made it because it ran too long and was, as Entertainment Weekly reported back in ‘93, “Seinfeld” if Jerry left his buddies, got married and bought a dog.
Mad About You? More like Meh About You.
While it was good at making the observational stuff funny and pampered married life in a time when divorce was gaining serious popularity, Mad About You left the TV-goer feeling like, “meh, not bad.”
And, to its credit, it captured the comedy of mundane, everyday shit that married life apparently presents, but even with Helen Hunt as one of the co-stars it’s still a sh!tty Seinfeld with no Kramer.
7. Sabrina The Teenage Witch
I hear ya, I hear ya. Is this even considered a sitcom? Yes. It is. Albeit an awful one; however, a sitcom it remains.
Rising to fame on the coat-tails of Boy Meets World and other TGIF sitcoms, and like the sh!tty precursors above, this show was a curse on television for way too long.
It was the “it” show upon release and even I was smitten by this teenage witch and her cursed kitten. I loved the dynamic of the aunts but after three years of it, I checked out. Maybe it was because of getting older, but I can remember watching BMW right up until the bitter end and watched it with pride. Not the witch. It was her, not me.
Convoluted, fantastical plot lines that bordered on the fringe of cringe, a tired out gimmicky talking cat, another dumb boyfriend character and a bunch of hocus pocus later this stupid show should have been axed after the season where Sabrina and Harvey finally started dating. Give it the happy, fairy-tale ending it seemed to want.
There. I said it. From Ross and Rachel’s exhausting story line of will they, won’t they, to all the “how you doin’s” and Smelly Cat songs. And making such a big deal out of the lives of six neurotic New York friends who can’t seem to make relationships outside of their group, this show ran itself ragged. Am I the only one who found the brother/sister relationships a little creepy?
Likely the most controversial show on this list of should’ve been canceled, Friends was one of those shows that women loved and men secretly loved but told their buds they hated it. “Naw, Friends is lame,” they’d say. With all that love people were blinded by the drab “poor-me” sh!t they were watching every week and then everyday in syndication after it ended.
At the end of the day, it was one of the most-watched shows of all time. Then again, so is American Idol.
I’m not talkin’ Heathcliff, Claire, Rudy and the gang, I’m talkin’ about the weak-ass regurgitated last-ditch lazy effort that starred Bill and his famed TV wife Phylicia Rashad not as the Huxtable parents but as Hilton and Ruth Lucas, two totally different people. Good grief.
How were we supposed to go from one of the best TV families ever to these two mooks and Doug E. Doug not sit there groovin’ on it?
4. Saved By The Bell: The New Class
With the unsurpassed success of the original series, this dead horse was beaten with a meter stick of cast members that could never live up to Jessie, A.C., Kelly, Lisa, Zack, and a young Screech… and it lasted for seven painstaking seasons with only Mr. Belding as the only common denominator.
While it still had a bit of the brains of the former version the New Class never did as well.
The expectation of retaining old, trusty fans while gaining new viewers was a bit high, and with the shadow of the classic show snickering behind its back in the cafeteria, it’s no wonder it was doomed. But, they kept at it. Semester after measly semester.
They tried to catch the embers of the former by casting Dustin Diamond again as ‘old Screech’ but it didn’t help… at all. Not even a little.
3. F*ck Becker, Watch Cheers
For a guy who made his living listening to people’s grievances, Dr. John Becker (Ted Danson) sure wasted a lot of time complaining.
A show that lasted six seasons on CBS, it focused on a small practice misanthropic doctor who found the ugly side of everyone and everything he encountered. It’s likely a normal thing for doctors to be products of those around him and to become jaded and cynical dealing with the sick and slow-witted but cripes, did Becker ever suck as a human.
Danson, an endearing, talented actor obviously did his best, but after a few seasons of this Bronx-based sitcom the only prescription is binge watching Cheers to erase any memory or false judgments you made about Danson while watching friggin’ Becker.
An apropos title for a show that should have never made it to TV without the movie’s main character, 90s bombshell, Alicia Silverstone.
A tough task to take a story from big to small screen this could have been a great show given the popularity and charm of the film version. But without the bait (Silverstone) it was obvious they weren’t going to catch many fish.
Chronicling the lives of the rich and infamous adolescents attending high school somewhere in posh Beverly Hills, this sh!tty sitty should have been left in the writing room garbage can.
Did anyone even watch Coach? Like religiously as they’d watch The Office or Modern Family?
Imagine coming home from work and rushing in the door to make sure supper was finished, doing the dishes, and hounding the kids to finish their homework and brush their teeth so you could sit down and enjoy a half hour of Craig T. Nelson. I know, kinda f*cked up to think about, eh? But people did it. Why they did is beyond me.
It would be surprising if anyone argued against this show making the list of shoulda-been-canceled-but-wasn’t list from the 90s.
This physically unfit production ran for eight mother-flipping years. Unoriginal, flighty plots and a main character that had his moments but lacked the strength and originality of the Fresh Princes, Steve Urkels, and even Roseanne Conners of the mid-90s. Even the funny side-kick Jerry Van Dyke couldn’t help convince me this show should have gained the yards it did during its run.