Ah, the ’90s. The decade of baggy jeans, Tamagotchis and the baby-faced Justin Timberlake. Perhaps one of the greatest parts of this decade was the amazing amount of fun TV shows it gave us. The ‘90s brought us countless dramas, comedies and cartoons; more than we probably can even remember. It’s hard to put our finger on it, but there really was something special about TV during the ’90s; some kind of magic that shows just don’t have anymore. The ‘90s had a way of taking strange and sometimes downright tragic premises, and turning them into extremely entertaining, relatable programs.
While it’s easy to remember classic ‘90s shows like Full House, Family Matters and Roseanne (and even if you’d like to forget, the incessant reruns won’t let you), there are a handful of shows from the sitcom-tastic decade that you probably loved but totally forgot existed. So sit back, relax and smell the nostalgia. That’s right, say hello to seriously catchy theme songs, annoyingly present laugh tracks and transitional scene medleys featuring the mighty saxophone. We’ve made a list of 15 of the best ‘90s shows you haven’t thought about since, well, the ‘90s.
15. California Dreams
If Saved by The Bell and Making the Band had a baby, it’d probably be something very close to NBC’s California Dreams. This pitch-perfect program featured a group of 5 teenagers who tried to make it big with their band, California Dreams. If we learned anything from this show, it was that waiting until after high school to pursue your dreams of being in a band is an excellent idea. We also got our weekly dose of teen reality checks like steroid use, racism and family drama. California Dreams was part of the Saturday morning TNBC lineup and was produced by the one and only Peter Engel, the same producer behind ‘90s teen show royalty, Saved By the Bell.
Perhaps the most memorable part of the show was its theme song, California Dreams, an original piece played by the actual cast. In fact, all the songs featured on the show were performed by the young actors–give or take a few voice-overs for those who were a bit pitch-impaired. Jimmy Fallon had the band reunite on his show back in 2010, which had us saying, “Don’t wake me up ‘cuz I’m dreaming”.
14. City Guys
City Guys was the “edgier” (if you will) version of Saved By the Bell with an equally catchy theme song. Unlike producer Peter Engel’s other shows (Saved by the Bell, California Dreams, USA High etc.), City Guys had a much more urban setting— way to kind of step out of the box, Engel. The show was centered around former enemies turned best friends, Jamal and Chris as they endured the pressures of high-school life. If you remember anything about City Guys, it’s the catchy theme song. “C-I-T-Y, you can see why these guys the neat guys, smart and street-wise”. Did that jog your memory at all?
13. Living Single
Living Single originally aired on Fox in 1993 and ran for five seasons. Living Single is one of those classic ‘90s shows that has its talented cast to thank for its success. The diverse cast of personalities made it easy for viewers to latch on to a character that they could relate to. The show boasted a strong cast of talented actresses—some of them continue to have thriving careers today. There was the gossip-loving comic relief, Regine (played by Facts of Life’s Kim Fields), business savvy attorney Maxine (played by Erika Alexander), the wide-eyed aspiring actress, Sinclair (played by Kim Coles) and of course, Kadijah, the magazine publisher played by the one and only Queen Latifah. And let’s not forget about the two male main characters, Kyle the stockbroker (T.C. Carson) and resident handyman, Overton (played by John Henton). Over the years, Living Single was nominated for a handful of awards and even snagged an NAACP Image Award, reminding us that “in a ‘90s kind of world, I’m glad I got my girls”.
12. Grace Under Fire
ABC’s Grace Under Fire took an upsetting topic like marital abuse and turned it into an inspiring and entertaining sitcom… right? Brett Butler played Grace Kelly, a single mom of three who was recently divorced from an abusive husband and was a recovering alcoholic. The show focused on the life of a middle-class American family, struggling with all too common issues that weren’t so often talked about.
In the show’s final seasons, there were many conflicts on set, largely due to Brett Butler’s drug addiction. Apparently, Butler’s behavior became so erratic, that she insisted on riding in a separate plane from her fellow cast mates when traveling and set production behind significantly due to her failure to cooperate. Yikes.
11. In Living Color
In Living Color was a sketch comedy show that aired on Fox starting in 1990, featuring a talented cast of soon to be stars. This show served as a significant early step in the careers of Jim Carrey, many members of the Wayans family, Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Lopez. The show served as source of comic relief for the many tense race problems that were going on in the U.S. at the time. The show addressed heightened versions of different stereotypes, helping to bring controversial issues to the forefront.
In Living Color entertained us with some seriously hilarious characters. Who could forget Jamie Foxx’s massage therapist character, Wanda and her catchphrase, “I’m gonna rock your world”? No matter how hard you try, you’ll never get Jamie Foxx’s gross smile and curly blonde wig out of your mind. Even more unforgettable is Jim Carrey’s fire marshall character and his lack of lips, or his body contorting workout instructor. Many of the Wayans family was on the show, notably Keenan, Marlon, Damon and Shawn. The show also featured a young Jennifer Lopez who danced with the show’s Fly Girls. While her performance wasn’t as hilarious, she definitely made an impact, and went on to become one of America’s greatest triple threats.
10. Wayans Bros
Shawn and Marlon Wayans starred together in WB’s hit comedy, The Wayans Bros. The show took place in Harlem, NY, where Shawn ran a newsstand that he and brother, Marlon, worked at. The show also starred John Witherspoon as their “Pops” and the tough security guard, Dee Baxter played by Anna Maria Horsford. Unfortunately, in 1998 during the show’s 5th season, ratings plummeted, causing the show to go off the air before they had the chance to give it the proper finale fans deserved. Since the show, Marlon and Shawn have gone on to collectively write, produce and star in many movies, like White Chicks, Scary Movie and many more.
9. Step by Step
If you loved watching Brady Bunch reruns, you probably loved the classic ’90s sitcom, Step by Step. Step by Step was part of the TGIF lineup beginning in 1991 starring Three’s Company’s Suzanne Somers and Patrick Duffy. The show ran for seven seasons and followed the many characters of both the Foster and Lambert families. Like many sitcoms of this era, their theme song is probably the most memorable part of the show. The theme song, “The Second Time Around” was written and composed by Jesse Frederick and Bennett Salvay, the two great minds behind the theme songs of Full House, Perfect Strangers and Family Matters. Fun fact: Step by Step existed in the same universe as Family Matters, proven by the appearance of Steve Urkel in season 1, episode 2.
Dinosaurs was a family favorite, following the lives of the Sinclair Family— oh, and did we mention they’re all dinosaurs? The show took place in 60,000,003 B.C. in Pangea— chances are, you’re too young to remember that era. But just because the cast was fully comprised of dinosaurs, doesn’t mean they were excused from the everyday problems families all over the world dealt with on a daily basis. On Dinosaurs, we watched the family deal with everyday problems like working for a short tempered boss, handling teenage behavioral problems and sorting through marital issues. The most memorable character would have to be the baby, who referred to her daddy as “not the mama” as he smacked him in the head with either a frying pan, spatula, or whatever else he could get his hands on. While she show was light-hearted for the most part, the series finale was pretty dark and quite frankly, disturbingly depressing. The show ends at the very beginning of what seems to be an ice age, leading us to believe the family along with all other life on earth, is about to face their end. Great comedy, eh?
7. Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper
In Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper, we learned that just because you make it to the NBA doesn’t mean life is all mansions and general fabulosity from then on. The show’s main character, Mark Curry, is an ex-NBA player for the Golden State Warriors who became a P.E. teacher at the local high school after playing professionally. Over the seasons, we learn of his love for Vanessa and see their relationship play out into marriage. The show’s creator, Jeff Franklin also played a role in the creation of the ever popular sitcom, Full House. It’s easy to believe the two shows existed in the same universe, considering they both took place in the Bay area and the fact that there were some character crossovers within the first two episodes.
Just making the ‘90s TV show cut, is WB’s Popular, which aired in 1999, running until its final second season in 2001. The show was created by Ryan Murphy and Gina Matthews (yes, that’s the same Ryan Murphy behind shows like Nip/Tuck, Glee and American Horror Story). Popular follows Brooke (Leslie Bibb) and Sam (Carly Pope), both teens who attend Kennedy High School but are in different social circles; as their parents get married. This show was a bit different than most ‘90s comedies, in that it mixed the comedy and drama genres (something we’d soon recognize as signature Ryan Murphy style). A great example of this darkness we’re referring to? In the show’s season finale (although its sudden cancelation leads us to believe it wasn’t written as a finale episode), the show’s main character, Brooke gets run over by a drunk supporting character, Nicole. Ouch.
5. Ghost Writer
Back in 1992, kids all over America tuned into Ghostwriter to watch a team of curious kids solve the latest neighborhood mysteries. What made the show really interesting was the group’s invisible member, Ghostwriter. Ghostwriter would help the teen detectives solve mysteries by communicating with them through written words and pictures. While it was an extremely entertaining show, the use of wordplay really helped viewers with their reading, writing and problem solving skills. The show was applauded for its diverse casting and creative storytelling.
The show was cancelled due to lack of funding in 1995, leaving us to forever wonder who Ghostwriter actually was before it died. But in 2010, the show’s writer and producer Kermit Frazier, revealed Ghostwriter’s identity to a blog for the LA Times. Apparently, the invisible detective was a runaway slave from the Civil War who would teach other runaway slaves how to read in the woods before he was caught and killed. That’s pretty scary for a kids show if you ask us.
4. Early Edition
While the ‘90s was full of shows with similar premises (how many families with an untimely loss of a parent must we possibly endure?), Early Edition was a breath of fresh air. The show followed Gary Hobson (Kyle Chandler) who would mysteriously receive the newspaper one day before everyone else. In other words, Gary got a sneak peek into the future— well, the upcoming 24 hours— every single day. Gary receives this newspaper every morning from an unknown being along with a cute tabby cat which admittedly takes the edge off of this generally creepy scenario. While Gary didn’t ask for this situation, he takes it upon himself to try and stop any negative headlines from coming true before it’s too late.
Fun fact: The Early Edition theme song was written by W.G. Snuffy Walden, the same composer of the opening song on Friday Night Lights, a show Kyle Chandler also starred in.
3. Just Shoot Me!
NBC’s Just Shoot Me! followed the never ending shenanigans of the Blush magazine staff. The show ran for seven seasons and was created by Steven Levitan, the same great mind behind the currently popular hit comedy, Modern Family. Whether you were laughing at the lonely and pathetic Dennis (played by David Spade) chase unattainable women, rooting for the headstrong Maya (played by Laura San Giacomo) as she tried to keep it together as much as she could, or rolling your eyes at Nina (played by Wendie Malick) as she sipped on alcohol at twelve in the afternoon; the show was definitely an entertaining one to watch.
2. Two of a Kind
After Full House ended, the careers of Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (who collectively played Michelle on the show) was long from over. Not only did the twins have their own movie franchise that was wildly popular, they starred in multiple TV shows as they entered into their teen years. Two of a Kind followed a single father as he attempted to raise two teenage girls, both opposite in personalities. We watched as tom-boy Mary-Kate butted heads with her fancy-pants twin, Ashley as they dealt with their Dad’s rules and had fun with their cool babysitter, Carrie. While the show only ran for 22 episodes, the show gained a large fanbase in syndication. Shows like Two of a Kind left audiences wondering, “will we ever get tired of the dad raising girls all on his own scenario?” Apparently not.
1. Eerie, Indiana
Did you ever have to move to a completely new place, go to a new school and deal with some really, really bizarre situations? If you answered yes any of those things, then you probably could relate to Marshall Teller in Eerie, Indiana. Eerie, Indiana originally aired on NBC in 1991 for one season before being syndicated on the Disney Chanel until 1996. The show followed a young boy named Marshall (played by Omri Katz), as he and his best friend, Simon try to navigate through a small town full of creepy people and situations. Who could forget the pack of creepily intelligent dogs or the seemingly alive Elvis Presley? While every scenario was stranger than the last, the finale was perhaps the most disturbing of them all. In the 19th and final episode, Marshall discovers a script entitled Eerie, Indiana featuring himself, Omri, playing the part of Marshall. While we may have forgotten about this creepy show over the years, we could never get the truly existentially upsetting, Twilight Zone-like ending out of our minds.