It is widely held that the 1990s were the glory days of television. The staple networks were constantly pumping out enjoyable shows in competition with each other and several upstart companies were just beginning to make their mark in the industry. But whatever happened to these shows that we all loved? While some networks have created throwback channels solely dedicated to their 90s hits (Boomerang, etc.), others have completely abandoned their rich history.
In order to alleviate this issue, this list will countdown the greatest shows from the 90s (and where to find them today). I have scoured the internet to find sites and services where you can watch each of these 90s shows in their entirety.
Preference has been given to those services which are wholly legitimate (Netflix, Hulu), though I have listed some other lesser known websites for when those don’t do the trick.
My hope is that this article will serve as a workable guide, allowing current and future generations to enjoy these 15 great shows. All facts and storylines from the shows listed are from the first-hand knowledge of the author. Facts relating to dates or salaries come from IMDb.
15. Pokemon – Netflix
There was perhaps no show more prominent in ’90s material culture than Pokémon. Accompanying Nintendo’s electronic and card games, this cartoon was a success of epic proportions. Everyone played Pokémon in the 90s; to this day if you polled 100 people 99 of them would be able to tell you who Pikachu is. This show is actually still running, though I have to imagine that its viewership isn’t anywhere near what it once was. Then again, with the immense success of the mobile game Pokémon Go this past summer, maybe they have seen a renewed spike in viewers. The best way to watch the older seasons is with a Netflix account, though there is some (admittedly shady) streaming website which also offers popular episodes.
14. South Park – southpark.cc.com
I think that South Park has had such a lasting impact in large part due to the uniqueness of the program. Sure, it can be compared to The Simpsons, but it was clear from the beginning that the brainchild of Trey Parker and Matt Stone was its own, original, monster. South Park debuted in August 1997 with great success, consistently earning the highest ratings of any basic cable program. From there, things have only gotten better for the South Park crew, they are set to air their 21st season in September of this year. Luckily for us, Parker and Stone wanted to make sure that South Park is available for anyone to watch, whenever. All episodes (except those that have been banned for content) are available on southpark.cc.com.
13. Friends – Netflix
Everyone has had the (probably alcohol infused) idea that the lives of them and their friends would make a great sitcom. The natural progression of this idea became a show called Friends. I don’t think the creators of Friends in their wildest dreams would have predicted how hugely successful their program would end up being. The characters in the show were so likeable and vivid that you couldn’t help but become engrossed in the lives of Rachel and the gang. The show eventually wrapped up in the mid-2000s, but not before each of the “friends” had become a household name. You can still catch the show’s reruns on several channels, or you can watch every episode in order through Netflix.
12. Nick Toons – Hulu
There were so many great cartoons on Nickelodeon in the 90s that I couldn’t pick just one for this list. At a point in the mid-90s Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life, Ren and Stimpy, and Doug were all on TV. This doesn’t even include shows like SpongeBob and Rocket Power which didn’t make their debut until the end of the decade. These shows pass an important litmus test in that they are just as entertaining now as they were when we were kids. If you want to check out any of these shows, nreboot.com has all your favorite Nickelodeon shows available for streaming on their website. Some shows like SpongeBob are also available on Hulu.
11. Boy Meets World – dailymotion
As far as shows that actually imparted valuable life lessons, it didn’t get any better in the 90s than Boy Meets World. The sitcom ran from 1993-2000 and followed the life of Cory Matthews (played by Ben Savage) from a young boy to when he graduated college. Boy Meets World was only supposed to last a few seasons, but its success led the producers to continue it through the kid’s college years, and reruns of the show have played on several networks since it was canceled. This 90s show was so beloved, in fact, that it was able to create a recent spin-off, Girl Meets World, which had considerable success on the Disney Channel. While Girl Meets World is available on Netflix, you’ll have to go to dailymotion.com to see its 90s precursor.
10. Dragon Ball Z – Amazon
We already talked about Cartoon Network’s Toonami lineup in the 90s, but this murderers row of action cartoons would have been inconsequential without its flagship program, Dragon Ball Z. A continuation of the popular anime Dragonball, DBZ outpaced its predecessor on its way to becoming an entertainment icon. The show follows the alien Goku as him and his friends and family protect the earth from a series of diabolical threats. DBZ has been praised as being an anime with an incredible mass appeal which is still beloved by the industries stalwarts. If you wanted to catch episodes of DBZ nowadays, they are widely available for free on Youtube. For better quality videos, you can buy individual seasons through Amazon.
9. Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers – Amazon Prime
There is no show which better encompasses what it meant to be a TV program in the 1990s than Mighty Morphin‘ Power Rangers. When the 2017 Power Rangers film debuted a lot of people went back to watch the original program (or sought it out for the first time). A large majority of these people were surprised about how limited the story-line was (at least for the first season). Power Rangers followed an incredibly simplistic formula (beat up little bad guys, morph, beat up main bad guy, call zords, beat up giant monster), but was so endearing and corny as to make it irresistible. The new film has raised the demand for the original seasons, but the best streaming website I could find was through Amazon Prime.
8. Fresh Prince Of Bel Air – Netflix
It is amazing to me how much The Fresh Prince of Bel Air still manages to pervade popular culture. Even if you ignore the mega-stardom of Will Smith, the show and its beloved characters have still made an impact on American culture. The internet was aflutter in 2014 when Alfonso Ribiero featured his signature dance, the Carlton, on Dancing With The Stars. Similarly, you can’t say the words “in west Philadelphia, born and raised” in public without someone finishing the catchy tune. Lastly, I was pleasantly surprised to see the public outpouring upon the death of James Avery, who played Uncle Phil on the show. If you wanted to catch Fresh Prince of Bel Air now, you’ll have to wait for it to come on Nick at Night, or go to Netflix.
7. The X-Files – Netflix
A good measure of a show’s impact on popular culture is the shows/movies that follow its mold. Using this analysis, it is unconscionable to deny the impact that The X-Files had in the 90s. Not only are there a number of shows which directly mirror The X-Files style and form (such as Supernatural), but the show also normalized the supernatural in a way that blazed a trail for countless programs which have since debuted. Starring David Duchovny in his most famous role (much to his chagrin), the excellent chemistry between him and co-star Gillian Anderson perfectly supplements this shows stellar writing. Netflix was one of the first platforms to buy the showing rights to The X-Files and they still have every episode available.
6. Buffy The Vampire Slayer – Netflix
Despite the fact that its viewership numbers were uninspiring for most of its TV run, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (starring Sarah Michelle Gellar) has become a pop culture icon in a way that most programs can only dream about. As the title suggests, Buffy is about a high school girl who spends her time outside the classroom hunting the various monsters that plague southern California. The show’s producer, Josh Whedon, actually develops some solid storylines in the later episodes, but it is the first couple of seasons which everyone seems to know about. This is despite the fact that (according to viewership numbers) not that many people actually watched the first two seasons. Every season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer is currently available on Netflix. Netflix also has every episode of the Buffy spin-off, Angel.
5. The Simpsons – Hulu
I think it’s fair to say that an entire genre of television owes itself to The Simpsons. Shows like Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, and even Rick and Morty simply wouldn’t be around if The Simpsons hadn’t first blazed the trail in December of 1989. Since then, The Simpsons have become a pop culture icon in a way that few shows can match. While the show was just extended for its 29th and 30th seasons, it really hit its peak in the mid-90s. I was aware of The Simpsons then, even though (as a small child) I was absolutely banned from viewing them. If you want to check out this iconic program (aside from the new episodes which must be viewed on Fox), I suggest going to simpsonsworld.com. For our Canadian readers, you will have to go to Hulu instead.
4. Full House – Hulu
Full House could reasonably be placed on a lot of lists. The most sitcomy sitcom, greatest family style sitcoms, most beloved TV family, the list goes on and on. Though they are only #4 on this list, the Tanner family was an integral part of TV in the 90s. Boasting stars like John Stamos and Bob Saget, it was the young actresses who played the family children that led to the show’s success. If you need evidence of how popular Full House was, look no further than the fact that its recent spin-off, Fuller House, has been relatively successful despite being burdened by a terrible story-line. Every episode of Full House is available on Hulu, if you want to watch Fuller House (which I do not at all recommend), it is only available on Netflix.
3. Gundam – animestreams.tv
There’s a plethora of shows that I could choose from Cartoon Networks legendary Toonami lineup, but I felt that the Gundam franchise summed up what 90s television was all about. This show centered around a group of young pilots who controlled various giant robots (somewhat like a Transformer). Sure the plot was a little corny, but the fight scenes were cool and that is exactly what the 90s were all about. This was the golden age of anime when everyone watched it, not just the hardcore leftovers. The Gundam franchise is still mildly popular (especially merchandise wise), so the episodes are pretty widely available. I would recommend the English dub found on animestreams.tv, though some isolated episodes are missing.
2. Seinfeld – Hulu
Seinfeld will go down as not only one of the most popular shows of the 90’s but also as one of the greatest TV shows of all times. Incredibly simplistic, Seinfeld is one of the few shows which can be enjoyed by anyone, regardless of their viewing preferences. Seinfeld dominated viewership numbers in a time when cable TV was at its height, and the show still holds several records for the most watched program. When the show’s creator and star, Jerry Seinfeld, stepped back from the public eye following the end of the show, it only served to enhance the legend behind this endearing sitcom. Every episode of Seinfeld can currently be found on Hulu. Those of you without the streaming service can find the show on several free streaming websites.
1. Walker Texas Ranger – Amazon Prime
Walker Texas Ranger probably would have been more comfortable in the action hero filled 1980s, but its corniness and reliance on heavily scripted fight scenes are exactly what made it so enjoyable. Starring Chuck Norris in his pre-pop culture icon days, Walker was a crime drama which followed a specialized officer as he kept his area safe from a variety of crooks. But mainly, the show was about Norris kicking bad guy butt as much as possible in the allotted 45 minutes. I found some episodes of Texas Ranger on justwatch.com, but if you want to see the series in its entirety you’ll have to shell out for an Amazon or Direct TV account. Reruns of the show also appear regularly on AMC, TNT, and the Hallmark channel.
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