Photo: Courtesy of ABC.
In case you weren’t around to do much TV watching in the 1990s, please allow me to set the scene for you. In order to watch your favorite show in, say, 1995, you had to be in front of your television at the exact time when it aired. None of this DVR nonsense. Nor could you easily stream the show later on Hulu through your Roku. In fact, if you were to utter words like “Hulu” and “Roku” to a person in 1995, they would think you were cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Or, that you had mispronounced the name of the popular Hawaiian dance.
Maybe that’s why there’s an extra patina of warmth surrounding the nostalgia for these shows from the ‘90s. They’re not the ones that immediately spring to mind when you start to think about what you watched during that decade (or perhaps caught in reruns on Nick at Night in the 21st century). Once you’re prompted to recall them, though, the fond memories start flooding back.
Why did that show go off the air? you’ll find yourself wondering. I used to watch it every Saturday morning.
So, please join us for a trip down memory lane as we recall some of the best forgotten TV shows of the ‘90s. Use this refrain to get your memory going: “Surf dudes with attitudes…kinda groovy, laid back mood.”
(1999-2002) Courage the Cowardly Dog
Why you loved it: Courage lives in Nowhere (seriously, that’s the name of his town) with his elderly owners. The trembling beagle and his slow-moving owners make constant terrifying brushes with the supernatural. This often scary show didn’t talk down to kids, but rather showed how to muster up courage in the face of fear.
Why You Loved It: The intrepid gang of 4th graders at Third Street Elementary got up to the recess hijinks of your dreams.
(1989-1991) Hey Dude
Stars: David Brisbin, Christine Taylor, Joe Torres
Why you loved it: The staff of the Bar None Dude Ranch gets into hijinks, pranks one another and guests, and just has fun in the Arizona sun.
(1990-1993) Parker Lewis Can’t Lose
Stars: Corin Nemec, Billy Jayne, Troy Slaten
Why you loved it: Parker Lewis is the epitome of cool at Santo Domingo High School. One might even go so far as to call him a winner.
(1990-2000) Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Stars: Ross Hull, Raine Pare-Coull, Jodie Resther
Why you loved it: The Midnight Society convenes in various wooded locales to spook one another with scary tales, which are reenacted for viewers’ enjoyment (or horror).
(1991-1992) Salute Your Shorts
Stars: Kirk Baily, Megan Berwick, Venus DeMilo
Why you loved it: This short-lived show was about summer camp. Everyone loves summer camp. Camp Anawanna, we hold you in our hearts, and when we think about you, it makes me wanna fart.
(1991-1994) Clarissa Explains It All
Stars: Melissa Joan Hart, Jason Zimbler, Sean O’Neal
Why you loved it: Clarissa (Melissa Joan Hart) has awesome clothes, a rad outlook on the world, and her cute neighbor Sam (Sean O’Neal) climbs into her bedroom whenever she wants. The only drawback to her life is her pesky brother Ferguson (Jason Zimbler).
Network: Nickelodeon, ABC
Stars: Billy West, Fred Newman, Constance Shulman
Why you loved it: Doug Funnie journals about the trials and tribulations of being 11 as he goes through life with his friend Skeeter, dog Porkchop, and crush Patti Mayonnaise.
(1994-2000) Party of Five
Stars: Scott Wolf, Matthew Fox, Neve Campbell
Why you loved it: When their parents are unfortunately killed in a drunk driving accident, the five Salinger siblings band together to take over the family restaurant, and care for each other in their absence.
Stars: Stuart Pankin, Jessica Walter, Sally Struthers
Why you loved it: The Sinclair family is actually pretty normal, save for the fact that they’re dinosaurs. Sure, the costumes are a bit clunky, and “ I’m the baby ” is one of the most annoying catchphrases in the history of television, but you have to give Jim Henson (who originally had the idea for the show) credit for thinking outside of the human sitcom box.
(1991-1995) Darkwing Duck
Network: Disney Channel, ABC
Stars: Jim Cummings, Terence McGovern, Christine Cavanaugh
Why you loved it: This DuckTales (1987-1990) spin off stars suburban dad Drake Mallard, who secretly fights crime in the city of St. Canard as his superhero alter-ego Darkwing Duck with the help of his foolish sidekick, Launchpad McQuack.
(1991-1996) The Ren & Stimpy Show
Stars: Billy West, John Kricfalusi
Why you loved it: “They’re way existential.” – Cher Horowitz
(1991-1998) Step by Step
Stars: Patrick Duffy, Suzanne Somers
Why you loved it: It’s basically an updated Brady Bunch (1969-1974). However, this time, Cousin Oliver appears in the form of super-cute Cody (Sasha Lambert), who lives out back in an R.V.
Stars: Blaze Berdahl, David López, Sheldon Turnipseed
Why you loved it: Streetwise NYC teens use the mysterious Ghostwriter to solve crimes around town, while also trying to decrypt the secret of Ghostwriter itself.
(1992-1997) California Dreams
Stars: Kelly Packard, Michael Cade, Jennie Kwan
Why you loved it: A bunch of laid-back California teens decide to up their cool-factor even more by forming a rock band called The Dreams. More like living the dream, am I right?
(1992-2001) Bananas in Pajamas
Stars: Karina Kelly, Nicholas Opolski, Taylor Owyns
Why you loved it: Two anthropomorphic bananas named B1 and B2 don matching nightwear to chase teddy bears and a Rat-in-a-Hat around the house in this simple-premised series from Australia.
(1993-1995) Legends of the Hidden Temple
Stars: Kirk Fogg, Dee Bradley Baker
Why you loved it: Six teams compete for the chance to go through Temple Run, a Mayan-looking fortress, in hopes of winning the grand prize. We caught up with one of the winners right here.
Network: Fox Kids, The WB
Stars: Rob Paulsen, Tress MacNeille, Jess Harnell
Why you loved it: The animated Warner siblings had madcap adventures with famous people (both imaginary and real). Sing it with me: “It’s time for Animaniacs, and we’re zany to the max.”
(1994-1997) Sweet Valley High
Network: Fox, UPN
Stars: Brittany Daniel, Cynthia Daniel
Why you loved it: The beloved Francine Pascal books adapted for TV? Yes, please.
(1994-1998) The Secret World of Alex Mack
Stars: Larisa Oleynik, Darris Love, Dorian Lopinto
Why you loved it: She’s a teen with awesome powers like telekinesis. Enough said.
(1995-1997) Singled Out
Stars: Chris Hardwick, Jenny McCarthy
Why you loved it: A blindfolded “Picker” had 50 potential dates to choose from, and they had to go through several rounds before they finally got to see each other face-to-face and win prizes.
(1995-1998) Pinky and the Brain
Network: The WB
Stars: Rob Paulsen, Maurice LaMarche
Why you loved it: Two genetically engineered mice try to take over the world (The Brain) and help — kind of — (Pinky) every night.
(1995-2000) Hang Time
Stars: Daniella Deutscher, Megan Parlen
Why you loved it: A high school basketball team with a can-do attitude learns various lessons about the troubles that affect teens, like underage drinking and sexual harassment. Don’t you love it when super-cool Saturday morning shows teach you stuff?
(1996-1997) Flash Forward
Network: Disney Channel
Stars: Jewel Staite, Ben Foster, Asia Vieira
Why you loved it: Two best friends who grew up next to each other deal with the twists and turns of middle school.
(1996-1997) Space Cases
Stars: Walter Jones, Kristian Ayre, Anik Matern
Why you loved it: Five students and two teachers from various planets around the solar system get stuck aboard a spaceship with an android named Thelma and have all sorts of intergalactic adventures. Low-budget sci-fi is the best kind of sci-fi.
(1996-1999) The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo
Stars: Irene Ng, Pat Morita
Why you loved it: A teenager interning at a local police station gets to help solve interesting mysteries.
ABC, UPN Network:
Rachel Blanchard, Stacey Dash, Elisa Donovan Stars:
Why you loved it: Clueless (1995) was an amazing movie, and maybe it should have remained as a one-off. This TV adaptation only kind of does it justice.
Stars: Brandy Norwood, WIlliam Allen Young, Marcus T. Paulk
Why you loved it: Moesha deals with the ins and outs of teenage life while a ton of awesome guest stars including TLC, Dr. Dre, and DMX stop by.
(1996-2003) Sabrina The Teenage Witch
Network: ABC, The WB
Stars: Melissa Joan Hart, Caroline Rhea, Beth Broderick
Why you loved it: Deep down inside, doesn’t every teen girl want someone to tell her that she’s secretly a witch, and it’s now time to start learning to use her magical powers for handy things. Like, for example, turning back time when you wake up late for a test or changing your outfit in the event of a period mishap?
(1997-1998) Breaker High
Stars: Ryan Gosling, Rachel Wilson, Persia Williams
Why you loved it: Television creators in the ‘90s were very dedicated to finding new locations to put high schools (while still dealing with the same teen issues like relationships and money), and this quaint Canadian show decided on a cruise ship. And hey girl, it’s young Ryan Gosling!
Stars: Shawn Ashmore, Brooke Nevin, Boris Cabrera
Why you loved it: They were kids who could turn into any beast they wanted to. Need we say more?
(1999-2001) So Weird
Network: Disney Channel
Stars: Cara DeLizia, Erik von Detten, Mackenzie Phillips
Why you loved it: A teen girl on tour with her rockstar mom writes about her encounters with paranormal activity on a website called So Weird.
Network: The WB
Stars: Leslie Bibb, Carly Pope, Tamara Mello
Why you loved it: Before he brought us Glee, Ryan Murphy first tried his hand at making television for, and about, teenagers with Popular. When the unpopular Sam (Carly Pope) and Brooke’s (Leslie Bibb) parents get married, their respective social circles clash in a cynical, satirical look at high school cliques and hierarchies.
Stars: Serah D’Laine, Gina May, Bree Turner
Why you loved it: This anthological MTV show went places no other TV show was willing to go, long before The CW. It explored the complicated, intricate world of sexuality, relationships, and more topics teens and twenty-somethings were dealing with and had questions about.
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