MSR’s Top Twenty T.V. Shows of the 90’s

I’m going to start off saying this was a hard list to compose. There were so many great shows in the 90’s. This was before streaming services, so it was basically network T.V., but I will argue that the rise of streaming shows did begin in the 90’s, most notably, with HBO. HBO was a pioneer in that they put original content on their platform which was an extra expense. It was so much fun to rediscover shows I really enjoyed and I had a ton of fun walking down the 90’s T.V. lane.

I do want to give a shout-out to one show which sparked a pretty major revolution.

M.T.V.’s The Real World premiered in 1992. The show’s premise was about seven strangers who were plunked down together in a loft in SoHo. Their every move was filmed over some several week period… and us 90’s kids lapped it up. This show was the start of what we know now as reality T.V. Think about it. Without The Real World, no Survivor, no Big Brother, no Real Housewives, for better or worse, it brought about a change in television programming that has only grown to massive heights in this day and age.

So, let’s get this started. Again, you may not agree with me or my ranking, but these are my personal choices.

20. BTAS Batman: The Animated Series

Ohhhh, Seppin and Rek won’t agree, but they should be happy I did put it on the list. I even remember how groundbreaking this was and, brushes shoulders, it was this show I would put on for them as toddlers. This, Batman Beyond and Justice League Unlimited.

19. Blues Clues

I don’t know why I even have to explain why Blue’s Clues was so fabulous…

18. Wonder Years

What would you think if I sang out of tune…” The first notes of Joe Cocker’s famous song ushered in this 90’s television coming of age series. The first few seasons were wonderful to watch and I was always pulling for Kevin and Winnie.

17. My So-Called Life

Oh, how us teenage girls loved this short-lived (one season!!!) show. It was way ahead of its time, but it did produce a couple of heavy Hollywood hitters, Claire Danes and Jared Leto. The show chronicled a young teenage girl who was figuring out who she was and, after abandoning her goody-two-shoes persona, dyed her hair, and went a bit goth. Her parents were flummoxed by her new appearance and attitude, but the real star was her crush. Who didn’t have a crush on bad boy Jordan Catalano?

16. That 70’s Show

Did the That 70’s Show make an impression or what? My favorite parts were the round table pot smoking discussions in the basement and Red Foreman, a totally politically incorrect hard ass dad.

15. Roseanne

What people need to understand about Roseanne was that when this show debuted it was a breath of fresh air. A middle class family, struggling to pay bills, raise kids, deal with family dynamics in a funny down to earth way. Laurie Metcalf (Jackie) was outstanding on this show and deserved every Emmy she won.

14. Sex and The City

How I loved me some Sex and The City. This HBO show broke the women and dating rules left and right. It featured four strong women navigating through love and life in New York City. Every character you were emotionally invested in and it was a show geared towards women. Yes, we had Mr. Big and Aiden. Steve and Charlotte’s two husbands, but the men weren’t the stars, the ladies were, and they shined.

13. Golden Girls

Okay, listen, you don’t have to be elderly to appreciate The Golden Girls. Even as a teenager I enjoyed watching it, especially Dorothy’s Sicilian mother, Sophia. Again, this was ground breaking because much like Sex and The City, it was a show centered on four women’s lives as they lived together in Florida during their respective retirement. Also, the legendary Betty White is on the show. Can you get any more iconic than Betty White? I think not.

12. Home Improvement

I suppose growing up as a daughter of a builder, I was predisposed to automatically like this show. My dad loved it and the balance between the show within a show, ‘Tool Time’, and the home life dynamic of Tim ‘The Tool Man’ Taylor were done in a family friendly light hearted way. Also there was the neighbor Mr. Wilson whose face we never did fully see because he was always half-hidden by the fence. Tim Allen was flying high in the 90’s, with this show, and the iconic The Santa Clause movie franchise.

11. Mad About You

Mad About You has to make the list because it was a well-acted comedy about a New York married couple and the day to day life and struggle done in a humorous way. Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt had great chemistry and it worked. I still can’t believe Jaime kissed that guy, the politician she was working for though. I don’t think I quite forgave her after that…

10. In Living Color

You had Saturday Night Live and then you had In Living Color. This comedy show broke new ground and barriers. It was also ridiculously funny. The Wayans brothers, Jim Carrey, David Allen Grier, and of course, the most famous Fly Girl, Jennifer Lopez. SNL was for our parents. In Living Color was for us.

9. E.R.

E. R. was quite simply one of the best medical dramas ever. The first few seasons are so engrossing and there is not a woman alive who didn’t have a crush on Doug Ross (George Clooney). It was exciting and fast-paced, but you still were able to get involved and invested in the human elements.

8. Frasier

Frasier was a spinoff of Cheers. Dr. Frasier Crane moved back to Seattle to be near his family, move in with his dad, and do a radio show. The two pompous sons and the beer swilling dad made for T.V. gold. Kelsey Grammar was brilliant, but John Mahoney as his father was even more so.

7. Cheers

Normmmmm.” That is all you need to say to know what show I am talking about. One word. Norm. Cheers was set in Boston and Ted Danson as the washed-up Red Sox pitcher now bar owner was a hit for many years. The cast was incredible and didn’t you love to escape to the place where everyone knew your name for thirty minutes every week?

6. Fresh Prince of Bel Air

“Now this is a story…” Oh, you know I can still rap the Fresh Prince of Bel Air’s theme song! Will Smith played an inner city youth in Philly when he got into a little trouble and his mama sent him to live with his relatives (His Auntie and Uncle) in Bel Air. Talk about culture shock. I’m sorry but the best thing ever was the Carleton dance. To Tom Jones of all singers.

C’mon. You know you can’t help but watch. Side note: My brother-in-law Paul can do this perfectly.

5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Okay. A little back story. I used to be terrified of vampires. My oldest brother Mike, when I was a little girl, jumped out from behind a tree on Halloween dressed as a vampire and pretended to suck my blood. My costume was a pretty white mini bride outfit complete with veil and it was traumatic. Anyway, I started having nightmares soon after. Fast forward to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I decided to watch and I was once again plunged into being scared beyond belief, but I persevered because I did really like the show. It was different and exciting.

The hysterical thing now is that I write about vampires and mythical creatures all the time, so thank you, Buffy!

Go to shannonbarczakbooks,com to check out my work.

Shameless plug. I know.

4. 90210

Don’t judge me. I loved 90210…up until they went to college and then it went downhill, but, oh, those first few seasons…

3. Friends

What can I say about Friends that hasn’t been said? You have to realize what this show meant, the impact it had, and how it defined an entire evening. What I mean by that is that we had six friends in their twenties living in NYC and somehow we all could relate to them. It was another show you became invested in and wanted to watch every week. It also brought about the term which was coined as the GenX generation… which I am a proud card carrying member.

Thursday nights, in the mid to late nineties was all about the NBC Thursday night lineup. You had Friends, then Mad About You, Seinfeld, Frasier and E.R. It was a powerhouse lineup and everyone stayed home to watch these shows. It was the most anticipated night on television back in the day.

2. The Sopranos

You woke up this morning, you got yourself a gun...” It is almost impossible to describe the greatness which was The Sopranos, especially the first few seasons. Tony Soprano was a bad guy. He was in the mob, cheated on his wife, killed people, and yet we still rooted for him. The added stroke of genius were the scenes of him seeking therapy. The supporting cast ( I mean, Big Pussy?!) were phenomenal. Edie Falco as Carmelo, Tony’s long-suffering wife…just amazing T.V. to witness.

I am not going to discuss the ending though. Uugghh. Just the worst final scene IMO.

Okay, now I am totally putting in the opening credits with the theme song.

1 Seinfeld

Seinfeld. It was a show about nothing. Just four friends, hanging out, getting into ridiculous situations, and living life. It was, and is, still one of the best shows to ever be on network T.V. The small supporting cast (Hello, Newman) also added to the brilliance. George’s parents, the Constanza’s, were the Jewish version of my Polish grandparents and I loved when they were on. I could go on and on, but I won’t because I don’t have to. The show was perfection.

Now I am going to reveal the best television mini-series of all time. Yes, you read that right. Pride & Prejudice is the number one miniseries ever created and it deserves to be. Putting aside the fact Pride & Prejudice is my favorite novel, with my favorite heroine, and my favorite male character, this is just damn good T.V. Not only was it adapted beautifully, it also stands the test of time. This is called the definitive version of one of the greatest novels and love stories ever written and I agree with that statement one hundred million percent. Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth embodied the characters to a T.

I am not even going to admit how many times I have watched this. To be honest, I’ve lost count.

Okay. I’ll stop now. I loved making this list and I hope it brought back some memories for you. I also hope it may inspire you to give these older T.V. shows a glance!

Up next will be my list for favorite 90’s bands and artists.

~MSR

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