I wrote a blog post about Friends a couple of weeks back. Afterward, a friend asked me if I thought that it was the most nineties-ish show in existence, the show that epitomised that decade like no other. I replied that it was possible, depending on a person's age when it started and how they related to it, but not for me: I was 13 years old when Friends came on the air, meaning I had very little in common with those characters. I just thought they were funny.
It got me thinking though: what TV shows come to mind when I think of the 1990s?
I think for any show to qualify as a uniquely nineties show it couldn't exist at any other time, whether due to fashion (our good friend Rob Van Winkle displays the high-end threads of the early nineties), production style (live audiences, multi-cameras, bad CGI, excessive slow motion, red swimsuits), or content ("tonight, on a very special episode of [insert sitcom name here]"). The downside is that this guideline rules out every great show of the era. E.R., Oz, The Larry Sanders Show, Twin Peaks and Seinfeld are five examples that still hold up nicely.
So, instead, here are nine shows that I consider of the nineties - nine shows that I believe simply could not exist in any other decade. They're not great shows, but they were huge at the time. And I probably couldn't sit through a single episode of a single one of them now. Post your typically nineties shows in the comments. Here's my list:
In many ways, Baywatch is the seminal 1990s show: shallow storylines handled earnestly by a cast of terrible actors who just look good. The theme tune is iconic. Stars like Pamela Anderson and Yasmine Bleeth (Joey and Chandler's obsession on Friends) made their name in the red swimsuit. Unfortunately it also tainted slow-motion beach running forever.
Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman (1993-1997)
I'll level with you: I enjoyed Lois & Clark at the time, though I'm certain most of that was to do with Teri Hatcher. But have you seen an episode recently? It has been completely ruined by the recent spate of gritty superhero reboots. As a result, it seems camp, like a pantomime version of a Justice League cartoon.
Beverly Hills, 90210 (1990-2000)
If you ask me, the most incredible thing about 90210 is that the cast have all moved on to relative obscurity, even though the show was arguably the biggest hit drama of the decade. They aren't in demand at all. Nobody is chasing Ian Ziering around, trying to get photos of him having lunch - which is kinda sad, because I bet that guy has some great advice on cheap eateries in the Los Angeles area.
Party Of Five (1994-2000)
I've written about Party Of Five before, here. Po5 was the best coming-of-age drama in the late-90s, pouncing on the mantle after 90210 started a downward spiral in the second half of its run. In a way, I guess the entire sub-genre to which it belongs couldn't exist now; viewers are way too savvy for one-dimensional stories like this.
Saved By The Bell (1989-1993)
I've written about Saved By The Bell before, too (here). As I wrote at the time, "whenever the subject of shows from our teen years comes up with friends, Saved By The Bell is generally the first show mentioned, or at least the first show anyone really gushes about, in a 'can you believe we used to watch that?!' kind of way."
All you need to know about Blossom creator Don Reo is that he also gave us the atrocious "comedy" My Wife & Kids (or, as I like to call it, black people being exploited for white laughs). Blossom did introduce the world to Mayim Bialik, making her famous enough to play Amy Farrah Fowler, the sole bright spot on Big Bang Theory. So, there's that.
Mrs Browns Boys (2011-present)
Okay, okay, it's only a year or so old. But it feels like it came from the 1990s, right? Mrs Browns Boys is just horrible. The recent season had me pining for a real 90s series, Father Ted. When your show is so bad that people start wishing for shows from two decades ago, you have a problem.
Full Frontal (1993-1997)
The Australian-made sketch comedy show was hilarious at times during its run, but it couldn't exist now. Sketch comedy, as a program format, is largely dead - aside from stalwarts like SNL, nobody is interested in watching a bunch of actors perform hit-or-miss comedy for an hour. Even if one of them is Eric Bana.
Fresh Prince Of Bel Air (1990-1996)
Fresh Prince is probably the most beloved show of the 1990s. If you don't believe me, fill the gaps in this sentence: "Now this is a story___ _____ ___ my life got flipped, ______ ______ ____." It's impossible NOT to. But it hasn't held up well; it is almost painful to watch now, and the entire premise seems like it came from another millennia. Oh wait, it did.
What do you think is the most typically 1990s television show? Do you remember/love any of the shows on my list?