Has anyone officially dubbed the '90s the Golden Era of Family Television? I’m thinking we should do that. Perhaps I’ll get started with a petition or strongly worded letter of some kind. Just think about it: TV in the '90s was less about reality and more about youngsters learning valuable life lessons while wearing colorful sweaters and side ponytails. It's no wonder that Millennials have strong opinions about the best '90s sitcoms. Every episode of every show presented a seemingly insurmountable problem or a slew of comical hijinks that often ended with the colorfully clad characters squeaking through and nuzzling into a free-frame group hug that fades to black. And the laugh tracks! Would we have even known we were supposed to laugh if the canned studio audience didn’t cue it for us? Entertainment at its best, I tell you.
As a kid, I spent many Friday nights falling asleep to TGIF, and many sick days at home watching reruns (or Jerry Springer, when my dad wasn’t looking. But that’s a different story for a different day). Though they were cheesy, though they were formulaic and simplistic, they were consistent. They were comfortable. They were safe. And, let’s be honest, they were mildly amusing. Once my little boy is old enough, I fully intend on introducing him to my favorites so he can appreciate the good ol’ days with his mom, in between my tales of corded phones, Doc Marten shoes, and hypercolor t-shirts. Here’s a few that are on my list to share with him:
'Saved By The Bell' (1989-1993)
Before T Swift popularized the concept of a Squad, we had Kelly, Lisa, and Jessie (and Tori for a while, but that never made much sense to me). And, like many a '90s tween, I idolized Kelly until (spoiler alert!) she cheated on Zack. Like, WHAT? Still, her actions were indirectly responsible for this beautiful duet between Slater and Jessie so I can't hate.
'Full House' (1987-1995)
I could not get enough of this show in second grade. That said, I have mixed emotions about the reboot, and I've yet to determine if I'm going to watch. Some things, like formal dance photos, glittery eye gel, and Crystal Pepsi are best left in the past, and I think it's a little too early to tell if the Tanner household is one of them.
'Family Matters' (1989-1998)
We all learned an important lesson when Steve Urkel became Stefan Urquelle. We also gained a new appreciation for Jaleel White’s range as a comedic actor.
'Golden Girls' (1985-1992)
I didn’t get most of the jokes as a kid, but I still think this show deserves all the shout-outs because I really, really like the idea of an old lady friend squad.
Team John Goodman, always and forever.
'The Wonder Years' (1988-1993)
OK, I feel so strongly about this show’s brilliance. If I’m ever in a televised debate, I’d like it to be about how The Wonder Years is the most amazing coming-of-age/family drama/comedy ever. EVER.
'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air' (1990-1996)
If a TV show theme song could define an entire generation… Wait, it totally did.
I can barely even think about this show without sighing contentedly. It’s one of the main reasons I kept forcing myself to try coffee, then try it again, then put caramel in it, until I could finally say that I liked it enough to drink it regularly out of over-sized mugs, in overstuffed couches, with my slender, attractive pals with conveniently comfortable apartments (despite their questionable job histories).
Is this one as beloved by audiences outside of the Pacific Northwest, or is it just us? Isn’t everyone interested in cheeky monologues from snobby, privileged white guys with made-up problems?
'Home Improvement' (1991-1999)
I started fan letters to Jonathan Taylor Thomas that I never finished and never sent. I couldn’t get up the nerve. I’m not sure what exactly I thought would happen, but all I knew is that my pre-pubescent self would not be able to handle it.
'Murphy Brown' (1988-1998)
Murphy is our #LeanIn O.G.
'Boy Meets World' (1993-2000)
At the time, I didn't fully appreciation how Topanga had her own thing going, kind of like a squib version of Luna Lovegood. I'm also glad to see that this show existed before join name monikers were a thing, because there is really no way to make Corpanga or Topory work, in my opinion.
'Sabrina, The Teenage Witch' (1996-2003)
The only thing more amazing than Salem the Cat were her two amazing aunts. Seriously.
She gave me the courage to wear hats with giant flowers sewn onto the brims, and to befriend girls named after numbers.
'3rd Rock from The Sun' (1996-2001)
Never forget that this was our introduction to Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Never forget.
'Doogie Howser, M.D.' (1989-1993)
OK. It’s a little far-fetched. I know we all enjoyed it because we could suspend our disbelief a bit, but come on: How many teenage boys actually keep a diary with that kind of consistency?
'Sister, Sister' (1994-1999)
An answer to our prayers for The Parent Trap to last six seasons long and feature the Mowry twins.