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Think of 90s TV shows and Friends, Seinfeld, and The Simpsons are the first that leap to mind. But what were we doing for the rest of the week? 

Those nights when Clooney wasn’t charming us on ER or we weren’t obsessing over the whole Ross/Rachel on-a-break thing. 

Let’s take a trip in the way-back machine and visit some of our TV friends who (somewhat more) entertained us. The new and improved names may help jog your memory.

Ally (I Kissed Three Girls) McBeal 1997-2002

The Ally McBeal cast, including Calista Flockhart and Lucy Liu, at the 51st Annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles where the show won the Best Comedy Series Award. Photo by Paul Smith / Featureflash.
The cast of Ally McBeal at the 51st Annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles where the show won the Best Comedy Series Award. Photo by Paul Smith / Featureflash.

Ally McBeal (Calista Flockhart) is a quirky lawyer with a quirky imagination and a quirky smile to match. In the '90s comedy series, McBeal is surrounded by a supporting cast of quirky characters with whom she stumbles through life and love via senseless plots and entertaining fantasy sequences. 

Is she queer? Nope. But that doesn’t stop her from locking lips with three of her supporting characters. Most notably with the kick-ass and breakout star, Lucy Liu. Guess that quirky mouth was hard to resist.

Buy Ally McBeal: The Complete Series

(Pity) Party of Five 1994-2000

Party of Five begins with the five Salinger siblings coping with life after their parents are killed in a car accident. And then the hits keep coming. Cancer, alcoholism, teen pregnancy, abortion and domestic abuse to name a few. 

Matthew Fox, who plays big brother Charlie, looked happier when he was running from the smoke monster on Lost. Still, this relentless teen drama won a Golden Globe and had an appealing cast including Neve Campbell, Scott Wolf, Lacey Chabert, and Jennifer Love Hewitt. 

Addicted to drama? You have six seasons to wallow in it. Plus, a soon to be released reboot. Party on!

Buy Party of Five - The Complete Series

The Real World (Is Over as We Know It) 1992-present

This show is still on the air? Who knew? 

Amid the unending stream of reality shows that have come out since it’s easy to forget about one of the originals. MTV points a camera at a bunch of crazy, irresponsible youngsters, and (boom!) a new television phenomenon spawned. 

Watch out actors and writers, here come the quasi, undeserving celebrities. Did it signal the absolute downfall of society as we knew it? Maybe. But it was the ultimate guilty pleasure in its time. 

Watch The Real World on Amazon Prime Video

Twin (Freaky-Deaky) Peaks 1990-1991

Twin Peaks was weird, dark TV long before the current host of dark, weird programming ever hit the small screen. A David Lynch horror/mystery drama centered around the unsolved murder of a homecoming queen.

Soon, FBI agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) arrives on the scene to find himself wrapped up in a tangled conspiracy along with a bunch of small-town eccentrics, a backward speaking dwarf and cherry pie. Lots of cherry pie. 

Twisted and bizarrely entertaining, it only lasted a season and a half. Which left some people craving more. Or at least craving more pie. 

Buy Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition

Moesha (Has a Lot of Famous Musician Friends) 1996-2001

Moesha (R&B singer Brandy) featured a young African American female lead which was considered a breakthrough at the time. The show centered around Moesha’s home and school life and was studded with famous drop-ins by the likes of Usher, Snoop Dog, and Dr. Dre. Most strangely of all, even Brandy playing herself as Brandy in a dual role. 

For your average high school girl, Moesha sure had quite a posse. 

Buy Moesha Season 1 or watch Moesha on Sling

Ellen (I’m Coming Out. I want the World to Know…) 1994-1998

Before she became the popular talk show host she is today, Ellen DeGeneres had her own sitcom. Ellen was yet another in the genre of quirky main character surrounded by a group of quirky friends muddling their way through life. 

Until she came out on national television that is.

It was an event that generated both protests and awards for the show. It also led to a serious career lull for Ellen when all the hoopla died down. Fortunately, she came back stronger than ever and is doing a happy dance on TV to this day.  

Watch Ellen (Seasons 1-5) on Amazon Prime Video

Clueless (Was a Much Better Movie)1996-1999

This spinoff of the Alicia Silverstone movie follows Cher (played by Rachel Blanchard) through her continued adventures. Or at least as adventurous as it gets in Beverly Hills. Many of the original cast members returned to reprise their roles as the privileged and clueless teens, and it had mild success. 

Still, it’s hard not to miss Alicia. And the original script based on a Jane Austen novel. Which I’m sure none of these teenagers would ever read. 

Real literature? As if!

Watch Clueless on TV Guide

Just Shoot Me (With Your Sarcastic Barbs) 1997-2003

Starring David Spade and his sardonic quips, this funny ensemble show portrayed the behind the scenes staff of a major fashion magazine. It was so popular at the time that it got the slot between Friends and Frasier. And yet it goes unremembered. 

This goes to prove that in fashion shows one day you’re in, six seasons later you’re out.  

Buy Just Shoot Me!: The Complete Series

Felicity (The Future Russian Spy Who Cut Her Hair) 1998-2002

This teen drama featured long, wavy-haired Keri Russell as Felicity. It’s about going to college, growing up and getting involved in the inevitable love triangle. 

Popular at first, the series plummeted in the ratings when Felicity cut her hair off. But later she grew it back, saved the show and won a Golden Globe. Crisis averted! 

Many years later, Russell graduated to The Americans as a cold-blooded Russian spy with a long list of corpses to her credit. So long innocent college years.

Buy Felicity - Complete Series

Blossom (A Very Special Girl with Many Special Episodes) 1991-1995

Blossom (played by Mayim Bialik) is the story of a teenage geek way before geek went chic.  She lives with her dad and brothers and faces life with a lot of pluck and her famous floppy hat. It was a comedy but featured many of those “very special” episodes that were popular in the era. Like when she gets her period. 

Next episode, please. Later, Mayim Bialik took nerd to a whole new level in the popular comedy The Big Bang Theory. No void in this Dork’s career.

Buy Blossom: Seasons 1 & 2

In Living Color (Except for a Couple of Dudes) 1990-1994

This sketch comedy show, created by the Wayans brothers, featured mainly African American comics with a few exceptions. A young Jim Carrey is one of them.

There was plenty of other talent and laughs on the show, which was also featured the then-unknown J-Lo as a member of the dance troupe. From fly girl to singer/actress/world’s most famous booty. Now that’s a show with a legacy.

Buy In Living Color - Seasons 1-5

Beavis and Butt-head (Cartoon Portrait of Reality) 1993-1997

Before South Park was pushing the boundaries of what cartoons could get away with, there was Beavis and Butt-head. A pair of animated morons whose passions include watching TV, fart jokes and metal bands. 

Goals in life? Zero. Empathy? None. Funny cartoon or chilling portrait of American youth? I guess you can be both.

Buy Beavis & Butt-Head: The Complete Collection

Two Guys (That Got Famous) and a Girl (I Can’t Remember) 1998-2001

Before Ryan Reynolds shot to major stardom, he was honing his comic timing in this sitcom about two friends and their pizza place. His BFF, played by Nathan Fillion, who also went on to have a major career. 

Originally named Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place, it eventually lost the pizza place, its time slot and was finally canceled altogether. Guess that’s what happens when you can’t deliver good pizza comedy in 30 minutes or less.

Buy Two Guys And A Girl: The Complete Series

Xena: (Sexually Ambiguous) Warrior Princess 1995-2001

Xena was actually a spinoff of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. It featured the badass Lucy Lawless and inspired many sexy Halloween outfits. 

The ambiguous relationship between Xena and her sidekick Gabrielle (Renee O’Connor), made it popular in the gay community. Whichever way you want to interpret their relationship. There’s no denying Xena is chock full of campy entertainment and loads of girl power. 

Rock on warrior princesses.

Buy Xena: Warrior Princess - The Complete Series

Family Matters (But Not as Much as Urkel) 1989-1998

No, the show was not called Urkel. But it should have been. He was only intended to play a nerd on one episode, but the breakout character of Steve Urkel became so popular. He and his famous suspenders soon took over the whole show. 

What was the rest of the family like? Can’t really remember. But like him or not, Urkel was an icon in his day. Word to the nerd.

Watch Family Matters on Hulu or Amazon Prime Video

The Drew (Chubby Dude with the Glasses) Carey Show 1995-2004

He’s an average, likable guy on an average, likable show. That somehow lasted 9 years. Surrounded by kooky friends, Drew stumbles and bumbles his way through life and dating. And finally ends up with a woman that’s completely out of his league. 

Guess that shows you how far an everyman can get if he sticks around long enough.

Buy The Drew Carey Show: Season 1

Freaks and Geeks (Launchpad to Major Stardom) 1999-2000

It only lasted 18 episodes and yet it launched the careers of James Franco, Jason Segel, Seth Rogan and Linda Cardellini. 

A scathing portrait of high school, its painfully awkward and all too human characters struggle to make it through the day. Which may be why it didn’t make it to a second season. Good-bye bad high school memories. Major freaking stardom here we come! 

Buy Freaks and Geeks: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]

My (Very Brief) So Called Life 1994-1995

Starring Claire Danes, this show broke the mold of typical teen comedies and dramas. By painting a gritty portrait of high school and the refusal to tie up storylines in a neat little bow.

Adored by the critics and canceled within a year. As it turned out, Claire moved on to other things. Like saving the world from terrorists without her meds. Onward and upward!

Buy My So-Called Life: Complete Series

The (Braying) Nanny 1993-1999

After being dumped by her boyfriend and fired from her job, far from refined Fran Drescher ends up as the nanny to the three children of a rich English widower. 

It’s a classic tale of opposites attract. And of an obnoxious signature laugh, you can’t get out of your head.

Buy The Nanny: The Complete Series

The Secret (Mutant) World of Alex Mack 1994-1998

Alex is a typical kid walking to school when she nearly gets hit by a truck and drenched with a top-secret chemical. It endows her with powers like shooting electricity from her fingers and the ability to turn into a puddle of water. 

Unlike today’s crop of mutant teens, she is not being chased by the FBI or hunted by criminals that want to use her power for evil instead of good. Though she does keep her powers a secret in fear of the chemical plant CEO. Still, it’s not like being threatened with dissection. Ah, the good old days.  

Buy The Secret World of Alex Mack - Complete Series

Mad About You (Really, Really Endless Love) 1992 -1999

In Mad About You, a perfectly likable couple played by a couple of perfectly likable actors (Helen Hunt and Paul Reiser) explore their relationship over seven seasons of extremely mild comedy. 

Not exactly a thrill a minute. But Helen Hunt did win a bunch of Emmys. Hey, remember that episode where she…hmmm, can’t think of one. 

Buy Mad About You - The Complete Series

3rd Rock from the Sun (Non-threatening Aliens Fail to Take Over the Earth) 1996-2001

They did not come to eat our brains or mine our natural resources. Nope, this lovable group of aliens from 3rd Rock from the Sun wanted to blend in and study us. 

The cast was lead by John Lithgow as Commander Dick Solomon and delivered consistent laughs with goofball comedy. The supporting actors included Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Tommy and William Shatner as the Big Giant Head. 

Which may have been based on his real-life persona, the Big Giant Ego. 

Welcome to earth, Aliens!

Buy 3rd Rock from the Sun: The Complete Series

Northern Exposure (Where Carrie Bradshaw’s Boyfriend Plays a DJ in Alaska) 1990-1995

In Northern Exposure, a New York City Jewish doctor moves to a small town in Alaska. And so the culture clash begins. As he struggles to adjust to his new life, Joel (Rob Morrow) finds himself at odds with the town’s quirky locals and attracted to bush pilot Maggie O’Connell despite their frequent clashes. 

The show is charming, eccentric and filled with intelligent literary references. It also launched the career of John Corbett as the thoughtful, ultra-cool DJ, Chris Stevens. Leading one to wonder, where would Carrie’s future ex-fiancée be without it?

Buy Northern Exposure: The Complete Series

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Nov 7, 2019
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