Right now, many people believe we are in the golden age of TV, but it started back in the ’90s! The ‘80s is noted as the decade that brought drastic change and experiments to the film medium. However, it was the ‘90s that actualized the growth and change that constitutes the art form of TV, especially as regards TV shows in this context!
It brilliantly brought about the early works of this golden decade of TV shows. The 1990s birthed a real cult hit series, a new decade of outstanding dramas, and an era of long running and vastly successful sitcoms! The decade also did well to birth series geared towards younger views with animated TV and teenage-focused soapy dramas, which all made sure to enthrall viewers. Some of which are still very much enjoyable and evergreen!
In this decade, TV shows enjoyed a lot of growth in all ramifications, as viewers may still feel their influence in all TV endeavors.
Let us get right in to see the top 10 best TV shows to have come from the ‘90s decade!
10. Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Starting this list as number 10 is Buffy The Vampire Slayer! This brilliant series tells the tale of Buffy Summers, as played by Sarah Michelle Gellar. She happens to be the latest in a line of young ladies known as ‘Vampire Slayers.’ Here, they are chosen by fate to war against forces of darkness that includes vampires and demons. Dear Buffy doesn’t want any of this as she wants a normal life, but as the series moves on, she gradually learns to accept her destiny. With time, she gets surrounded by a potent circle of friends known as the Scooby Gang.
This is unarguably one of the first teen-focused drama on TV that makes a pretty great impression of a very strong and bold female lead! She practically could handle anything, and it made the young folks of this era enjoy its thrills. This movie was able to blend horror and comedic elements in a harmonious way that made it outstanding! It has done well to win a couple of awards, particularly three Emmys, and has been nominated for several other awards, including Golden Globe awards. It will interest you to know that after the series had gone off air, a tribe event was done to honor Buffy The Vampire Slayer!
9. My So-Called Life (1994-1995)
For the number 9 spot, My So-Called Life comes up! This brilliant but short-lived TV show features a bastion of teen angst. Here, Angela is always in turmoil over her exposure to boys, drugs, friends, sex, and all the normal ’90s trappings. As the show proceeds, a lot unfolds, especially as it concerns Angela’s crush on Jordan Catalano.
My So-Called Life came into the spotlight of the ’90s with surprisingly mature content and critically adored. This series was in many ways similar to Freaks and Greeks, and it did very well to have a creative blend of the school television shows that came before it both in dramas and comedies. It was like many influential shows infused and molded-in it! My So-Called Life was able to bring out the secret and angst-filled live of teenagers to life. This movie has enjoyed critical appraisal for its great depiction of adolescence. It has received several major awards and nominations, with Danes willing the Golden Globe!
8. The X-Files (1993-2002)
The X-Files makes it to this list as number 8! It has a brilliant story that revolves around two FBI special agents, namely Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson, respectively). They investigate X-Files, which are unsolved cases that involve paranormal phenomena. They come to work with each other and trust each other. In the long run, many mouthwatering discoveries and secrets are unfolded in ways that push the plot of the series further in a very interesting fashion!
This brilliant TV show is rigged with elements of speculative fiction and suspense! It changed the pace of this genre, as it brought about a refreshing detectives-crime-solving spec! In no time, this TV show became a popular culture touchstone that explored conspiracy theories and spirituality. It is not surprising that both this TV show itself, as well as the lead actors, enjoyed several awards and nominations. It was the longest-running sci-fi series in the history of the United States Television, and no doubt was one of the major highlights of the ’90s decade.
7. Twin Peaks (1990-1991)
The 6th placed TV show on this list goes to Twin Peaks! It is a brilliant crime drama that creatively merges a good dose of the surreal. Here FBI Agent Dale Cooper gets to travel to the small town of Twin Peaks to figure out the murder of a seemingly innocent Laura Palmer. As the series proceeds, nothing is as it seems!
No one can deny the brilliant feel that comes with the eerie visuals, dreamlike sequences, and the oddball characters Twin Peaks brought to the ’90s TV show table. This is unarguably one of the most eccentric things ever to have successfully found its way onto network TV. Even without Twitter at the time, this show became an instant phenomenon. This was one TV show that dared to be surreal and confusing in a time where TV shows were not even more complicated than Full House. Although the show was short-lived, it did so well to take several nominations and notable awards, including the Brit Awards, Casting Society of America Awards, Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards, Golden Globe. Awards, Grammy Awards, Saturn Awards, and even TCA Awards!
6. The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
Making the number 5 spot on this list is The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air! This is a fantastic nurtured NBC sitcom that made the ’90s fun! It stars Will Smith, who more or less plays a fictionalized version of himself. He is a street-smart teenager that happens to have been born and raised in West Philadelphia. His fictional mom sends him to live with his wealthy uncle Phil and Aunt Vivian in the Bel-Air mansion after he gets into a fight in his neighborhood. Will often get loads of fun, but of course, his lifestyle gets to clash with that of his upper-class cousins and relatives.
This isn’t just any random sitcom. The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air notably explored topical and timely issues as well. It ran through racial profiling non-nuclear families, gun violence as well as reproductive rights! So, while entertaining its viewers with lots of heart and humor, it didn’t disappoint with important issues at the forefront of its message. Practically everyone in the ’90s was a fan of its opening theme song, as it was simply iconic! This show not only launched Will Smith’s career as a movie star but also made ‘The Carlton’ a popular culture phenomenon that is still very much entertaining to this very day!
5. ER (1994-2009)
The number 7 spot on this list goes to ER! This is arguably the greatest hospital drama of all time! The story is set in Chicago as it deals with the professional and personal crises of the doctors who are in the emergence room at County General Hospital. It delves into the exciting and mundane, as several interesting dilemmas bring about excruciating choices for all staff members!
First, this show is the second longest-running primetime medical drama ever to have graced U.S television history. It effectively launched George Clooney’s career, and it created a blueprint of the world of emergency room doctors and nurses who have actual personal stories while faced with work. Without a doubt, many will forever love this series. It has done well to have received a whopping amount of 124 Emmy nominations and netting 23 wins in the bag! It has won 116 awards in total and has been pretty much successful commercially as well. As of 2014, it has amassed over three billion dollars in television revenue! It is easily one of the best TV shows from the 1990s.
4. Frasier (1993-2004)
Sitting proudly as the third runner-up in this list is no other but Frasier! This was unarguably the best spin-off from the ’90s. In this series, Dr. Frasier Crane is a therapist that is very much successful. However, he moves to Seattle to settle to begin a new life. He has a radio talk show that he employs to dispense his wit and wisdom to as many that would listen. Even with this, he struggles with his down-to-earth Dad, a pretentious brother, and his friends and co-workers.
It’ll be pretty difficult for anyone to come up with a spin-off that is as witty and sarcastic as Frasier! This TV show is a textbook blueprint for making a spin-off work in many ways. It is safe to say that it surpassed its predecessor Cheers in so many ways. This show did well to have amasses a whopping 37 Primetime Emmy Awards! This was a record at that time for scripted series. It will interest you to know that it was the Outstanding Comedy Series category back to back for 5 consecutive years. It was so successful while it aired to the point that, in 2019, the network discussed the possibility of a revival!
3. The Simpsons (1989-present)
The Second Runner Up is no other but The Simpsons! This is one of the best TV shows in television history to have fully graced the ’90s decade! This animated TV sitcom runs through the antics of a more or less dysfunctional family. We’ve got Homer, who is the unhealthy beer loving father. There is Marge, who is the loveable and hardworking homemaker wife. Bart is the 10-year-old underachiever who is proud of it, and there is Lisa, the not-really-appreciated 8-year-old genius. And of course, there is Maggie, the adorable pacifier who is a loveable silent infant. All adding up to the Simpsons family!
To begin with, the joke density of The Simpsons in the ’90s decade was fantastic! All kinds of humor are present – from the ubiquitous, popular culture to self-parody, down to wordplay, slapsticks, and very silly iconic characters! In fact, what character would you say has been quoted since the ’90s more than Homer Simpson? Notably, the catchphrase ‘D’oh!’ as used by Homer, has been added to the English Language!
This is the longest-running US sitcom and the longest-running American primetime TV series ever. It runs to date and doesn’t seem like it’ll stop anytime soon. The Simpsons in the ’90s decade are generally considered to be its golden age. The Hollywood Chamber of Commerce awarded this TV show a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It has accrued dozens of awards for itself, including 34 Emmys and 34 Annie Awards, amongst several other awards and nominations. It has undoubtedly influenced several other adult-oriented animated sitcoms and can be easily acknowledged as the sharpest animated comedy on TV ever to have graced the ’90s decade!
2. Seinfeld (1989-1998)
Stand tall as the number 2 TV show on this list is no other but Seinfeld! This is one of the best sitcoms there ever was! This TV show simply starred Jerry Seinfeld as a fictionalized version of himself – the actual protagonist. All he did was wrestle with life’s most bewildering but trivial questions, along with his three eccentric friends George Costanza (Jason Alexander), Elaine Benes (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and Cosmo Kramer (Michael Richards).
This TV show is largely considered one of the greatest and most influential sitcoms to have graced the ’90s decade and considered one of the greatest sitcoms of all time! It is also regarded as one of the best-written TV series of all time and was at a point, named ‘Number one reason the ‘90s ruled’! Seinfeld was on another level as its pop-culture minutia was outshining typical sitcom conventions. It went ahead to have its stamp on the transformative effect on the cultural lexicon, popularly noted as the ‘Seinlanguage’! It is also responsible for several popular culture symbols like the puffy shirt, Festivus, and even the soup Nazi.
Long after the show ended, it was still making money for networks! It has done very well to be successful, amassing several nominations and awards, including winning 3 Golden Globes Awards, 10 Primetime Emmy Awards, 6 Screen Actors Guild Awards, 3 Directors Guild of America Awards, 4 Writers Guild of America Awards, 6 ASCAP Film & Television Awards, 4 People’s Choice Awards as well as winning an ACE Eddie Awards and British Comedy Awards!
1. Friends (1994-2004)
The first spot on this list goes to Friends! This brilliant show revolves around six reckless adults that live in Manhattan, New York City. They are in their mid-20s and 30s, and all they do is indulge in adventures that make their lives pretty troublesome. All these unfold in a series of interesting episodes!
First of all, how many TV shows can boast of all its seasons being amongst the top 10 of the final TV seasons rating, with it taking the number 1 spot in one of its seasons? Right! Friends did! This TV show has had a very long-lasting cultural impact, and with Netflix joining the party, lots of new fans worldwide keep pumping. It has a theme that remains evergreen, as there will always be the struggles of twenty-somethings that seek to find love and success in their lives.
The humor attached to it makes it even more lovable. Friends is a quintessential example that buttresses that sitcoms are not necessarily all about the storylines but are fundamentally about the characters! This TV show did well to house the best-defined characters that further accentuate the sitcom’s title. It no doubt did well to extend to the very ends of popular culture and remains beloved in the world of TV shows.
It has done well to win several awards, including the Primetime Emmy Award, American Comedy Award, GLAAD Media Award, Golden Globe Award, Logie Awards, People’s Choice Awards, Satellite Award, and also Screen Actors Guild Award!
Without a doubt, the ’90s is a quintessential decade that marked a significant growth in the history of TV shows, which spreads its influence and relevance till today. Every TV show listed above was outstanding in 1990, despite the influx of brilliant TV shows. They did well to not only input their footprints on the sand of time and become loved by many, but they also went ahead to greatly influence the standard of TV shows in subsequent decades!
Author: Chris Ingledue
Bio: I am the founder and owner of Wheeljack’s Lab pop Culture and Toy Shop. My vision has always been to reunite customers with their favorite childhood toys and pop culture, triggering fond memories, and reigniting their imaginations. Every day, I work in the “lab” where it’s Christmas 365 days a year. I scour the internet, like when we had the Sears Catalog of yesteryear, for the next great treasure. Then, I await the arrival of the postman as if he were Santa Claus himself and helping collectors worldwide with their own versions of Christmas. Every day as a vintage toy buyer is an absolute joy!