From ‘Seinfeld’ To ‘Buffy’: 10 Shows To Thank the ’90s For

by | August 5, 2011 at 11:56 PM | TV News

Sarah Michelle Gellar as 'Buffy, the Vampire Slayer' (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Sarah Michelle Gellar as 'Buffy, the Vampire Slayer' (Photo: Warner Bros.)

Admit it. We all have some ‘90s souvenirs tucked away somewhere that we’re not particularly proud of. Maybe it’s the extra pounds that came back after getting bored with the Atkins’ Diet and downing some stuffed crust pizzas. It could be the debt you’re still carrying thanks to the money you sunk into Pets.com because you thought the dog puppet was “kind of cute.” Or it’s the Beanie Babies you tucked away in the closet as your retirement investment (they’re right next to your flannel shirts and Vanilla Ice CDs).

To be sure, there were some moments from the Lewinsky Decade that we’d just as soon forget. However, thanks to television, there are plenty of moments worth remembering as well. Nickelodeon certainly found that out last month when its’ TeenNick network decided to bring back several classic Nick series from the ‘90s. The block of shows, including “All That,” “Kenan & Kel,” “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Doug,” boosted ratings more than 100 percent for the evening.

With that in mind, here are 10 other ‘90s shows that were ahead of their time both then and even now.

Seinfeld

Not only was this perhaps the funniest sit-com in television history, it is also the series credited with (or blamed for) more ‘90s catchphrases than you could shake a Jay Leno monologue at. From “Yada yada yada” to “No soup for you!,” “Seinfeld” changed how we talk as much as it changed what we laughed at. Not that there’s anything wrong with that…..

Quantum Leap

There was plenty of TV sci fi before this series, and there’s been plenty afterward. However, there really hasn’t been a sci fi-themed show that’s been as happily low-tech as this one. Sure there was some sort of weird science about how Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula) leapt into the body of someone new every week, but other than the occasional chance to see him in a dress and heels, Leap wasn’t about the fantasy. It was about the sweet, touching tales the show told every week.

Sex and the City

For millions of women, it was easy to get distracted by, and go broke buying, the various shoes and outfits on display every week. However, the thing that made “Sex” so successful wasn’t the fashions. It was the friendships. Okay, so the bill for one of the brunches these four women had would be more than some of the show’s fans made in a month. Still, the way they related to each other (and the language they used to do it) made this an incredibly real look at female bonding.

The Simpsons

It came from the ‘90s, and lives on today. What more can be said? The characters are all icons. Bart, Lisa and Maggie still haven’t grown an inch. Homer still hasn’t managed to accidentally kill himself. Marge remains the only person upon whom blue hair looks pretty good. The show remains one of the most consistently funny everywhere, and deserves more credit than it gets for totally redefining what a family comedy can be like.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

There was a time when this was thought of as the show for boys who still live in mom’s basement. Cute girl (Sarah Michelle Gellar). Deadly vampires on the loose. Lots of fight scenes (some even involving cheerleaders). It all fit perfectly into the fanboy demo. However, as the show moved along, it’s humor and depth of character turned it into a classic network dramedy that you didn’t have to be 17 and a lifetime subscriber to Fangoria Magazine to appreciate.

Melrose Place

This spin-off of “Beverly Hills 90210” at first seemed to be just getting hand-me-down storylines from its elder TV sibling. However, Heather Locklear was hired. The hemline on her skirt went way up. The storylines started to involve little things like blowing up buildings. And “Melrose Place” turned into the guiltiest pleasure of the ‘90s…because after all, this show was about nothing but guilt and pleasure.

Thirtysomething

Hard as it is to believe, what with all the baby boomers now moving into AARP territory, but there was a time in the early ‘90s when turning 30 was considered a big deal. And this show took all the existential angst that age could bring, packaged it and held it up like a mirror to its audience. Where we saw a reflection that was partially comforting, because we didn’t feel alone, and scary, because we could find some grey hairs in there.

Mystery Science Theater 3000

Forget baseball, football and golf. America’s true number one spectator sport? Sitting on the couch, talking back to the TV. This series turned that into an art form. Every week, a regular Joe stranded on a very low-budget space ship (first Joel Hodgson, then Mike Nelson) was forced to watch bad movies with two sarcastic robot buddies. Their constant caustic commentary has often been imitated, but never been duplicated.

Ren & Stimpy

Whether we like to admit it or not, there’s a 13-year-old boy inside all of us just waiting for the occasional gross joke to cackle secretly about. It’s a bit tough to cater to that kid on a live-action show, but somehow it seem quite fun and acceptable with this legendary animated series about a manic Chihuahua and a dopey cat . It was every overly protective parent’s nightmare as it made the world safe for gags about cat litter, jars of spit and “magic nose goblins.”

Dream On

Without Martin Tupper (Brain Benben), you probably would never have met Ari Gold. Or Larry David. Or any of the other wild characters on pay cable comedies like “Entourage” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” He was the luckless lover who could never seem to get a relationship to last, and his ongoing sexual misadventures made it okay for sit-coms to push the envelope. Which was really more like a plain brown wrapper.