Top 10 TV Shows of the 90s

By Sari N. Kent,

We laughed (really hard sometimes) we rooted for certain couples while we hated others. In a time when the Internet was just starting out, many couldn’t wait for the next week’s episode of these iconic shows. Here are the Top 10 TV shows of my favorite decade, (probably because it’s the decade of my teen years, but anyway…) the 90s!

10. In Living Color – (1990-1994) The sketch comedy show created by brothers Damon and Keenan Ivory Wayans, this show had a predominantly African-American cast including fellow Wayans siblings, Kim, Shawn & Marlon, who all had recurring roles. In contrast to Saturday Night Live, whose cast was mostly Caucasian, In Living Color broke the boundaries of comedy and introduced the world to future big name stars like Jim Carrey (who could forget his crazy character, Fire Marshall Bill?), Jamie Foxx, who would go on to win an Academy Award in 2004 and David Alan Grier. The show also featured an all-woman’s dance troupe known as “The Fly Girls.” Actress/music superstar Jennifer Lopez and Dancing with the Stars judge Carrie Ann Inaba are both “Fly Girl” alum.

9. Charmed – (1998-2006) Charmed was about initially about three sisters, the Halliwells, Prue, played by Shannen Doherty, Phoebe, played by Alyssa Milano and Piper, played by Holly Marie Combs, who found out they were witches, more specifically “The Charmed Ones,” the powerful witches ever. At the end of season three, Prue was killed by a demonic assassin sent by “The Source.” (Doherty left the show or was fired, who knows?!) At the beginning of season four, Piper and Phoebe discovered they have a half-sister, Paige, played by Rose McGowan from their mother, Patty’s, played by Finola Hughes, affair with her whitelighter (former mortals who are now angels that act as guardian angels to good witches and future whitelighters.) In eight seasons, the girls battled demons, warlocks, “The Source of All Evil,” etc. and protected innocents from being targeted by these evil creatures, all while being incredibly stylish and funny. They also dealt with normal everyday issues such as job problems, relationship concerns, etc. In the final episode, fans saw that Piper, Paige and Phoebe all found love, had kids and remained true to their magical roots.

8. Beverly Hills, 90210 – (1990-2000) Teen angst at a Beverly Hills high school, this show filled with stories of a group of kids at the swank California high school was a phenomenon in the 90s. And, every teenage girl either loved the charismatic Brandon Walsh, played by Jason Priestly, or the oh so bad boy Dylan McKay, played by Luke Perry. Shannen Doherty makes another appearance of this countdown since she played bad girl Brenda Walsh, Brandon’s sister. She and Dylan had a tumultuous romance but he inevitably fell for her best friend, beautiful, blond Kelly Taylor, played by Jennie Garth. Brenda and Doherty left 90210 in its fourth season. Other main characters included the virginal Donna Martin, played by Tori Spelling, David Silver, played by Brian Austin Green, Donna’s boyfriend, who became Kelly’s brother through marriage when her mother married his father, Steve Sanders, played by Ian Ziering, who was a brash rich kid but who always there for his best buddy, Brandon, Andrea Zuckerman, played by Gabrielle Carteris, who was the kid most focused on school, she and Brandon were good friends but she had a huge crush on him, which he never realized. Other characters came and went over the years, but loyal fans of the show will never forget the original gang.

7. Melrose Place – (1992-1999) What DIDN’T happen at this posh apartment complex in West Hollywood, California? I mean, it even blew up! And more than 10 million viewers watched the finale. The premiere featured eight characters: Dr. Michael Mancini, played by Thomas Calabro, who was the only actor to stay on the show for its entire run, Michael was doctor who worked at Wilshire Memorial Hospital and was a kind, loyal husband who then morphed into a manipulative, cheating villain, his wife, Jane Mancini, played by Josie Bissett, was a budding fashion designer, Billy Campbell, played by Andrew Shue, was a struggling writer trying to adapt from life away from his parents, Alison Parker, played by Courtney Thorne-Smith, was a receptionist at D&D Advertising, Jake Hansen, played by Grant Show, was a struggling manual laborer and bad-boy biker, Matt Fielding, played by Doug Savant, was a gay social worker, Rhoda Blair, played by Vanessa A. Williams, was an aerobics instructor and Sandy Harling, played by Amy Locane, was a Southern belle and struggling actress who moonlighted as a waitress at a bar called Shooters, the group's hangout. Locane’s character didn’t make it into the second season and Williams also wasn’t brought back for the second season, explained by her character's engagement to a wealthy restaurant entrepreneur. Locane’s character was replaced by Jo Williams, played by Daphne Zuniga, who was a struggling photographer on the run from her abusive husband. Heather Locklear’s character, Amanda Woodward, Alison’s merciless boss, became a series regular the second season after guest starring during the first season. But, undoubtedly, the show’s craziest character was hands down, Dr. Kimberly Shaw, played by Marcia Cross, who had an on-again, off-again romance with Michael that caused her to go insane and blow up the apartment complex with everyone still inside. There isn’t a fan that doesn’t remember the episode when Kimberly removed her wig and revealed a heinous scar on her head, confirming that she was still as nutty as ever. That was good television.

5. The Nanny – (1993-1999) Previously unknown comedienne Fran Drescher burst onto to the television scene in the early 90s in The Nanny, a sitcom about a Jewish young woman named Fran Fine, who becomes the nanny to a widowed New York Broadway producer’s three children. Charles Shaughnessy played Maxwell Sheffield, the widowed Broadway producer who hired Fran, a then door-by-door cosmetics girl following her being fired by her job at her ex-fiance’s bridal shop. Drescher and Shaughnessy’s romantic chemistry was undeniable from the start as their characters danced around their feelings for one another while the three kids, Maggie, played by Nicholle Tom, Brighton, played by Benjamin Salisbury and Grace, played by Madeline Zima, tried to push together. Daniel Davis played the quip-happy butler Niles and Lauren Lane played C.C. Babcock, Sheffield’s business partner, who had an unrequited crush on him. Other supporting characters were Fran’s nosy mother Sylvia, played by Renee Taylor, Fran’s grandmother Yetta, played by Ann Morgan Guilbert and Fran’s dim yet sweet best friend Val Toriello, played by Rachel Chagall. The physical comedy Drescher exhibited brought about many hilarious moments that channeled acclaimed funny woman Lucille Ball as fans waited with bated breath to see if Fran and Max would ever get together. In the end, fans got their wish as Fran and Maxwell got married, had twins of their own, Maggie married a Jewish underwear model, Brighton went backpacking in Europe and Grace stayed with Maxwell and Fran as they prepared to move to California for Maxwell to produce television and Niles and C.C. realized their animosity toward each other just masked their attraction to each other so they also married and ended the show with C.C. finding out quite unexpectedly that she too was pregnant! Oh Vey!!

4. Forever Knight – (1992-1996) A show about an 800-year-old vampire with a soul working as a cop in Toronto to pay penance for his sins, this show was way before its time and would probably still be on the air if the current vampire/Twillight craze had hit pop culture a few years earlier. Anyway, Nicolas Knight, played by Geraint Wyn Davies, was an 800-year-old vampire working as a police detective in modern day Toronto. Wracked with guilt for centuries of killing others, he saught redemption by working as a homicide detective on the night shift while struggling to find a way to become human again. He befriended a city medical examiner, Natalie Lambert, played by Catherine Disher, who tried to help Nick regain his mortality while they danced around their burning desire for each other. Deborah Duchene played Janette du Charme, a former vampire lover of Nicolas’ who followed Nick to Toronto to try to lure him back to a life of killing and to her, Nigel Bennett played Lucien LaCroix, the vampire who bit Nick and made him a vampire. LaCroix also followed Nick to Toronto tormenting him with memories of the years they preyed on innocents and never ceased in his quest to lure him back to the dark side. Nick went through two partners during the series, the comical Detective Don Schanke, played by John Kapelos, who was murdered at the end of season two never learning Nick’s true identity (thought he suspected) then Detective Tracy Vetter, played by Lisa Ryder, became Nick’s partner, but she was accidentally killed when a bullet went through Nick and hit her. The show regrettably only lasted three seasons culminating with Natalie begging Nick to make her a vampire so they could be together but he took too much and with Natalie lying on the floor possibly dead, LaCroix came to Nicolas, who asked him to kill him because he didn’t want to live without Natalie. The series’ final scene was of LaCroix holding a stake above Nicolas looking ready to end his torment but as LaCroix screamed “Damn you, Nicolas!” the shot went to the sun going down behind Nick’s loft building. So did LaCroix kill Nicolas? Was Natalie really dead? Their fates were left to loyal viewers imaginations. Though there is still plenty of online fan fiction from loyal fans about what could have happened had the show not been unceremoniously cancelled. Personally, I think LaCroix stabbed himself which showed his love for Nick thus giving Nick back his mortality and Natalie woke up though in desperate need of a blood transfusion.

3. Caroline in the City – (1995-1999) Lea Thompson played Caroline Duffy, a cartoonist living in a Manhattan loft. She drew the successful cartoon strip Caroline in the City. Other characters included Del Cassidy, played by Eric Lutes, was Caroline's sometimes boyfriend. They were engaged to be married during the first season, but broke it off in the season finale, Richard Karinsky, played by Malcolm Gets, was the colorist for the Caroline in the City comic strip. He was also a struggling artist. He was extremely sarcastic and ended up falling for Caroline, though his ex-Italian girlfriend stopped them from getting together once Caroline realized she had also fallen for Richard, Annie Spadaro, played by Amy Pietz, she was Caroline's across the hall neighbor and best friend. She was somewhat promiscuous and this made her a constant target for Richard's wisecracks. Toward the end of the series, Richard and Caroline did start dating but the show was cancelled and ended on a cliffhanger. Richard and Caroline broke up over Richard not wanting to have children but as Caroline was about to marry another man, Randy, played by Anthony Tyler Quinn, Richard discovered that he had fathered a child with his Italian ex-wife, Julia, played by Sofia Milos, and was shown showing up at Caroline and Randy’s wedding with baby in hand. Since the show was canceled after that episode aired, the cliffhanger was never resolved but I’d like to think Caroline channeled The Graduate, left Randy at the altar and ran off with Richard (and baby) on a bus.

2. Mad About You – (1992-1999) This hilarious sitcom starred Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt. Raiser played Paul Buchman, a documentary film maker and Hunt played Jamie Buchman (Stemple,) a PR specialist. The show followed the newly married couple while they dealt with everything from humorous daily workings to major struggles while living in New York. Reiser’s offbeat humor and Hunt’s quick-wit made for some very quirky unforgettable moments. Paul and Jamie met at a New York newsstand by her stealing his copy of The New York Times with an implausible excuse. Immediately smitten, Paul tracked Jamie at her workplace after she dropped her dry cleaning receipt that showed her last name was “Stemple,” which Paul thought was “cute,” and the rest was history. Other characters included Murray, the Buchman’s thick-skulled border collie mix dog, Ira Buchman, played by John Pankow, he was Paul’s cousin and helped run the family business, Buchman’s Sporting Goods. He was very close with Paul and Jamie and he and Paul were more like brothers than cousins, Fran Devanow, played by Leila Kenzle, she was Jamie’s best friend and worked with Jamie at her PR firm until she quit to spend more time with her husband, Mark, and their young son, Dr. Mark Debanow, played by Richard Kind, was an obstetrician and Fran’s husband but later became her ex-husband when he left Fran and their son because he felt smothered and wanted to see the world. He eventually returned to New York and was able to win Fran back, Lisa Stemple, played by Anne Ramsay, was Jamie’s older sister, who had profound psychological issues, which brought about many humorous antics. But, she cared for Jamie and Paul deeply even though her therapist told Lisa that many of her issues stemmed from Jamie’s overprotectiveness of her when they were children, Sylvia Buchman, played by Cynthia Harris, was Paul’s mother, who almost always gave Jamie a hard time but occasionally showed kindness. Her off-putting remarks toward Jamie made for some entertaining moments on the show, Burt Buchman, played by Louis Zorich, was Paul’s sweet father. He ran Buchman’s Sporting Goods until he retired and turned it over to Ira. His signature line whenever he would visit Paul and Jamie’s apartment was, “"It's me, Burt! Burt Buchman, your father!", Debbie Buchman, played by Robin Bartlett, was Paul’s endearing sister, who shocked everyone when she revealed she was gay, Dr. Joan Golfinos, played by Suzie Plakson, was Debbie’s life partner and Jamie’s obstetrician when she finally got pregnant and Mabel Buchman, played in the series finale by Janeane Garofalo, was Jamie and Paul’s daughter. Paul and Jamie named her Mabel after Jamie’s overbearing mother exclaimed, “Mothers Always Bring Extra Love.” Her arrival was a turning point in the Buchman’s marriage since they tried so long to conceive. The show’s series finale titled The Final Frontier like the show’s theme song, which Reiser co-wrote, was a flash-forward about 22 years in the future. Fans learned that a now grown up Mabel had become a filmmaker like her father, and was making an autobiography about her and her family. Mabel explained, through dialogue and clips, that the Buchman's discovered they weren’t officially married because the minister who had married them wasn’t ordained. Eventually they got officially "re-married" so as to have the same anniversary date. During the course of the biopic, Mabel explained that she turned out to be who she was because she had “neurotic parents” and that Paul and Jamie had separated. But, in the end, during a showing of Mabel's film Stabbing Bob, the rest of the family, including Debbie, Joan and Ira, conspired to have Paul and Jamie sit together. They then discovered the spark between them was still there and they got back together. At the end, Mabel, holding back tears of joy and sadness, gave a description of what happened to each character, even the regular supporting cast members and ended with saying that Paul and Jamie lived "happily ever after.” I still cry whenever I watch it my DVD. *sniff*

1. Friends – (1994-2004) The sitcom to end all sitcoms!! After 10 successful seasons, the final episode was watched by more than 50 million American viewers, making it the fourth most watched series finale in television and the most watched episode of the decade. The show’s iconic characters includes Monica Geller, played by Courteney Cox, who was a chef, known for being bossy, a perfectionist and very competitive. The fact that she was overweight as a kid was an often mentioned joke on the show, Rachel Green, played by Jennifer Aniston, was Monica’s best friend in high school and tracked her down after running out on her wedding. Phoebe Buffay, played by Lisa Kudrow, was an eccentric masseuse and self-taught musician. She was naïve but street smart and endearing unlike her evil twin sister, Ursula. Joey Tribianni, played by Matt LeBlanc, was a struggling actor, a simple-minded womanizer, who despite his womanizing tendencies was an innocent and caring character with good intentions and became famous for his role on Days of our Lives as Dr. Drake Ramoray, he was also roommates with Chandler though a good portion of the show, Chandler Bing, played by Matthew Perry, was an executive in statistical analysis and data reconfiguration for a large multi-national corporation but later quit and became a copywriter for an advertising agency. His unusual parents, his erotic romance novelist mother and his cross-dressing Las Vegas star father were the subject of many a joke and Ross Geller, played by David Schwimmer, was a Monica’s older brother, a paleontologist working at the Museum of Natural History and later a professor of paleontology at New York University. He was also Chandler’s roommate in college. Ross and Rachel’s on-again, off-again romance hooked fans and the episode where they had their first kiss was one of the most talked about episodes at the time (at least at my high school...) and by the time the show ended, they had a daughter named Emma and finally admitted that they truly loved each other. Phoebe ended up marrying Mike Hannigan, played by Paul Rudd and Monica and Chandler got married and adopted twins. They made us laugh, cry and sometimes scratch our heads at their humor (i.e. Phoebe’s song Smelly Cat and Joey’s oft-repeated catchphrase/pick-up line “How you doin'?" but almost everyone has a favorite episode(s) and a character they could relate to. It was a show about true friends and my favorite 90s show of all-time!

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