Rachel. Ross. Chandler. Monica. Joey. Phoebe. How many series can say that all of their main characters are instantly recognizable by their first name alone? Few series have had the long-lasting cultural impact that Friends has had. Its second life as a result of platforms like Netflix has resulted in thousands – if not millions – of new fans the world over, and its popularity doesn’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.
The struggles of these twenty-somethings finding love and success in New York City may not be as relatable for today’s much more diverse audiences, but the overall themes of trying to make it in the real world remain as grounded in reality as ever. The humor still hits the mark after all these years, and the romances are just as much worth rooting for as ever.
It’s not often that a spinoff series is better than the series that preceded it, but it’s not hard at all to make the case that the 1993-2004 series Frasier surpasses its predecessor, Cheers, in every way. Chronicling the life of unlucky in love and lovably conceited radio therapist Dr. Frasier Crane, the series takes a character who was already enjoyable among one group of characters and finds an even better one for him to coexist with.
Surrounded by winning characters like his adorably neurotic brother, Niles; his down to earth father, Martin; his partner in broadcasting, Roz; and Martin’s caregiver and Niles’ true love, Daphne, Frasier is finally allowed to grow and change as a character in ways that Cheers never really let him. Plus, the writing is just better, faster, and wittier overall than the broader humor of Cheers.
For a series often known as “the show about nothing,” Seinfeld sure did have plenty to say in its lengthy run. Airing from 1989 to 1998, Seinfeld chronicled the everyday lives of a foursome of truly misanthropic friends: stand up comedian Jerry Seinfeld, lovable (and loathsome) loser George Costanza, free-willed and feisty Elaine Benes, and perennially unemployed Cosmo Kramer.
The series is forever responsible for the creation of countless pop culture symbols (the puffy shirt, the soup Nazi, Festivus), but it will also forever be associated with many that had come before it as well (Gortex coats, Pez dispensers, Kenny Rogers Roasters). So long as we ignore the awful series finale, Seinfeld remains one of the best sitcoms there ever was.
4. The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
Now, this is a story all about how, the sitcom genre got flipped, turned upside down. The 1990s found the form of the sitcom finally embracing the young African American voices that had long been ignored. One of the series to do this most successfully was the 1990-1996 NBC series The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
The series, which of course starred the Fresh Prince himself, Will Smith, was never afraid to get topical and timely in the issues it explored. With episodes concerning racial profiling, gun violence, non-nuclear families, and reproductive rights, Fresh Prince managed to always keep important issues at the front of its message, all while packing in plenty of heart and humor, too.
5. Twin Peaks
Few 1990s series were as different, as experimental, and as downright weird as the short-lived cult classic, Twin Peaks. The series followed the lovably quirky Special Agent Dale Cooper as he investigated the murder of a small town homecoming queen. But what made the story so truly bizarre was that this wasn’t just any small town, but Twin Peaks, Washington, a town filled with so many bizarre, otherworldly characters that it would be impossible to succinctly summarize them in any way.
With Mark Frost and David Lynch’s bizarre scripts and so many quirky characters that it was more unlikely to meet someone strictly “normal,” the series soon became a cult favorite, amassing considerable viewership numbers in its first season, before fizzling out in its lackluster second season. But as with many cult hits, a film, and an eventual revival in 2017 followed.
6. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Long before there were Team Edward and Team Jacob, or Team Damon and Team Stefan, there were Team Spike and Team Angel. And before the series was briefly relegated to being a love triangle and nothing more, there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, one of the first teen-focused dramas on television to feature a truly strong, badass female lead.
Vampires? Demons? Miscellaneous otherworldly creatures? There was nothing that teenage vampire slayer Buffy Summers couldn’t handle, all without barely a hair out of place, and all while attending Sunnydale High School along with her devoted sidekicks, fondly known as the “Scooby Gang.”
7. Boy Meets World
Coming of age stories became a real hallmark of sitcoms around the turn of the 1980s and 1990s, and few of them were as well-executed as Boy Meets World. Running from 1993 to 2000, the series followed the lovable everyboy and total nerd Cory Matthews as he navigated the confusing world of adolescence and young adulthood.
Along for the ride were scene stealers like Cory’s hilariously dim-witted older brother, Eric; his bad boy with a heart of gold best friend, Shawn; and flower child turned future soulmate, Topanga. But few characters resonate more profoundly from the series than Mr. Feeny, the teacher who would always be there inspiring characters, and viewers, to “Dream. Try. Do good.”
Series that follow detectives as they solve crimes have almost always been a guaranteed hit. But it was a real change of pace when, in 1993, the Fox series The X-Files premiered. Following FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, the series chronicled the cases of the truly weird, bizarre, and downright supernatural that these federal agents secretly deal with.
At the heart of the series, however, and representing one of the most popular story tropes of the 1980s and 1990s both, was the will they, won’t they romance between Mulder and Scully, which the series (and its movies, and its eventual revival) milked for all it could until the series ended in 2002.
9. Beverly Hills, 90210
It’s hard to imagine a television landscape these days without plenty of teen-focused series stirring up plenty of drama and Twitter wars at every turn. But long before there was The CW, there was Beverly Hills, 90210. Airing for ten years from 1990-2000 on Fox, the series was ostensibly a prime time soap opera, but it was one of the first of such series to be marketed specifically for teenagers.
Following the lives of the spoiled and glamorous in the prestigious Beverly Hills, 90210 zip code, most of the action of the series chronicled the frequent partner swaps that took place among its teenage leads. Whether you rooted for Brenda and Dylan, or Dylan and Kelly, there’s no way of denying that 90210 fundamentally changed the TV landscape – for better or worse.
The cartoons produced by Nickelodeon in the 1990s were a real highlight of the decade, and few cartoons were more beloved than the long-running Rugrats, which ran from 1991-2004. Following the adventures of an adorably scrappy group of babies, including Tommy Pickles, Chuckie Finster, and Phil and Lil DeVille, Rugrats utilized truly irreverent humor and pop culture references to its benefit.
The characters in the series were beyond easy to fall in love with and root for – except for Angelica, who was always kind of the worst. But the stories were always engaging, well-drawn, and often heartfelt, too. Rugrats would go on to spawn a few spinoff films and a secondary series, All Grown Up.
This list prepared by Screenrant…
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