101 Classic (and Not-So-Classic) TV Shows of the 1990s

Television, especially when it comes to sitcoms and dramas, has been in a constant state of change since the medium’s beginning in the 1940s. Things have fluctuated wildly between being silly and frivolous to gritty and meaningful, with many shows justifiably being lost to the sands of time while others continue to live on. That’s certainly become obvious in Closer‘s previous looks at TV series from the 1950s through the 1980s, and continues with this current flashback to the 1990s.

And what a decade the ’90s was. We saw the emergence of HBO as a major player in terms of offering programming that could not only compete with the broadcast networks, but in some cases beat them at their own game. With comedy, they had Dream On and Gary Shandling’s The Larry Sanders Show, while dramatically speaking they were represented by the gritty and pretty uncensored prison show Oz, the ladies of Sex and the City and, of course, The Sopranos, which feels like the true entry point for binge TV.

Dramas continued to get more serialized in general, whether it was in the form of youngish prime time soaps like Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place, or dramas originating from Steven Bochco (NYPD Blue), David E. Kelley (Picket Fences, Chicago Hope, The Practice, Ally McBeal) and Aaron Sorkin (Sports Night, The West Wing). And on the flip side of that was the new take on the police procedural from producer Dick Wolf, who gave us the first two shots of the Law & Order franchise with the original series and its spinoff, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, which is still going strong over two decades after its launch.

Whereas the ’80s saw the rise of stand-up comics bringing their act to television, that continued big time in the ’90s with Tim Allen (Home Improvement), Marilyn Kentz and Caryl Kristensen (The Mommies), Brett Butler (Grace Under Fire), Ellen DeGeneres (Ellen), Drew Carey (The Drew Carey Show) and Kevin James (The King of Queens).

Not to put too fine a point on it, but there were a lot of ladies out there kicking ass throughout the 1990s, and that seemed to be very appealing to the audience. Some were doing so with their minds and the asserting of themselves in a changing world (Sisters, Suddenly Susan, Ally McBeal), while others were doing so literally (Xena: Warrior Princess, La Femme Nikita, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed).

We got edgy animation that continues ever onward (South ParkFamily Guy), the return of old friends (Burt Reynolds in Evening ShadeDick Van Dyke in Diagnosis: Murder, Don Johnson in Nash Bridges, Cybill Shepherd in Cybill), dark and quirky TV (Twin Peaks, Dark Shadows, The X-Files) and two doses each of Star Trek (Deep Space Nine and Voyager) and Debra Messing (Prey, Will & Grace).

friends-cast
Warner Bros

Oh, and a little show called Friends.

All in all, a pretty impressive 10 year period in programming, and we hope you enjoy this look back at 101 of those shows.

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