Things that defined the ’90s: floppy middle-parted hair, questionable taste in leggings, and—most important—some truly iconic TV shows. Most of which, tragically, were canceled way too soon. From Clarissa Explains It All to Clueless (yes, they made the movie into a show), these are the shows from the 1990s that we wish were still on air (er, on Netflix, I guess) today.
3rd Rock From the Sun
If you didn’t have a crush on Joseph Gordon-Levitt as hot humanoid alien Tommy Solomon, were you even living? 3rd Rock From the Sun blessed us with its unearthly presence for six seasons, and its ending definitely left room for a revival. You listening, Netflix?
Kids from the ’90s will remember coming home and feeling extremely cool while watching All That, Nickelodeon’s “sketch comedy” show for kids. Like, sorry, Lorne Michaels, but SNL who?
You know, Ally McBeal? Aka that show your mom watched every night while you “did your homework” on the living room floor, desperately wondering who Ally would end up with? Tragically, it was canceled for the lamest reason ever: not winning enough Emmys.
Moesha was one of UPN’s most successful shows. And if you’re wondering what UPN is, fair enough: It doesn’t exist anymore. The show lasted six seasons, and in insanely ugh news, it ended on a cliff-hanger (an unsolved pregnancy test!) thanks to being suddenly canceled.
Are You Afraid of the Dark?
First of all, yes, I am afraid of the dark, thanks for checking. Second of all, this horror anthology was legit the scariest part about SNICK, as in, Nickelodeon’s super-cool Saturday night programming for ~teens~ that felt extremely adult to 8-year-old me.
If any single image could sum up the ’90s, it’d be this picture of Mayim Bialik as Blossom in her delightfully insane flower hat, high-waisted pants, and curled-under bob. But all that really matters is remembering how dreamy Blossom’s brother (played by Joey Lawrence) was. Le sigh.
Boy Meets World
Between Shawn’s middle-part hair flop, Cory’s love for unbuttoned button-downs, and Topanga’s insane bangs, no show defines ’90s TV more than Boy Meets World. Hands up if Mr. Feeny is still your imaginary mentor.
Yes, that’s Ryan Gosling on the right in this picture, and no, I am not okay. You might not remember Breaker High because it was only on for one season, but guys, we need to discuss the plot: It’s about a group of kids who go to high school on a cruise ship. If you can find a way to stream this show today, you are a better internet sleuth than I.
Buffy the Vampire Slaye
Sometimes in life, you have to make tough choices. And for us ’90s and early aughts kids, it all came down to this: Buffy or Charmed?! Both were canceled too soon, but Buffy was significantly more ’90s and is often considered one of the Greatest Shows of All Time (nothing but the truth!).
Camp Wilder only lasted for one gloriously ’90s season before being canceled and was part of ABC’s iconic TGIF lineup. You wanna know the saddest part? Twenty episodes were filmed and the network only bothered to air 19 of them, because ratings were so low. I! Demand! Justice! P.S. Apparently, this show was a hit in Germany, so maybe you could relocate and try streaming it there?!
Of all the completely wild animated shows Nickelodeon made in the ’90s, CatDog is definitely up there. It was on for four seasons and I still have questions (like HOW DOES CATDOG GO TO THE BATHROOM, HELP).
Clarissa Explains It All
Guys! Clarissa really did explain it all. Like how to sneak into your best friend’s window with a secret ladder. And how to deal with your annoying little brother. And how to buy your first training bra. The list goes on.
To be clear, this show was not as good as the movie. And it didn’t star Alicia Silverstone as Cher. And the fact that it lasted three seasons on TGIF is fully shocking. But it tried. Bless its confused ’90s heart!
Probably the best show MTV has ever made, Daria followed a sarcastic loner high school student who is the most relatable person (er, cartoon) ever. Its cancellation was tragic, but good news: The show is being revived with a spin-off called Jodie.
This iconic ’90s show was on for six seasons, but it was actually canceled by ABC midway through its run, only to be picked up by The WB, which clearly thought ABC was being insane, which it was. Tragically, the revival (announced last year) doesn’t seem to be coming out anytime soon.
Anyone else ship Doug Funnie and Patti Mayonnaise harder than they ship their own relationship? Cool, same. Doug accompanied us through almost the entire decade, and spoiler alert: He and Patti finally go on a date in the last episode. Cute.
Speaking of animated ships, who else tuned in to Hey Arnold! every day after school to see if Arnold would finally return Helga’s unrequited love? Same again. I stan a football head!
Watching Felicity basically involved (a) marveling over her gorgeous hair and (b) stressing out over her onscreen love life. Oh, and speaking of Felicity’s hair, her infamous cut is allegedly one of the reasons the ratings tanked and the show was canceled.
Sure, it was just a hokey ’90s kids show. But Goosebumps introduced us to Slappy, the evil ventriloquist dummy, and nothing has been the same since. Thanks, R. L. Stine!
Just a casual teen Western comedy that was exactly as weird as you’d expect it to be! Not sure why Nickelodeon canceled it after five seasons, but the fact that it’s not available to stream on Netflix is a crime.
Kenan & Kel
Kenan & Kel helped make SNL’s Kenan Thompson a household name, and it was honestly just the best. Fun fact: It had tons of notable guest stars, including the living legend known as Britney Spears.
Guys, this show literally lasted only 10 episodes on NBC in 1996. Which is kinda wild considering it was about angsty teen high school drama in L.A. and starred Keri Russell. Like, what more do you want, world? I cannot for the life of me figure out a way to stream this, so if you can, I salute ya.
My So-Called Life
Often hailed as one of the most important teen shows in TV history, My So-Called Life lasted only one season before being canceled. And, ugh, it *also* ended on a cliff-hanger. But still, its cultural impact and honest portrayal of teen angst was well worth the frustration.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
🎵 This is the story all about how Will Smith’s life got flipped turned upside down 🎵...and then he morphed into a massive movie star. God bless the ’90s.
Mr. Show With Bob and David
Mr. Show was hugely popular for people who stayed up past 10 p.m. and watched HBO. The sketch comedy featured comedian guest stars like Sarah Silverman and Jack Black, and while it never had a huge audience (premium cable was pretty limited back in ye olden days), it was pretty influential.
Parker Lewis Can’t Lose
Apparently, Parker Lewis can lose, because this show was canceled after just three seasons—but still, the surreal teen sitcom remained super influential and had a dedicated fandom. Fall Out Boy even named a song after it, that’s all I’m saying.
Party of Five
More like Party of Six because I watched this show alone on my couch every damn week. Come for the siblings-with-no-parents angsty teen drama, and stay for literally everyone’s horrifying hair.
Pinky and the Brain
In case you haven’t heard, one is a genius, the other’s insane. IDK who came up with the plot of this deranged show about two lab rats trying to overthrow the world, but there’s no way they weren’t high at the time.
What? Just a show about a group of teens who transform into spandex-wearing superheroes. Nothing to see here! P.S. Can someone please explain how spandex is going to protect these kids from alien monsters? Thx.
Rocko’s Modern Life
Have you ever watched an old episode of this show as an adult? Because it’s fully bizarre, not to mention packed with dirty jokes that went entirely over your childhood self’s head.
Only the ’90s would produce a massively popular show about a fleet of talking babies. Did anyone else identify with the bratty older sister, Angelica? Cool, just me.
Sabrina the Teenage Witch
No offense to Netflix, but the Sabrina reboot has nothing on the original. Mostly because it’s lacking an animatronic talking black cat who sassily sips tea and throws shade.
Salute Your Shorts
Camp Anawanna, we hold you in our hearts! Salute Your Shorts was *the* best show about camp (fine, there aren’t that many out there), and the reason it was canceled is so weird: The cast didn’t want to relocate to Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando. Like, they literally opted to ditch their jobs, that’s how little they wanted to live in Florida.
Saved by the Bell
What’s your favorite episode of Saved by the Bell? Mine is obviously the one where Jessie Spano screams “I’M SO EXCITED, I’M SO EXCITED, I’M SO SCARED” in the midst of her caffeine pill addiction. Good, legendary times.
Never heard of Swans Crossing? Probably because it was literally on for only 13 weeks before being dumped. The insane part? It managed to produce 65 episodes in those 13 weeks. (And yet, I cannot figure out how to stream any of those 65 episodes online! Harrumph.) Yes, that’s a young Sarah Michelle Gellar you see right there in the middle.
Sweet Valley High
Based on your favorite preteen book series, Sweet Valley High was about twins Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield. The show isn’t exactly, um, a *thinker*, but you basically transformed into a California cool girl while watching it, so.
Tales From the Crypt
First of all, yes, that is a young John Stamos. He played a “gigolo” with delightfully floppy hair in everyone’s favorite creepy anthology series. Genuinely, Black Mirror could never.
If you don’t remember this one-season wonder, allow me to educate you: It was about a high school kid who died eating an old hamburger and came back to earth to be his BFF’s guardian angel. RIP in more ways than one.
The Adventures of Pete & Pete
Consider Pete and Pete the ’90s answer to the Sprouse twins, only—no offense—this show was way better. In fact, it was genuinely one of the best kids’ shows on TV at the time. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore. *runs away weeping*
The Amanda Show
Please jump into this time machine with me and let’s go back to the days when Amanda Bynes was the Queen of Nickelodeon. Like, girl had her own freakin’ show.
The Angry Beavers
Anyone else remember this classically weird show? Fine, I’ll jog your memory: It was about two brother beavers who leave home and chill out in Oregon. It’s fine, totally normal.
The Famous Jett Jackson
Honestly, The Famous Jett Jackson (about a kid who plays a secret agent on a show within a show) dealt with some pretty deep issues for ’90s Disney. And bonus: Britney Spears and Destiny’s Child guest-starred, so sign my middle school self up.
The Secret World of Alex Mack
Kay, this replaced Clarissa Explains It All in the SNICK lineup, so I’m a little bitter and resentful. But I’ll allow it because Larisa Oleynik transforming herself into a puddle every week was well worth the change.
The Wild Thornberrys
Another truly bizarre animated Nickelodeon show about a girl who can communicate with animals. But her weird dad, the instantly iconic Nigel Thornberry, was the best part. Seriously, look up “Nigel Thornberry memes”—you will not regret it.
Not gonna lie: The premise of this show—about two boys who create the perfect woman...and then she accidentally comes to life—is problematic. But what show from the ’90s isn’t? Moving on!
Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?
Legit question: Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Lord knows I never found out from watching five seasons of this PBS game show.
Name a more wholesome show, I’ll wait. Wishbone was about an adorable dog who told literature’s most classic stories and always played the lead. Look at his mustache!
The Red Shoe Diaries
Oh, you know, just the casual soft-porn show David Duchovny starred in during the ’90s. Don’t even worry about it.
Mehera Bonner is a news writer who focuses on celebrities and royals.
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