The media of our generation shapes so much about us — what we wear, how we talk, what we beg our parents to buy us. But no aspect of media is more influential than TV. Having been an early-90s baby, much of my perspective was molded by TV shows. And I’m not the only one — ‘90’s TV was so impactful, it’s still being copied almost 30 years later.
Now that I’m inching towards my 30s with a family of my own, I miss many of the shows that were staples of my childhood. And darn it, I’m pretty disappointed that streaming services like Netflix or Hulu haven’t come through for us by now.
Below is a list of 12 shows that made my childhood as a 90’s baby. Netflix and Hulu, take note. We want these shows back!
I thought Lizzie was cool, but her best friends were my favorite part of the show. Miranda’s unwavering confidence was inspiring, and Gordo helped me realize my attraction to cute Jewish boys. The show was filled with annoying little brothers, bullies, and boys — what else did we need in a show? Plus Lizzie’s animated alter ego was so feisty and awesome.
As Told By Ginger
Ginger Foutley held my hand through pre-teen awkwardness. I saw myself in her attention-craving, yet spotlight-avoiding, tendencies. I giggled as her awkward best friends sabotaged her chances at popularity by serving as a reminder of Ginger’s social standing. And I watched glassy-eyed as her relationship with Darren transformed from a platonic friendship to a full-blown romance.
The Proud Family
Who DIDN’T love The Proud Family? I mean really? Penny Proud has all the individual boxes required to move up the social ladder but her awkward family (read: Oscar) and big-mouthed friends always found ways to ruin it. They were an animated image of a nuclear Black family, and there weren’t too many of those back then. Plus it was one of the few shows my mom and I could agree on.
Louis Stevens was weird AF in a family that had it all together. Sometimes he tried to play “normal,” but most times he didn’t (I couldn’t tell if he was cute-awkward or annoying-awkward). Of course, all this happened while his slightly older sister was basically the face of the school and the princess of popularity. The show was great for a giggle after a long day of school work.
Courage the Cowardly Dog
This show was odd as hell but just so darn fun to watch. As the intro goes, “Courage was abandoned as a pup and found by Muriel and her husband Eustace” — and protects them from the wealth of monsters and weirdness they see living in the middle of nowhere. My mom was never sure if my brother and I should be watching this show — which made it even better, in my opinion. It was the first of many shows to make parents question the appropriateness that was produced by Cartoon Network.
Pepper Ann was a Saturday morning exclusive. It was the go-to show for waking up at 9 a.m. with a bowl of crunch puffs in front of your Zenith box-style TV. Pepper refused to conform to what the world expected of her thanks to a solid foundation from her single mom who didn’t shy from tough gender-related topics.
All these years later, many millennials see Pepper as an under-acknowledged feminist icon. That may be true, but for me, the show will always remind me of lazy Saturday mornings.
It’s hard to think about ’90s Black TV without thinking about Moesha. Mo’ was IT and she made me feel like I could have it all. She exuded unapologetic Blackness in her looks and never shied away from kicking ass in school or community service. In full transparency, I was too young to enjoy Moesha during its debut. But with time, I was able to catch a few of the later seasons and all the reruns on my late Saturday afternoons.
The Wild Thornberrys
Eliza Thornberry was my Terri Irwin before I knew who Terri Irwin was. Where else could we see a young girl and a monkey experiencing the entire world with the gift of talking to animals? I love that she wasn’t perfect, but she always followed her heart even if that meant getting into trouble. Eliza modeled a love of nature for an entire generation of girls who couldn’t identify with the girliness of her sister Debbie.
Okay, I confess. I never watched this show, but literally all my friends who received the late night “What’s a show you really miss from our childhood?” text included All That. I do remember that it was one of the first sketch-based shows that our cohort was old enough to relate to. Also, the show had Amanda Bynes, Kenan & Kel, Nick Cannon, and Giovonnie Samuels, who were all ’90s media staples — so it couldn’t help but be “all that,” right? See what I did there?
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air
Early career Will Smith with tens (if not hundreds) of celebrity cameos? What more could you need in a show? Ashley’s sarcasm gave me life, and original Aunt Viv was peak mom goals. But the life lessons were the best part. Will was always in trouble and it made me feel a lot better about my own life. We all know under his silly exterior was a deep compassion for his aunt, uncle, and cousins. Who are we kidding? You’ve seen the show. You don’t need me to tell you how great it was.
Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy
The Grim Adventures of Billy and Many was another one of those “should I really be watching this?” kids shows. An annoying pair of kids were literally walking the streets with death (aka, Grim) as a best friend because they beat him in a bet. Now, they travel to the spirit world regularly. There were a lot of weird jokes and gross moments. I can’t say I learned anything from this show. Well, other than if you play with death you might win and even if he’s resentful at first, with time he might grow fond of you.
Not everyone is gonna remember this show. But those of us who were stuck watching PBS (read: didn’t have cable) after school know all about it. It was basically a group of kids doing experiments, making jokes, and engineering homemade games on TV. It came on almost immediately after school, so in a way, it was a subtle continuation of the school day. I learned a lot of stuff from Zoom and I didn’t realize its value until it was gone. RIP.
So take note, Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services. We need these shows back STAT. Not only do we want to relive our youth, we want to enjoy them with our kids too.
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