TV Time Machine: The '90s

Having a hard time remembering the decade of grunge? These TV shows can sum it up better than any history book.

Having a hard time remembering the decade of grunge? These TV shows can sum it up better than any history book.

Photo Courtesy of: MTV | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012

Remember the '90s? Neither do we, but these TV shows provide a pretty good snapshot of what that brightly-colored decade looked, sounded and even smelled like.


While the show's characters and story lines eventually progressed into the early '00s, just try to get past that theme song without visions of shitty '90s flashing before your eyes (Spin Doctors, we're talking to you). It even shared the '90s' obsession for sitting idly in a coffee shop all day prattling on about pogs or whatever it was people talked about back then. After watching that intro again, we realize we actually kind of miss the Rachel haircut. It's way better than the Russell Brand.


Back in the '90s it wasn't out of the ordinary for fans to yell, "You so crazy!" at Martin Lawrence, but only when we got into the '00s did they start being right. Just watch the opening to his show and try to count the '90s cliches you can spot. Chances are you'll lose count somewhere between Martin's super-tight skinfade, brightly colored leather jacket combo and Carl Anthony Page II's floppy sock hat.

Saved By the Bell

The cellphones were giant, the jeans were terrible and for some reason it was OK to wear long-sleeve T-shirts with hoods. Saved By The Bell exemplified just about everything we wished being a kid in the '90s was all about. Unfortunately we didn't look as good as Zack did in a turquoise long-sleeve and the closest thing we had to Kelly Kapowski was a gaggle of awkward girls that loved puffy hair and tapered jeans.

Beverly Hills 90210

Each character from this prime time soap has their own little crop of cliches, but you don't need to look past Brian Austin Green's portrayal of high school DJ, David Silver for true third party embarrassment. When he wasn't wearing a puffy dress shirt under a ridiculous vest he was rocking an over-sized leather jacket and a dangly earring that looked like it was stolen out of our grandma's jewelry box. Not to mention his version of DJing was spinning the most generic sounding '90s hip hop the show's producers could come up with. We can't really blame him though. He was probably still a little messed up from that one time he took crystal meth on the show. (The above clip is a Youtube parody, but you'll get the idea).

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Back in the '90s there was like an '80-percent chance that we could've beat the crap out of Will Smith. He was skinny, awkward and bogged down with a loudly-colored blazer and high tops that came up past his knees (not really, but they were pretty high). It also takes us back to a time when DJ Jazzy Jeff had yet to become the walking punchline he was destined to be.

My So Called Life

The '90s weren't all bright colors and snap bracelets, there was also the angsty, grunge-loving shoe gazers that thought Jared Leto and Claire Danes were the height of coolness. This was Saved By the Bell for the kids that would regularly get beaten up by the AC Slaters of the world. Apparently Jared Leto liked keeping his look bound to a time period so much that he grew out of the flannels and adopted the asshole emo look that has been irritating us throughout the 2000s.

American Gladitors

Not only did the Gladiators have the best job in the world (when was the last time your career required you to wail on some investment banker with a huge padded stick?) but they also had some of the greatest names. Who wouldn't want to have people coming up to them on the street yelling, "Turbo, can I have your autograph?" Or, "Tower, you still owe me for all those pills. You're going to get your legs broken!" Plus, with the exception of its short-lived revival a few years ago, try and name one time since the turn of the century that you've seen two extremely burly people fire tennis balls out of a cannon.

Beavis and Butthead

One of the few 90’s shows that made a successful (if somewhat less epic) return. During it’s initial run, the show was crude, offensive and hilarious. Chances are you spent many hours honing your impressions of these two delinquents, and your impressions were always funny and never annoying. Not once! When the show came back to MTV, we got excited that our “Heh-heh, dumbass” material would once again be relevant. While the new version of the show is good, it’s hard to recapture the magic of pre-Jersey Shore MTV. 

In Living Color

There was a time, well before White Chicks, Little Man and all of the Scary Movies ever reared their hideous heads, when we could really trust the Wayans brothers. The sketches on the show were stupid, but in a good way and the Fly Girls were the height of 90's hotness. It was also the only place you could see Jim Carrey doing his Vanilla Ice impression.


In the opening sequence alone this show had the following: Several enormous hats; Joey Lawrence wearing torn jeans, a leather jacket and a flannel tied around his waste; A purple suit; a drapey background that looks like it was stolen from the photo studio in the back room of Sears. The older brother on the show was even a recovering drug addict, which represented people's move from the cocaine-filled '80s into the rehab-laden '90s. Oh, and since the theme song was written, they must have taken the word "opinionation" out of the dictionary.

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