It’s after midnight, you’ve finally finished your essay and you need a break. So, you collapse onto the couch with a bowl of popcorn and find the remote, but to your surprise, the first thing you see appear on the screen is an adolescent Will Smith trying to woo a girl with big hair and neon shorts. You can hardly believe your luck. Congratulations, for you’ve just won the televisonal jackpot: you’ve found a rerun.
One of the strangest feelings has to be coming across reruns of childhood classics like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” because even after all these years, you can still remember the days when the show was running and you would sit right in front of the TV, anxiously waiting for the new episode to air. Now the only time you can travel back is in the wee hours of the morning to nighttime cable networks, the graveyard for all ended sitcoms.
But I personally can’t wait for these late night TV binges because for 22 minutes plus commercials, I can relax, forget about the stresses of college life and be a kid again.
Nineties era television never grew out of style because even now, we can relate to it. Way back before we adults became obsessed with the supernatural and monsters like vampires and zombies, we children grew up with TV shows about other normal children. The ’90s was the time of coming-of-age stories; a time when characters were making the same mistakes we did.
Take “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” my personal favorite show growing up. Even though Smith’s character was put in an unordinary situation — the street-smart, west Philadelphia native got in one little fight and his mom got scared so she sent him off to live with his wealthy family in Bel-Air — he experienced real-life issues like financial responsibility, first love and racism. Not to mention, watching the clash between his and his privileged family’s lifestyles is hilarious. The comedy also produced a popular two-step dance known as “The Carlton,” named after the uptight and dorky cousin, Carlton Banks.
The Disney Channel also produced a number of family —friendly comedy shows like “Sister, Sister,” “Boy Meets World,” “Even Stevens” and “Lizzie McGuire,” all of which involved normal kids and highlighting themes of family, friendship and growing up. If you watched any of these shows (or all of them, in my case) then you’ve always secretly wished for a twin sister or a genius best friend like Gordo at one point in your life. And no one ever missed an opportunity to watch the Saturday morning cartoons in their pajamas with a bowl of milk and cereal.
Disney also aired a show called “Good Morning, Miss Bliss” that would later be retooled as “Saved by the Bell” on NBC, a popular show about a group of friends and their exploits in high school.
Some of Disney’s sitcom stars went on to achieve success on the silver screen like “Even Stevens” star Shia LaBeouf, most recognized for his role in the “Transformers” franchise. Disney recently announced that a spinoff of “Boy Meets World” is in the making. The sequel, “Girl Meets World,” will center on 13-year-old Riley, the daughter of original characters Cory and Topanga (actors Ben Savage and Danielle Fishel will return to reprise their roles, much to the excitement of the show’s fans).
Other family favorites include “Full House,” a comedy sitcom about a single father trying to raise three daughters in a house he shares with two male friends (the irresponsible, yet handsome, Uncle Jesse was every girl’s crush) and “7th Heaven,” a drama series about the family of a Protestant minister.
“7th Heaven” in particular was considered a more controversial show at the time because it focused on the social problems that a seemingly-perfect Christian family faced, some of which included teen pregnancy and smoking. However, it was a refreshing reminder that all families, no matter how wholesome they may seem, have their secrets and their struggles.
The beginnings of vampire and ghost-hunting were rooted in supernatural drama “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as the badass Buffy, an inspiration for girls everywhere. Due to Buffy’s frequently violent battles with vampires and demons, I wasn’t allowed to watch the show as a kid, but I was envious of my friends who would chat about last night’s episode over PB&J at lunch.
And finally, there is the ’90s sitcom that everyone and their moms watched. You have the theme song memorized, you own all 10 seasons and you continue to make references to this day. Yes, it’s “Friends.” If you’ve been living under a rock and have never seen it (gasp), the show chronicles the lives of a group of young adult friends in Manhattan.
For 10 years we’ve watched Joey struggle with his acting career and yelled at Ross and Rachel for waiting until the finale to realize that they belonged together, and after it was all over we felt like we lost six close friends. The show was nominated for 63 Primetime Emmy Awards and reruns are still played to this day.
Don’t get me wrong: sometimes I wish I worked at Dunder Mufflin Paper Co. like in “The Office” or ran around tearing the heads off zombies like in “The Walking Dead.” I am a big fan of today’s popular television shows. But I, along with a lot of you, grew up learning from the morals and lessons taught by the shows of the ’90s. In a way, television played a small part in raising me.
Growing up can be tough, but going through it with your favorite TV characters made things easier.
Filed Under: Features