Welcome back! In our previous article, we began highlighting our favorite shows of the 1990s. Ranging from the camaraderie of Friends, to the cynicism of Seinfeld and adventures into the unknown with The X-Files, the 1990s saw television creators take familiar concepts and push them into edgier regions not touched upon in previous decades. Join us now as we further explore this exciting era of television!
Beverly Hills 90210
Bringing the soap opera concept to the teenage realm, Beverly Hills 90210 was a gritty counterpart to other popular high school sitcoms of the day, such as Saved by the Bell. Beginning in high school and then continuing into the characters’ college years, writers of Beverly Hills 90210 excelled at constantly bringing timely subject matter to their plotlines, and didn’t shy away from controversial subject matter such as teenage pregnancy, AIDS, alcoholism and more. Bringing together some of the brightest rising talent of the day, the show starred Jason Priestly (Brandon Walsh), Shannon Doherty (Brenda Walsh), Jennie Garth (Kelly Taylor), Tori Spelling (Donna Martin), Ian Ziering (Steve Sanders), Luke Perry (Dylan McKay) and Brian Austin Green (David Silver).
Beverly Hills 90210 Trivia Tidbit: Actor Luke Perry (may he rest in peace) turned his character Dylan Mckay into a cultural icon, but the actor originally auditioned for the all-American, happy-go-lucky character Steve Sanders.
In an age of countless hospital dramas (Grey’s Anatomy, The Good Doctor, The Resident) it’s hard to imagine a time when such a theme wasn’t commonplace. Created by bestselling author Michael Crichton, ER brought the concept of General Hospital’s daytime drama to primetime viewing audiences. Although ER even featured live televised episodes, it surpassed the soap opera genre by combining contemporary elements of real-life hospital suspense with dramatic adult situations. It’s also hard to imagine a time when George Clooney wasn’t a household name. ER survived long after Clooney’s exit, however, lasting for 15 seasons and hoisting the careers of Anthony Edwards, Julianna Margulies, Eriq La Salle, and Noah Wyle. In the end, ER won 116 of the 124 Emmy awards that it was nominated for, experiencing success among both viewers and critics.
ER Trivia Tidbit: Stephen Spielberg was originally in talks with Crichton to direct an ER movie, but the decision was made to instead make it a television series.
Starring the character Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) of Cheers fame, Frasier saw our protagonist flee Boston after a messy divorce to his hometown of Seattle. It’s here where he would start his new career as a radio psychiatrist. As if the move across the country wasn’t a big enough change, it’s decided that he must also have his aging father Martin (John Mahoney) move in with him for safekeeping. Hilarity ensues as Frasier constantly clashes with his hard-edged father and witty brother Dr. Niles Crane, who unexpectedly begins a romantic relationship with Martin’s caretaker Daphne Moon (Jane Leeves). Popular among critics and fans alike, Frasier and its cast won a total of 37 Emmy awards.
Frasier Trivia Tidbit: Although every other living cast member of Cheers made cameos on Frasier, actress Kirstie Alley refused to reprise her character, Rebecca, because the views of psychiatry went against her beliefs as a Scientologist.
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Featuring one of the most memorable theme songs of the 1990s, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air changed Will Smith’s career from being a playful MC to a leading actor of Hollywood. The show follows Will as he relocates to Bel-Air to move in with his uncle and cousins after getting into trouble in his hometown of Philadelphia. Will initially struggles to fit into the predominantly affluent area after growing up in the inner city, until he meets his best friend Jazz (DJ Jazzy Jeff). Fresh Prince grew very popular due to the chemistry of its ensemble cast, which included James Avery (Philip Banks), Alfonso Ribeiro (Carlton Banks), Karyn Parsons (Hilary Banks) and Tatyana Ali (Ashley Banks).
Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Trivia Tidbit: Although Alfonso Ribeiro’s Carlton character is one of the most memorable to most fans, he was almost fired after the pilot as the network president at the time disapproved of his acting ability. The other actors defended him however and fought for him to remain on the show. Thank goodness they did so we could watch him dance to Tom Jones!
Partially based upon the standup of comedian Tim Allen, Home Improvement followed Tim “the Toolman” Taylor, a home improvement show host, and his domestic life with wife Jill (Patricia Richardson) and three sons Brad (Zachary Ty Bryan), Randy (Jonathan Taylor Thomas) and Mark (Taran Noah Smith). Lasting for eight seasons, the popular sitcom dealt with many relatable issues of the day and of parenting in a suburban locale. The show’s success propelled Allen’s career immensely, leading to prominent roles in successful family franchises, The Santa Clause and Toy Story.
Home Improvement Trivia Tidbit: Allen made it a rule on the set that free advertising would only be allowed to schools and sports teams of Michigan. As a result, universities and schools all over the state would constantly mail related attire to the set to be worn on camera. Allen obliged and could often be seen wearing them in multiple episodes.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our list of favorite television shows of the 1990s. Did we forget one of your favorites? We’d love to hear about your memories from this rad era on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest or LinkedIn. And don’t forget to check out part 1 of the best TV shows of the 1990s to see our complete list!