Do you remember life before the digital age? It’s a bit of a blur, right? If you fancy a reminder, new Netflix series Everything Sucks! will take you back to a time before iPhones and the Facebook — specifically 1996. The show’s creators, Ben York Jones and Michael Mohan, were themselves teens in the ’90s, so chose to set their new series in the oh-so familiar halls of a high school from their own era.
Don’t be fooled into thinking this age of big hair and pegged jeans was any less complicated; because really, high school is high school. The 10-part series, premiering on Friday, February 16, follows two groups of teens, members of AV and drama, who join forces to make a movie… using an actual camera — with film — to be viewed on a VHS (video home system) tape.
Naturally, this made our minds rewind to that era and some of the great shows we watched back then. Many dated badly, but not this lot — or at least, we love them too much to notice! Check out 10 of the most enduring teen-themed shows made in the 1990s, before there was “tagging,” “friending,” and “sharing.”
1. Blossom (1990-1995)
Blossom Russo (Mayim Bialik) may be a little awkward, but her confidence, and shall we say dance moves (seen in the above), more than make up for it. In the TV show named after the lead character, Blossom, we follow a teenage girl, who grows up with just her dad and two brothers. Her mom left the family to pursue a career. While it sounds rough, and it is at times, Blossom leans on her best friend, Six (Jenna von Oÿ), for support and fun. Like the time the two of them are on the lookout for Will Smith at a hotel they’re staying in. And, Blossom actually runs into him in the elevator.
2. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
Speaking of Will Smith, he had his own TV show around the same time as Blossom. Remember The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air? Smith was already a successful rapper, having made his name with music partner DJ Jazzy Jeff. Playing off of their hit song, “Parents Just Don’t Understand,” Smith moves from the tough streets of West Philadelphia (his mom’s idea) to live with his extended family in the well-to-do neighborhood of Bel-Air, California. It’s a typical fish out of water story, but the Prince adapts surprisingly quickly to his new boughie surroundings. Even so, he doesn’t forget where he comes from.
3. Beverly Hills, 90120 (1990-2000)
Beverly Hills, 90210 was an iconic TV series about two teenage siblings, Brenda (Shannen Doherty) and Brandon Walsh (Jason Priestley), who move from the Midwest to a high school in the elite Cali zip code. Yep, another fish (fishies) out of water scenario. It must be hard to switch schools and cities in one swoop, but the twins step into a circle of friends, made up of Kelly (Jennie Garth), Steve (Ian Ziering), Dylan (Luke Perry), David (Brian Austin Green) and Donna (Tori Spelling). The show aired in the evening, after homework time, with teenagers glued to the soap opera-like show, making for great
watercooler study hall chat the following day.
4. Clarissa Explains It All (1991-1994)
Clarissa Darling (Melissa Joan Hart) lived with her family in an Ohio suburb. The name of the show is self-explanatory: Clarissa goes about her typical teenage life, and then turns to the camera to address her young audience and explain the situation. For example, she might talk her peers through surviving picture day. Clarissa seems more “tween” than “teen,” but the actress who played her, Hart, was indeed 15 when the show kicked off.
5. Sister, Sister (1994-1999)
At first glance Sister, Sister, starring identical twins, Tia and Tamera Mowry, seems like a spinoff of The Parent Trap, where twins are separated at birth, with one raised by each biological parent, not knowing the other exists until later in life. It’s the same idea, but with a slight difference: the two are separated at birth, adopted by single parents, and run into each other at the mall, resulting in an official reunion. The girls don’t dwell on the years lost, but instead embrace knowing each other in the now.
6. My So-Called Life (1994-1995)
Angela Chase (Claire Danes) takes us through her high school years, made all the more compelling and dramatic by her voice-over narration. Throughout the series she works to figure out her place in school and life in general. She deals with the strife that comes with being a teenager, like managing friendships and dealing with parents. But perhaps the biggest teen hurdle is dealing with her unrequited crush on Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto).
7. Heartbreak High (1994-1999)
Let’s travel back in time, and to the other side of the globe, to revisit the Australian show, Heartbreak High. And, guess, what… the teens in the series are immersed in the same drama as their American counterparts, dealing with gritty issues like drug use and shop lifting. The series starred Callan Mulvey, Lara Cox, and Emma Roche in the leads.
8. Daria (1997-2002)
Teen angst works even when animated. The MTV series, Daria (voiced by Tracy Grandstaff), revolves around a smart, sassy teen who says it how it is. She didn’t belong to any particular click, preferring to stay on the outside observing. But, luckily she had her main hang, Jane (Wendy Hoopes) to bounce things off of.
9. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Cheerleader Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) was destined to be a vampire slayer but really would have rather enjoyed a normal teen life and her popularity at Sunnydale High. Even so, Buffy rose to the occasion in the 1990’s cult classic, not wanting her friends and community to perish. She had the help of her Watcher, Rupert Giles, played by Anthony Head. She also teamed up with best pals, Xander (Nicholas Brendon) and Willow (Alyson Hannigan). Just to complicate matters further, Buffy was loved up with a vampire, Angel (David Boreanaz).
10. Roswell (1999-2002)
We even met teenagers from another planet in the hit show Roswell, set in New Mexico. The series is based on the Roswell High young adult series, written by Melinda Metz. Brother and sister, Max (Jason Behr) and Isabel Evans (Katherine Heigl), are alien/human hybrids, along with their friend Michael (Brendan Fehr). Max confides in a high school friend, Liz Parker (Shirl Appleby), and she works to help the three find answers.
Bonus: Byker Grove (1989-2006)
The British teen series, Byker Grove, kicked off in 1989. So, technically, not in the 1990s, though it ran through the decade… so, we’d like to highlight the series. Starring Daymon Britton, Declan Donnelly, and Jill Halfpenny, the show revolves around members of a youth club. Charlie Hunnam starred in a one-off episode in 1998, prior to making his breakthrough in the U.S. in a college-based TV series, Undeclared (2001-2003), and more recently as Jax Teller in Sons of Anarchy.
Do you have a favorite teen show from the ’90s?Read More