The 1990s is a decade known for baggy clothes, hip hop music, and cable television. It is the time when some of the iconic top TV shows flooded our 90s TV screens. This age was thus, rightly known as the Golden Age of Multiculturalism. Globalization had just started to feeble the walls across the different boundaries and introduced the developing world cultures to the developed ones.
The 1990s gave us some of our all-time favorite actors and actresses, on whom most of us have had a crush at least once, and somehow we still do. Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Aniston, Matt Le Blanc, Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, and many more from the 90s are enough to give you nostalgic and crushing vibes even today. This decade was also the decade of pop and rap music that began to spread worldwide through singers such as Eminem, Britney Spears, Madonna, and the Pop King Michael Jackson, along with the bands like Backstreet Boys, Oasis, and TLC.
So, let us begin the list of some of the Top 24 TV shows from the 90s and explore the iconic era once again.
Beverly Hills, 90210
Darren Star created this American teen drama, starring Jennie Garth (as Kelly Taylor), Ian Ziering (as Steve Sanders), Brian Austin Green (as David Silver), Tori Spelling (as Donna Martin), Shannen Doherty (as Brenda Walsh), and Jason Priestley (as Brandon Walsh). Aaron Spelling was its producer. Beverly Hills, 90210, a show that ran for about ten seasons with 293 episodes. It was broadcasted on Fox between October 4, 1990, and May 17, 2000.
Despite slow progress, its cast became one of the 90s hits. Jason Priestley and Luke Perry became teen idols, and soon the show became a global pop culture phenomenon.
The show begins with the Walsh family having Jim, Cindy, Brandon, and Brenda, who have shifted from Minneapolis to Beverly Hills. The twins Brandon and Brenda join their new school, make new friends and start growing among their wealthy peers. The show dared to address serious issues such as date rape, homophobia, animal rights, racism, teenage suicide and pregnancy, AIDS, etc.
It’s a show featuring Ellen, an American comedian cum actress, popularly known as a television host on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. But before all this, she started her career with an American sitcom, Ellen, that starred her as Ellen Morgan, along with Joe Farrell (as David), Adam Green (as Arye), Holly, and Anita Warrel (as Maggie), and others. The Los Angeles-based series aired on the ABC network between March 29, 1994, and July 22, 1998, for five seasons and 109 episodes.
The show is about Ellen, a neurotic bookstore owner, and her struggles while handling her quirky boss, friends, and family. Her typical life takes a turn when she develops a crush on a woman, only to find later that she is lesbian. It was then declared in The Puppy Episode when she wanted to come out as her true self. But it created a controversy, as some parents demanded disclaimers for the children to watch it under their parents’ guidance. And this is how the show established itself as an LGBTQ ground-breaker.
Alif Laila is an Indian television series that aired on DD National between 1993 to 1997 for 143 episodes of two seasons. This series was based on the stories of One Thousand and One Nights, also known as the Arabian knights. The title is taken from the original title in Arabic, One Thousand and One Nights – Alif Layla was-Layla.
The series involves two main characters, Shahryar (Girija Shankar) and his wife, Scheherazade (Damini Kanwal Shetty). Shahryar is an upset king who his first wife betrayed. Since then, he would marry a virgin and beheads her at dawn to get married to a new virgin. This cycle continues until he meets Scheherazade, who recites a story per day, and to finish those stories, Shahryar grants her another day to live.
The stories include Prince Jalal Talib and the Three Pearls, Sinbad the Sailor and Pirate Qehermann, Aladdin and the Magic Lamp, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and The Caliph’s Judgement.
Kunihiko Katsura and Eiichi Misumi produced Takeshi’s castle, a Japanese game show for TBS (Tokyo Broadcasting System), from May 2, 1986, to October 19, 1990. This early 90s series contained 133 episodes in total. The show starred Takeshi Kitano and Hayato Tani as its hosts. Its Hindi version got released on the Pogo channel in India, dubbed by Indian comedian, actor, and dancer, Javed Jeffrey. His comic commentary added more fun to it.
In this game show, various participants had to pass a variety of quirky and weird hurdles to reach the showdown round and win over the castle of Kitano. They had to face wall climbings, maze hurdles, water canons, and the bodyguards of Kitano, who looked quite scary. In the final round, participants had to protect their paper rings embedded in a toy car from water guns. This round was often undecided.
Watching this game was full of peals of laughter and joy arising from the funny commentary of its host, Javed Jaffrey. It was filmed at Midoriyama (Green Mountain) Studios in Yokohama, Kanagawa.
Do you still remember those four bubbly and colorful teddy bears called Teletubbies, who had designer antennas on top of their heads? The cutest one among the top 90s tv shows is Teletubbies, who would greet you, cheer you up, and make you laugh with their cute gestures. Teletubbies, a British children’s TV series, was a creation of Andrew Davenport and Anne Wood under Ragdoll productions. The series aired on the BBC between March 31, 1997, and October 12, 2018. It ran for nine seasons with 485 episodes. It was a huge commercial success and was nominated for two daytime Emmys and won multiple BAFTA awards.
The show featured four colored Teletubbies named Tinky Winky ( purple), Dipsy (green), Laa-Laa (yellow), and Po(red). They owned a house called Tubbytronic Superdome in a green-spaced world. They also had a baby-faced sun, who would smile and giggle at them.
This colorful series educated the infants about identifying things and learning manners in addition to entertaining them. They also had an anthropogenic robot vacuum cleaner known as Noo-Noo. It is one of the greatest anime ever made.
This 6-season and 128 episodes long series is an American teen drama that was aired on WB TV between January 20, 1998, and May 14, 2003. Kevin Meade Williamson is its creator, that was based in North Carolina. It stars James William Van Der Beek (as Dawson Leery), Kate Holmes (as Joey Potter, his love interest as well as a best friend), Joshua Jackson (as Pacey Witter), and Michelle Ingrid Williams (as Jen Lindley).
The show revolves around these four teens who grew together in the fictional town of Capeside in Massachusetts. The fifteen-year-old Dawson is an aspiring filmmaker whose childhood friend is Tomboy Joey. But as they slowly grow affection for each other, they are interrupted by the entry of a handsome boy, Jen, thus forming a love triangle. Dawson works with Pacey in a video rental store, who occasionally disputes with Joey.
The show also covers new topics like homophobia, first love and loss, class differences, mental health, coming out, and divorce.
Ben Edlund created the tick, an adaptation of the superhero Tick from New England Comics, which is an animated tv series that aired on Fox Kids on September 10, 1994. It ran for three seasons and 36 episodes and concluded on November 24, 1996. Its two live-action series were also launched in 2001 and by Amazon in 2016. The show also aired on BBC2 in the United Kingdom between 1995 and 1996.
Tick is a superhero who wants to protect his city with his superpowers, but for this he has to pass examinations at the National Super Institute located in Reno, Nevada. The Tick passes these tests and reaches a city, where he befriends his sidekick, Arthur. Later he is also joined by Die Fledermaus, American Maid, Sewer Urchin, and others who aid him in his missions.
Some of the bad guys from the city include The Terror, Breadmaster, El Seed, and Chairface Chippendale. The series won an Annie Award in 1995 for the Best Individual Achievement for Creative Supervision in the Field of Animation. It was nominated for Daytime Emmy Awards three times between 1996 and 1997 for outstanding animation and sound mixing.
The Full house is an American sitcom created by Jeffrey Steven Franklin in 1987. It aired on the ABC network on September 22, 1987, and it concluded on May 23, 1995. The show ran for eight seasons with 192 episodes starring Bob Saget (as Danny Tanner), John Stamos (as Jesse Katsopolis), Dave Coulier (as Joey Gladstone), Candace Cameron (as D.J. Tanner), Jodie Sweetin (as Stephanie Tanner), and Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen (as Michelle Tanner).
The story is about a widower sports anchor, Danny Tanner, and his three daughters, DJ (eldest one), Stephanie (middle child), and Michelle (youngest). After the death of his wife Pam, Danny calls his brother-in-law, Jesse (a rock musician), and his childhood friend Joey (a stand-up comedian) to help him raise his young daughters. And this is where the struggles of raising children amidst chaos begin. In seasons later, all the girls get married and become mothers themselves.
The show was consistently among the top 30 of Nielsen in 1988 and onwards and was called “The Brady Bunch of the 1990s” by Dennis Rinsler (one of the producers.)
Cat Dog is the creation of Peter John Hannan, in which a dog and a cat share the same without a tail and hind legs. It ran for four seasons and 68 episodes. This animation was created for the American pay television channel Nickelodeon. Its first episode was aired on April 4, 1998, and ended on June 15, 2005.
The series is about a conjoined and flexible twin of a cat and dog and their struggles with their life. They live in a fictional city of Nearburg, which is full of anthropogenic animals. They are best friends and brothers but are diametrically opposite in their personalities. The cat is more poised and cultured than the fun-loving dog, who loves running behind garbage trucks and cars and exploring things.
Other characters include a tailless mouse, Winslow, Cliff, Shriek, Lube (a street gang of tough dogs), Rancid Rabbit, Eddie the Squirrel, Randolph cat, and Tallulah (cats crush). The show was nominated for Annie Awards in 1998 and twice for Kids’ Choice Awards, one in 1999 and another in 2000.
Malgudi Days is an Indian television series that aired on the Doordarshan channel from September 24, 1986, to 2006. It ran for four seasons and 54 episodes. The show was based on the short stories by the famous author R.K. Narayan. These stories emphasized the life of Indian society and day to day struggles of its innocent people. Other books such as A Horse and Two Goats, Swami and Friends, The Vendor of Sweets, and An Astrologer’s Day written by R.K. Narayan have also inspired series.
The first three seasons of Malgudi days were directed by Shankar Nag, while Kavitha Lankesh, was directing its final season. T.S. Narasimhan was the producer and R. K. Laxman, the younger brother of R.K. Narayan, was the sketch artist in the show. The popularity of this show compelled even the Indian railways to rename Arasalu Railway station of Shimoga (Karnataka) as Malgudi Railway station as most of the series was shot in Agumbe village of Shimoga district.
With its 33-season and 728 episodes, The Simpsons is the longest-running American animated sitcom plus the longest-running American scripted primetime television series, and hence, the longest one in our top 90s TV shows list. It was premiered on the Fox network on December 17, 1989, and is still running on TV sets. Its 33rd season with 22 episodes was recently premiered on September 26, 2021. But the 1990s are considered it’s “golden age”. Matthew Groening had created these 24-minute-long episodes featuring the Simpsons family, who depict a typical American family life with a touch of satire. The 20th Television and Gracie Films are the co-producers of this series.
The Simpsons family lives as a joint family in the fictional town of Springfield. Homer Jay Simpson is the head of the family and works as a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. His wife, Marjorie, is a housewife with three children – Bart, Lisa, and Maggie. Homer’s dad Grampa lives in a retirement home. They have a dog named Santa’s Little Helper and a cat named Snowball V. The show, thus, explores the relationships within a family and with the neighbors in American society.
The Simpsons won multiple awards like Primetime Emmy, Annie, and Peabody awards. It was also named the century’s best television series by Time magazine. It gained a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on January 14, 2000.
Seinfeld was a fictional world created by the rising comedian from the late 1980s, Jerry Seinfeld, with his other comedian friend, Larry David. It was an American sitcom tv series that aired from July 5, 1989, to May 14, 1998, on the NBC network. West-Shapiro Productions and Castle Rock Entertainment were the co-producers, while David and Seinfeld, along with others, were its scriptwriters.
It is considered one of the most influential tv series in the comedy genre. This nine-season and 180 episodes long New York-based show feature Jerry Seinfeld, whose focus is on his personal life issues. And in this, he is helped by his three friends -his high school buddy, George (Jason Alexander), his too honest Ex-girlfriend Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and his neighbor, Cosmo ( Michael Anthony Richards).
Although the show is often called “a show about nothing”, it offers everything for everyone: the life of a comedian, how moving on is always better than obsessing on one person and zero sympathizing moments. The characters are all in their thirties, still single, and confused about their life goals. And this makes it different from the mainstream dramas of that time. It gave many catchphrases like “Yada, yada, yada”, “No soup for you!”, etc.
In the times of Spider-Man and Superman, Indian creators made their superhero called Shaktimaan. Shaktimaan is an Indian superhero television series created by Mukesh Khanna (the Shaktiman himself) with director Dinker Jani. Unlike the Kryptonite or some spider’s bite-derived superpowers, Shaktiman derived his powers through the methods of meditations and yajnas.
This single-season series contained 520 episodes. It aired between 13th September 1997 and 27th March 2005 on DD National. It stars Vaishnavi Macdonald as Gita Visvas, the reporter, Surendra Pal as the main antagonist, Tamraj Kilvish, Lalit Parimoo as Dr. Jaikaal, and Tom Alter as Mahaguru.
The show is about the onset of kali yuga, in which greed and hatred will take over humanity. So to save the world, a sect of saints, Suryanshis, choose a man. They transform him into a superhero by energizing his 7 chakras of the body, meditation, and controlling the five elements of nature – fire, water, earth, wind, and life, thus, creating Shaktiman. However, to protect his real identity, Shaktiman becomes Pandit Gangadhar Shastri, a photographer in the newspaper company, ‘Aaj Ki Awaaz’.
Married … With Children
Michael George Moye and Ronald Leavitt created Married… with Children, an American sitcom for Fox channel in 1987 that continued till 1997. It ran for 11 seasons and 259 episodes and became one of the longest-running sitcoms in television history.
The series stars Edward O’Neill as Al Bundy, a women’s shoe salesman in Chicago who was a glorious football player in his high school. Peggy (Katey Sagal) is his lazy wife who grumbles about Al’s unglamorous profession and meager income and steals his savings for shopping. Their dim-witted daughter Kelly often dates boys, who are equally annoying to Al as his daughter’s stupidity. Bud is an intelligent younger brother of Kelly.
Who can forget this alien guy from the 1990s who is happy in his small world? Mr. Bean was a British sitcom created by Rowan Atkinson and Richard Curtis that ran from 1 January 1990 to 15 December 1995. It aired on ITV and ran for 5 years with only 15 episodes. Yes, only 15. But when you watch, it feels like it’s unending. And since it is mostly a silent comedy series, people with zero knowledge of English could also understand the comedy in the show. This made it a huge success worldwide.
Rowan Atkinson created this character when he was a master’s student at the university of oxford. He describes Mr. Bean as a child in a grown man’s body who solves his daily problems with innocence. A few important things in Mr. Bean’s life are his best friend Teddy, his green car (British Leyland Mini 1000 Mark 4), and an inconsiderate girlfriend, Irma Gobb (Matilda Ziegler)
Johnny Bravo is an American animated comedy series that features a young and dashing boy Johnny Bravo. He is charged with confidence when he flirts with different women he encounters, but none of them entertains him. And hence our hero remains single. This series was Van Partible’s creation for the Cartoon Network that ran for 4 seasons and 179 episodes between July 14, 1997, and August 27, 2004. It got nominated for four Annie Awards, two Golden Reel Awards, and one YoungStar Award during its run. Animators like Seth MacFarlane and Butch Hartman got launched with this series.
Jeff Bennett is the voice of Johnny, a sunglasses-wearing muscular boy who is dimwitted and self-centered. He lives in Aron City. The supporting characters are “Momma” Bravo, a witty small girl Little Suzy, Carl Chryniszzswics, a geek who idolizes Johnny, and Pops, a restaurant owner who advises Johnny on how to grab a date. As a kid, we got entertained, but as grown-up 90s kids, we now relate to him.
David Angell created Frasier with Peter Casey and David Clark Lee for the broadcast on the NBC network. It ran for 11 seasons and had 264 episodes. Frasier is an American sitcom that premiered on September 16, 1993, and ended on May 13, 2004. It was a spinoff of another 1982 series, Cheers. Frasier won 37 Primetime Emmy Awards, and TV Guide ranked Frasier as number 34 on the 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time.
The Frasier is the story of psychiatrist Frasier Crane (played by Kelsey Grammer), who returns from Boston to his hometown, Seattle as a radio show host. He reconnects with his retired police officer father, Martin (John Mahoney), and his younger psychiatrist brother, Niles (David Hyde Pierce). Martin is an injured man who wants a British caretaker. Hence, they hire Daphne Moon (Leeves), who marries Niles later. The series is full of comedy and quarrels between Martin and Frasier, who share the least in common.
Among the top 24 90s TV shows, here is Byomkesh Bakshi, a character created by an Indian Bengali-language writer, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay. Basu Chatterjee directed the series that ran for two seasons with 32 episodes, each one derived from the work of Sharadindu. Ananda Shankar gave music and its intense background score. The show was critically acclaimed and remains the most celebrated adaptation of the character on TV screens. Dibakar Banerjee made Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! in 2015, starring Late Sushant Singh Rajput in the lead role.
Byomkesh Bakshi (played by Rajit Kapur) is a fictional Bengali detective, who investigates some gruesome and mysterious cases with his partner Ajitkumar Banerji (played by K.K. Raina). But he claims himself as a “truth seeker” instead of a detective. His main motive is to find the truth behind the cases, which may or may not include following the laws. He may even allow the criminals to die by manipulating them to provide a sense of justice to the victims. And this makes him stand aside from some conventional detectives like Sherlock and Poirot.
Ally McBeal is an American legal comedy-drama that aired on Fox from September 8, 1997, to May 20, 2002. It had 112 episodes stretching to five seasons. David Edward Kelley created the show starring Calista Flockhart as Ally McBeal, a lawyer working in a Boston law firm Cage and Fish. It won Golden Globe Award for Best Television Series in 1997 and 1998 and the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series in 1999. A revival season is under development as announced in 2021.
The series is about Ally and her life at her new job at the Boston law firm Cage and Fish, which is co-owned by her law school classmate Richard Fish (played by Greg Germann). To her dismay, her ex Billy Thomas (Gil Bellows) works in the same firm for whom she still has feelings. But he is already married to Georgia (Courtney Smith), who again works in the same firm.
And this love triangle was added with legal proceedings wrapped in satire and comedy, thus forming the plot for the series and creating a hilarious engagement with its audience.
Will & Grace
Max Mutchnick created Will and Grace with David Kohan in 1998. It aired on NBC for 11 seasons with 246 episodes. It was premiered on September 21, 1998, starring Eric McCormack as Will Truman and Debra Messing as Grace Adler, and concluded on May 18, 2006. Will and Grace was the most successful television series among the top 90s TV shows, featuring gay characters in prime roles.
It also fetched Primetime Emmy Awards and Emmy awards in multiple categories. It helped educate people about the LGBT community a lot.
The show is about two best friends, Will, a gay lawyer, and a jew woman, Grace, who runs an interior design firm. Other characters include an alcoholic socialite, Karen Walker, and actor Jack McFarland, another gay character in the series. The show revolves around these friends featuring trials and tribulations of marriage and divorce, dating, and casual sex, highlighting gay and Jewish culture.
Chris Carter created one of the most successful science fiction dramas in the 90s that premiered on the Fox channel on September 10, 1993. It stars David Duchovny (as Fox Mulder) and Gillian Anderson (as Dana Scully) in the lead roles as FBI agents who, unlike other agents, work on X- files that contain mysterious cases in the paranormal world. It ran for 9 seasons and 202 episodes till May 19, 2002. Its revival seasons ran between January 24, 2016, and March 21, 2018, on public demand. It was hence, the longest-running science fiction series in U.S. television history.
Mulder, a profiler plus a believer in the supernatural world and extraterrestrial life. And this is because he believes that aliens had abducted his sister when she was 12. He is thus also called “Spooky Mulder”. Contrary to him, Dana is a highly practical, natural skeptic and a medical doctor. Unlike Mulder, she doesn’t lose her objectivity and avoids attachment to her cases.
Despite this contrasting perspective of solving cases, both are popular players in their fields. Towards the end, Mulder and Dana become fugitives who are caught with some secret government and military files regarding the alien invasion.
The lockdown year brought many popular mythologies and epic television dramas from the 90s back to us all again. It included B.R. Chopra’s Mahabharat, the second most popular Indian Hindi-language epic television series after Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan(1987). This single-season epic series had 94 episodes. It is based on the longest poem ever written in the world, Mahabharata by Maharishi Vyasa. It aired on Doordarshan from 2 October 1988 to 24 June 1990.Singer Mahendra Kapoor gave his strong voice to its famous title song “Ath Shri Mahabharat Katha”.
The epic Mahabharat, along with Ramayana, is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India, and both of them became the most successful epic-based television series in Indian television history. It narrates the struggles between Kaurava and the Pandava princes as the successors of the throne of Hastinapura, leading to the destructive war of Kurukshetra. It also includes the philosophical aspects of life mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita.
In the 90s, Indians worshipped the actors as actual gods. For them, Nitish Bharadwaj was Lord Krishna for real. The innocent audience would curse the Kauravas like Duryodhan (Puneet Issar), Dushasan (Vinod Kapoor), and Shakuni (Gufi Paintal) and flood Pandavas with their sympathy. The principal characters include Bhishma (Mukesh Khanna), Yudhishthir (Gajendra Chauhan), Arjun (Firoz Khan), Draupadi (Roopa Ganguly), Karna (Pankaj Dheer), etc.
Dexter’s Laboratory is American animated television series that aired on Cartoon Network from April 28, 1996, to November 20, 2003. It ran for four seasons with 78 episodes. Genndy Tartakovsky, a Russian American animator, created this comic science fiction.
This series revolves around a genius boy named Dexter and his secret science laboratory, where he does his experiments and gives no access to any outsider. Even his parents are clueless about this secret of their school-going boy. But his older sister Dee Dee often invades his lab and spoils all his experiments. Mandark Astronomonov is his school rival and neighbor of equivalent intelligence who has a crush on Dee-Dee. He owns a much more advanced science lab than Dexters.
Dexter’s Laboratory remained the highest-rated original series for years. 20% ratings of Cartoon Network came from Dexter’s laboratory itself in the mid-1999.
How can our list of top 24 tv shows of the 90s get completed without mentioning this all-time favorite series? Friends starred six friends named Joey (Matt LeBlanc), Rachel (Jennifer Aniston), Chandler ( Matthew Perry), Monica (Courteney Cox), Ross (David Schwimmer), and Phoebe ( Lisa Kudrow), who together go through the romantic adventures and career issues of their lives. And in this journey, they generate a lot of humor for the spectators.
Friends aired on NBC from September 22, 1994, to May 6, 2004. It ran for 10 seasons with 236 episodes. David Crane and Marta Kauffman created it originally under the titles- Insomnia Cafe, Six of One, Friends Like Us, and finally friends.
The show was famous for Joey’s “How you doin?” to Chandler’s sarcasm, from loud musician Phoebe to ‘miss perfectionist’ Monica, and for the on and off relationship between Rachel and paleontologist Ross. The show ended with Ross and Rachel finally settling down with their kids, Phoebe married Mike (season 10), and Monica married Chandler( season 7).
Its Reunion episode aired on HBO Max on May 27, 2021 that won the People’s Choice Awards on December 7, 2021, in The Pop Special of 2021 category.
So this was our list of top 24 TV shows from the 90s decade. Hope it was surely enjoyable and worth reading.