Wednesday, August 24, 2011

No Duh the 90s Were All That (and a bag of chips)

I am a child of the 90s. My school supplies were Trapper Keepers and everything Lisa Frank. I collected Pogs and spent summer vacations watching VH1 while memorizing every word to whatever glorious one-hit-wonder was popular that week (New Radicals, anyone?) At age 8 I listed my favorite TV show as Hey Dude when I was Student-of-the-Week. For what it’s worth, my favorite color was fuscia and my favorite animal was penguin (some things change, some things stay the same).

Thanks to my childhood, I never needed a cable network to tell me that the 90s Are All That, but in the recent resurgence of 90s after school and Saturday night programming, I thought I’d share my top three 90s TV shows from my childhood.

3. Flash Forward
We love that the Nickelodeon network, Teen Nick, is embracing its 90s past, but we’ve yet to experience again the glorious 90s programming from Disney. Before Hanna Montana and Alex Russo, there were Tucker and Becca: two teenagers who weren’t rock stars or wizards. They were just your average kids living next door to each other getting through middle school while comparing their current experiences to those from when they were just tikes.

Looking back, I think I loved this show for its simplicity. As I mentioned, there were no bells and whistles to the characters. They were relatable to a young girl like me who didn’t have a record deal, but did have friends and embarrassments. My favorite feature of this show, however, is its cast: more specifically, film actor Ben Foster as Tucker, and Oscar nominated actor Ryan Gosling. True, Gosling was only in two episodes as bully Scott Stuckey, so not as lasting a role as his time on YoungHercules. But when I saw him years later in the Notebook, I recognized him immediately as the dreamy and dangerously cool Stuckey.

The show itself only lasted one season (26 episodes), but I’d watch the episodes after school over and over again. I’d watch wishing Tucker or Becca lived next door so we could throw parties when our parents were out of town and tie a string to cans and chat all night long, or ya know, just use the phone.

2. Clarissa Explains It All
Clarissa did explain it all, and she did so with style and flair. I have an older brother, but camped out in front of my Grandmother’s TV on Saturday nights, Clarissa was my big sister. She taught me everything and had a large influence on me. Her hubcap collection inspired me to start my own collection (more than 100 keychains… boo yah.) She is the reason I still want a second-story bedroom with a window seat, and it was Clarissa who inspired my career path toward journalism. Regretfully or thankfully my style didn’t reflect Clarissa’s (save for side ponytails and ankle socks), but mostly everything else came from her.

Again, the premise was simple: Clarissa was your average tween/teenager, except she was an innovator. Clarissa blogged and tweeted long before the invention of social media by having her commentary on that week’s episode pop up on the screen in that unforgettable bright pink or blue comic sanish handwriting. Her parents were normal, not dweeby or mean. They were just parents who weren’t afraid to let their children be individuals: eccentric Clarissa with her wacky outfits and pet alligator, Elvis and nerdy Ferguson with his neatly made bed and khaki pants.

Clarissa showed me (us) how important it is to be yourself long before I was old enough to truly recognize it, and I think that’s “way cool Na na na na na na.

1. Saved By the Bell
The show in my number one spot needs no introduction. I’m sure many of us who grew up in the final decade of the most recent millennium would list it as one of our favorites, but it didn’t feel right not having it as my number 1. The show is so iconic and popular that it never really had or required a “comeback” because it has always been here; forever living on in syndication for generation after generation to discover it and fall in love. And isn’t that way makes Saved By the Bell (SBTB) so great? That despite the neon swim trunks and colored jeans, teens still find it relevant year after year.

For me, SBTB was a guide for what to expect in high school. Did my four years as a Trojan match up to Zack, Kelly, Slater, Jessie, Screech and Lisa’s years as Tigers? No, not really, but it didn’t matter. To this day I still watch the show and enjoy every second of it. Watching Lisa scratch and scratch after discovering she's allergic to Screech or hearing Slater and Jessie lip sync to a Michael Bolton tune dressed up as Marc Antony and Cleopatra puts me right back to sitting in my living room after school. I still hear my parents mock the “Ooooooh” sound whenever two characters kiss. I still want a chance to go on one date with Zack Morris and to be the fourth member of Hot Sundae; and that will never change. Although I graduated high school a Trojan, my first alma mater in my heart of hearts is Bayside.


  1. Don't forget, nerds: adorable Jewel Staite (best known for Firefly) was Becca! ADORABLE, I TELL YOU!

    And my fave 90s shows for teens or kids: Bill Nigh the Science Guy, X-Men the Animated Series (surprise!), Ghostwriter, Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, and Wishbone! But I recall some awesome 80s shows growing up in those late 80s. Looney Tunes, Tom & Jerry, and an assortment of super fabulous 80s fun times! And I never missed an episode of Golden Girls during its original airing when I was old enough to know what was going on (I still watched when it originally aired and when repeats were shown on at least 5 channels all day).

  2. Right! I forgot Becca was on Firefly. Kudos to casting on Flash Forward!