With ‘Twin Peaks’ back on the air and a ‘Baywatch’ movie in theaters, 1990s TV shows are having a pretty big week. Excluding those two properties, what other television series did you spend the ’90s watching?
As many of my Roundtable buddies already know, ‘Twin Peaks’ was my favorite series from the ’90s, or any other decade for that matter. Therefore, I have to go with a secondary pick, and once again I’m heading off the beaten path for a less-obvious answer and a series that only lasted one season and most have forgotten.
Debuting on the now-defunct UPN Network and starring Bruce Greenwood, ‘Nowhere Man‘ borrows from a number of TV series that proceeded it, most particularly the 1960s British cult classic ‘The Prisoner’. Greenwood stars as Thomas Veil, a photojournalist who comes home one night to discover that his wife (Megan Gallagher) doesn’t recognize him. His dog doesn’t either! In fact, no one in Thomas’s life seems to remember who he is. To make matters worse, a shadow conspiracy group is on his trail after the negatives of a photograph he took of four men being hanged in South America.
Despite lasting only one year, ‘Nowhere Man’ does end with somewhat of a conclusion (although not without a cliffhanger of sorts) that at least allows the audience to leave the series having a better idea of the mystery and who Thomas Veil really is. The show isn’t available on Blu-ray but was released on DVD. It’s highly recommended for anyone who hasn’t seen it – which, given the show’s ratings, is a lot of you!
While I’m tempted to again write about ‘Space: Above and Beyond’ – which even with the current glut of dramatic, high-budget TV series, remains without a successor – it was a short series.
For the 1990s, ‘The Simpsons‘ reigned. That’s really when the show was potent, funny, and nearly timeless. The last 15+ years have just been running on fumes. Going back to its heyday, say when Conan O’Brien was a writer and when Phil Hartman was alive, ‘The Simpsons’ was a phenomenon, and those seasons still hold up today.
M. Enois Duarte
My favorite TV show in the ’90s was ‘Seinfeld‘. To this day, it remains the best thing ever produced for television, in my humble opinion. Then again, ‘Game of Thrones’ is coming pretty close to dethroning it. Nevertheless, the show about nothing was brilliantly about everything, the little absurdities and non sequiturs of life that ironically make our existence in this meaningless universe interesting and surprisingly exciting. Best and most fascinating of all is how the characters represent different personalities in modern society responding to all the senselessness. The level-headed Jerry attempts to rationalize or understand the irrational, while the emotional George frustratingly tries to control an uncontrollable, chaotic world. The seemingly composed Elaine desires a balanced life against a disproportioned and unpredictable society, and the eccentric Kramer cruises through existence with shocking success while acting the philosophical doofus and naïve, inconsiderate altruist. It’s a fantastic show that I continue to watch and never see myself tiring of.
In the small desert town that I grew up in, Fox wasn’t broadcast. I recall many friends telling me how great ‘The X Files‘ was, but I didn’t see an episode until it was several seasons in. Thanks to great friends who had my entertainment in mind, we started getting together on a weekly basis to view each new episode. Not only did the social experience suck me in, but the series did too! The best episodes and story arcs came out of the episodes that aired in the ’90s. The early 2000s episodes were just so-so. However, to this day, those old episodes hold up well and still possess the same entertainment value as they did back then.
Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)
I wholly understand that a TV series can’t endure multiple incarnations, brave several different networks, sustain a long-running home video line, and even claw its way into movie theaters with just an audience of one. I still feel as if ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000‘ was tailor-made expressly for me.
Prone to diving through VHS cutout bins and discount Laserdisc racks back in the day in search of whatever box art made me snicker, I share its fascination with schlock cinema. All these years later, it’s had no small influence on my preference for reviewing ridiculous movies over more highbrow fare. I can’t get enough of the show’s all-over-the-place sense of humor, and I always felt strangely proud whenever I’d get an obscure reference in a riff. Its homebrew production values endear it to me even more. I felt a sort of connection to ‘MST3K’ that I really couldn’t with shows boasting glossy photography, lavish special effects, or staffed with crews numbering 100+.
So many of the series I loved when I was younger are better off left as they were (the idea of a ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ revival makes me reflexively cringe), but I’m thrilled that ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000’ has been resurrected this year, doing a longtime favorite proud.
I came to ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘ a little late. For the first couple seasons, I only knew it as a show with a goofy title, based on a pretty bad movie, airing on a network I never watched, and having something to do with high school kids and vampires. Nothing about this appealed to me on the surface. I only started watching at the insistence of friends who assured me that it was much smarter than it looked. Indeed, they were right.
Admittedly, the first season and a half were uneven. The show’s concept was strong, the cast appealing, and the quippy dialogue pretty clever (though sometimes too clever by half), but a lot of the episode plots were too silly, like creator Joss Whedon struggled with the demands of stretching a simple premise to a weekly television series.
However, the show really kicked into gear in the middle of Season 2, with a major plot twist dropped in the two-parter of episodes ‘Surprise’ and ‘Innocence’. From that point forward, the genius of Whedon’s storytelling truly bloomed. His writing came into focus, and the narrative developed compelling long-form arcs. Most fans will agree that ‘Buffy’ reached its peak in Season 3, episodes airing from the fall of 1998 to summer of 1999. Almost every episode that season is a winner.
‘Buffy’ ran for seven seasons in all, and had its ups and downs. Season 4 took a dip in quality, but the show rebounded in Season 5. The last two years are divisive among fans. Some find them underrated while others can’t stand them. I tend to take them episode-by-episode, but I think Whedon ended things very strongly in the series finale.
In the years since the show went off the air, 20th Century Fox has threatened to reboot the property without any involvement from Joss Whedon. That sounds like a terrible idea to me and I hope it never happens.
From ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ to ‘Friends’, ‘Frasier’ or ‘ER’, what were your favorite TV shows of the 1990s?
The staff will take Monday off for the Memorial Day holiday. Have a great long weekend. We’ll see you back here on Tuesday.