Remember how awesome the 90’s were? Remember how much more awesomer 90’s TV was? TGIF, Nickelodeon, MTV. It was a golden age of broadcasting that has sadly evolved into garbage “reality” shows about a bunch of people no one really cares about. So let’s take a trip down memory lane and tickle our nostalgia bones as I discuss the top 10 family sitcoms of the 90’s.
Note: These are shows where the majority of their episodes aired in between 1990-1999 and appealed to the whole family not just the kids. I know there are dozens of other shows that could be discussed here.
10. Full House: You may be surprised to find this so low on the list because everyone fondly remembers the Tanner family and their zany antics. I watch multiple episodes of this show every night because there’s nothing else decent on TV and I’ve learned one thing, this show is not funny. It does not hold up. The situations that happen and the cheesiness is so over the top that it’s embarrassing. Honestly, I considered not even putting it on the list. It made it on for two reasons: 1) You can’t deny the popularity of the show in its prime, and, even though it’s terrible now, this was cream of the crop family sitcom stuff in the 90’s. 2) How can you be mad at a show that brought Uncle Jesse into the world.
9. Married with Children: This was another one that I debated over for one reason: it was actually pretty inappropriate for children. Despite that, there was still a big appeal to kids that were a little older and could understand Bud’s rampant sexual appetite and Kelly’s overt sexuality. Al Bundy was a perfect model of the working class man that nearly anyone how had a 9 to 5 could identify with. While some of the humor was probably a little over most kids’ heads it was still hilarious and a great treat for the whole family. It started to get a little wacky towards the end, but we’ll just ignore those years.
8. Step by Step: This was basically a more modern version of The Brady Bunch. I mean, it was pretty much the exact same plot. However, The Brad Bunch didn’t have Cody and that’s what really made this show great. Step by Step was a perfect picture of the blended family which had become increasingly more prevalent around that time. Like Full House, it doesn’t hold up super great with time, but it’s still funnier and more entertaining. And that episode where you realize that Cody is actually a kung fu master is pretty incredible.
7. Home Improvement: Tim Allen’s magnum opus. The show’s appeal can’t be argued or denied. A classic family makeup complete with an overbearing mother, an accident prone father, a wise old neighbor and Johnathan Taylor Thomas. Watching Tim repeatedly harm himself was always good for a laugh and I think we all now, as adults, wish we had a neighbor like Wilson to give us advice. And the Halloween episodes were the best. We won’t talk about JTT’s close call with cancer because that was just too emotional for everyone.
6. Family Matters: Urkel was obviously the big appeal here. Kids loved him. Parents loved him. He loved cheese and wasn’t ever sure if he did things. I haven’t seen an episode of this show in years, but last I checked it was still pretty darn funny. Sure it got wildly out of control towards the end with Steve’s DNA altering port-a-potty, but even those episodes could be entertaining (i.e. Bruce Lee Urkel). I think one of the best things about this show was that it focused on something other than a middle-class white family. Nestled securely between the never-ending onslaught of Caucasian-centric shows was the Winslow family and they were killing it. Take that, white people.
5. Wings: Okay, so my number 4 and 5 are probably the most debatable entries on this list because they skew more towards either adults or kids, but just hear me out. Wings was certainly an adult oriented show. Plenty of talk about sex and some cursing in there, but the humor was more or less clean and there was one aspect of this show that had a huge appeal for children: Lowell Mather. He was the loveable doofus that was just a little too simple to be inappropriate. Lowell was probably the only reason parents let their kids watch Wings along with them. I went back and watched the entire show on Netflix a few months ago, and the episode where Lowell goes into witness protection and they hang up his red hat in the hangar legit made me tear up.
4. Saved by the Bell: As Wings was more of an adult oriented show, SBTB was definitely more focused on the kids of the family. This show defined a generation. Everyone wanted to be Zack Morris and if you were a guy and didn’t have a crush on Kelly Kapowski, you were a lying bastard. While it was more of a kid show, the cast had a big appeal to parents, especially when they were teaching children that there’s no hope with dope or that drinking like a single beer before driving will definitely get you in an accident. It was just a pretty wholesome show all around and no one can deny the influence it had over teenagers.
3. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air: Would any of us give a crap about Will Smith right now if he wasn’t on this show? Probably not. This show was hilarious when it was on in the 90’s and, honestly, it’s still pretty damn funny. It set itself apart by focusing on a successful upper-class African American family, which really even today isn’t that common. That could have lost some viewers, but they did an amazing job of keeping the characters relatable, loveable, and memorable. Everyone knows the words to the theme song and (kind of) how to do the Carlton dance. If you can get through the scene in which Will’s father abandon’s him again without feeling the feels, you’re a monster.
2. The Wonder Years: This was always one of my favorites as a kid. Kevin Arnold is one of the most relatable characters ever. He’s the quintessential everyman. Winnie Cooper was just about the most adorable thing ever. I think this show bridged a gap between parents and their kids. There was a nostalgia for parents to remember what it was like for them to be a kid, but it also showed kids that their parents really went through a lot of the same things they were going through. Maybe not in exactly the same ways, but the situations were basically the same. The show was genuine and funny, but tackled some of the real issues that were going on during that time period like Vietnam. It brought a more personal feel to the history of that time. Just perfect.
1. Boy Meets World: I don’t care if you don’t agree with this. You’re wrong. End of discussion. The 90’s produced no better family show than Boy Meets World. The Matthews clan was the epitome of middle-class suburban life. A while back, we re-watched the series on DVD and it stands the test of time better than any other show that could ever be considered for this list. It was hilarious then and it’s hilarious now. But the humor is only part of what makes Boy Meets World so fantastic. They tackled legit issues that every kid faced growing up and they didn’t shy away from the more taboo subjects in wholesome sitcoms like sex, infidelity, child abuse, and death. Any given episode could make you laugh your ass off in one scene and then hit you right in the feels in the very next. Mr. Feeny was always the perfect teach both inside and outside the classroom, a model to which every real teach should aspire to. This show was the most accurate portrayal of the life of an American pre-teen/teenager that a 90’s sitcom could create. Even during the college years when things got a little wackier, it was still poignant and relatable. Even the spin-off, Girl Meets World, is pretty darn good. A little hokey because it’s a Disney show, but the spirit of the original is still there and it works. Boy Meets World will forever be one of the best shows of the 90’s.