Are you ready for a trip back in time? Today we’re taking you by the hand and going on a trip to the 90s together! Some may have found this brightly colored decade, in which Buffalo boots met starving Tamagotchis as alienating. But we look back on this episode in our history with fond nostalgia. It was a time when we didn’t yet have the privilege of inhaling away our favorite shows in various media libraries and streaming portals at the time of our choosing in eight-hour sessions. No, back then we still dutifully noted down every date on our Diddl calendar when the hotly anticipated new episode of our favorite show would flicker across the clunky tube TV. Fortunately, the 1990s were a decade teeming with series gems.
Below, we present the 20 best and most popular TV series of that time, which are still worth a look today!
1: “Friends” (1994-2004)
The genre of sitcoms experienced a hype in the 90s that was unparalleled until then. The series “Friends” is still considered a prime example of how to perfectly stage situation comedy.
In 10 years and 10 seasons, we have accompanied Rachel, Monica, Phoebe, Joey, Chandler and Ross on their way and have not infrequently pulled out the handkerchief at the rousing, intricate love relationships of the characters among themselves. The wonderfully written jokes still hit the right nerve today, and the development of the individual characters is comprehensible and excitingly conveyed. But despite all the hilarity, the deep, emotional level of the plot, which has been present throughout all the seasons, should never be ignored. “Friends” is an absolute cult.
Anyone who has missed the series so far should be ashamed of themselves and then binge-watch all 10 seasons!
2: “The Simpsons” (1989-present)
Matt Groening you genius, what would we do without you? As the creator of the yellow family from tranquil Springfield, you’ve been supplying our unworthy bodies with the entertaining stories about Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie Simpson for 30 years now (!). “The Simpsons” is one of those series that is one of the most popular shows in the entire history of television.
The best and most creative phase of the family was in the 1990s, of course, no area of public and private life was immune to a humorous sideswipe of the yellow Springfield residents. The gags raced across the screen at a breathtaking pace. Legendary by now is also the “couch gag”, which changed in every intro and let the anticipation for the actual episode rise immeasurably. We say “Yay!” and “Ay Caramba!”, if you can’t do anything with The Simpsons, then “Eat my shorts!”.
3: “Seinfield” (1989-1998)
Jerry Seinfield and Larry David created a cinematic monument for themselves with “Seinfield.” The sitcom takes place within the American metropolis of New York and accompanies the four buddies George Costanza, Elaine Benes, Cosmo Kramer and Jerry Seinfield, who simply impersonated himself.
The plot of each episode is structured in such a way that initially individual, independent strands develop, which eventually run into each other in humorous ways. It gets particularly funny when an uninvolved person meets the circle of friends and not infrequently worlds collide. The show refrained from adding complicated love relationships and remained true to its concept until the end.
In 1998, over 70 million viewers watched the finale of the sitcom, which 20 years later is still one of the best the genre has to offer.
4: “Emergency Room” (1994-2009)
“Nurse, give me the swabs, the scalpel and the remote control – Emergency Room is about to start”. This is probably how it sounded in living rooms during the 1990s when a new episode of the popular American hospital series came on the air. Although the series ran well into the 2000s, our thoughts naturally stray to that time when George Clooney wielded the surgical instruments (1994-1999 and again in 2009) and caused many a viewer’s blood pressure to skyrocket to alarming heights. In addition to the everyday life in the hospital including the associated emergencies, of course, the human side within the staff including relationship dramas never came up short. “ER” was showered with awards and is the best hospital series for many viewers.
5: “South Park” (1997-present)
Animation series are more for kids? If they are nevertheless aimed at a more adult target group, then with some political jokes, but they never cross the line of good taste? You fools! “South Park” knows no inhibitions, the series around the main characters Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny not only crosses that line of good taste, but also cuts them up into small pieces, spins them through a meat grinder and then serves them to you as chili con carne! Nevertheless, the content presented by creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone does not just consist of clumsy exaggeration, but always makes a socio-critical reference to current topics.
The unique “snippet look” paired with deep black humor make South Park a real pearl of the late 90s.
6: “The Prince of Bel-Air” (1990-1996)
Take a young Will Smith, who is shipped by his mother from a social hot spot in his native Philadelphia to his filthy rich relatives in exquisite Bel-Air: And there’s the concept of “The Prince of Bel-Air.”
What at first appears to be a rather clumsy ploy works quite wonderfully in reality. The carefree Will talks as his mouth grows and thus upsets the genteel world of his uncle Phil, his aunt Vivian, his cousin Carlton, and his cousins Hilary and Ashley time and again. The concept of the sitcom is, of course, based on the typical stringing together of funny scenes. However, there are also serious moments, such as when Will’s troubled relationship with his father comes to light, or when Carlton fears for his life in the hospital due to Will’s guilt.
7: “Full House” (1987-1995)
If “Full House” were set in poker, the series would probably have to be called “Royal Flush.” Because the show is one of the best we can find in the field of 90s sitcoms. The plot revolves around widower Danny Tanner, who touchingly cares for his children Michelle, D.J. and Stephanie. But to make the house really full, his friend Joey and brother-in-law Jesse move into the four walls at home. Thus the chaos is perfect, which we were able to follow in 192 episodes and which for the first time introduced the then still very young Olsen Twins to a wide audience.
Since 2016, the cast dared a modest comeback attempt with the remake “Fuller House”, but we prefer to spend our rainy Sunday afternoons with the unique original.
8: “Awfully Nice Family” (1987-1997)
Al Bundy doesn’t have it easy. When he makes his way home every evening from his hated job as a shoe salesman, his constantly nagging wife Peggy, daughter Kelly’s “dumbass”, and his annoying son Bud are already waiting there to make life hell for the head of the family. In 259 editions of the sitcom, we were regularly allowed to laugh our heads off at the Bundy family, whose constellation actually doesn’t seem to fit together at all. The somewhat rude humor serves all the usual clichés and stereotypes, but anyone who approaches the series with the right, not too serious attitude will have a great time with “A terribly nice family”.
9: “Under One Roof” (1989-1998)
“Under One Roof” actually centers around the Winslow family, centered around father Carl and mother Harriette. But the true star of the series is undisputedly neighbor Steve Urkel, who at first keeps dropping in on the Winslows uninvited and later actually gets his permanent place in their house. The over-excited, annoying character was the epitome of a “nerd” at the time, with his idiosyncratic style of dress, including huge glasses. Today, he would probably be a successful fashion blogger in Berlin. However, although the show was conceived as a sitcom, it doesn’t shy away from dealing with more sensitive topics, such as family problems and racism.
10: “Home Improvement” (1991-1999)
Tim Taylor not only has an extraordinary talent for home improvement, but also a talent for show business. Putting both of these qualities together, it’s actually only logical that the character played by Tim Allen runs his own television show called “Tool Time”. In this show, one tool or another gets broken, as Tim is always trying to tickle the last bit of juice out of them. Of course, the self-titled “do-it-yourself king” is not alone. He is assisted by his friend Al, wife Jill and a whole bunch of sons. A running gag in the series are the appearances of neighbor Wilson, whose face is always covered by a fence and thus hidden from our eyes.
11: “That ’70s Show” (1998-2006)
“That ’70s Show” puts a clique of friendly youngsters in front of us, who want to sweeten their dull everyday lives in their sleepy hometown somehow. As the title of the series suggests, the sitcom is at home in the decade of bell-bottoms and disco balls. Accordingly, it also deals with those topics that were current in the 1970s. These include the emerging feminism, but also more timeless series content, such as love, friendship and quarrels.
“That ’70s Show” was staged with a huge attention to detail, all the costumes look authentic and original, so that you feel atmospherically believable transported to the 70s. Last but not least, the show has produced stars like Ashton Kutcher and Mila Kunis and is therefore still worth a look today.
12: “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1997-2003)
The garlic chain unpacked and the wooden stake drawn: We go vampire hunting. Not alone, but together with Sarah Michelle Gellar, who has much more professional experience as a vampire hunter than we do, and who skillfully keeps the pesky bloodsuckers at bay. In 7 seasons and 144 episodes, Buffy and her friends not only have to deal with all kinds of demonic critters, but also solve typical “coming of age” problems.
Thanks to its successful mix of action, horror and humor, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” continues to lure us back to our TV screens.
13: “The X-Files” (1993 – 2002; 2016-2018)
It is in the nature of man that we are particularly fascinated by those phenomena that we cannot explain to ourselves. If these supernatural events are then also set in a gripping crime thriller setting, we have arrived at the concept of “The X-Files” on the one hand, and on the other hand exactly right. The stories around the agents Mulder and Scully lead us from one conspiracy to another and keep us obediently in over 200 episodes. The series’ theme song alone has cult status and gives die-hard fans goosebumps.
The news that David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson were to return to their roles once again in 2016 and breathe new life into the show may also have caused rapture.
14: “Law & Order” (1990-2010)
When a series reaches the biblical age of 20 years, you can already imagine that those responsible must have done something right. That’s what happened with “Law & Order,” the show was able to maintain its broadcast slot from 1990 to 2010. The crime drama series stood out above all for its authentic staging and was set in the streets of New York City. Here, bodies are found, perpetrators are investigated and villains are brought to justice. A special feature of “Law & Order” is that the makers focus almost exclusively on police work; domestic marital crises and relationship problems are looked for in vain. This move turns out to be a smart one, however, as the series never loses its focus and the viewer is not sucked out of the exciting cases.
15: “Sex and the City” (1998-2004)
Towards the end of the 90s, there was hardly a person who could escape the emerging hype around “Sex and the City”. Mainly, the story is told through the eyes of Carrie Bradshaw, embodied by Sarah Jessica Parker. Her life, sometimes a bit too cliché, is mainly about men, shoes and her three best friends Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha. Even though the show had a reputation as a typical “women’s show,” there were quite a few men who followed their beloved in front of the TV of their own free will and hoped that Carrie would finally find the man of her dreams.
16: “The Sopranos” (1999-2007)
First aired in 1999, “The Sopranos” is still just about one of the series that earned its place in our list. Regardless of the time, the mafia show, set in the drama genre, is a true classic that has been showered with awards and rightly praised to the skies by professionals. The Sopranos” was inspired by numerous other genre-typical big-budget films. So if you enjoyed “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas,” you can’t go wrong with “The Sopranos.
17: “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (1987-1994)
Some people might have to get used to the Germanized title of “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. However, the exciting adventures that Jean-Luc Picard, William Thomas Riker, Geordi La Forge, Worf, Deanna Troi and Co. experience in the endless expanses of space will make you feel at home even faster.
If you’re into science fiction series, you’re in for an absolute treat with this production from the 1990s. The show is therefore not only recommended to old-established “Trekkies”, who should know the show inside out anyway, but to anyone who has even the slightest bit of a thing for space stories.
18: “Roseanne” (1988-1997; 2018)
When it was announced in the spring of 2017 that one of the most iconic series from the 90s would be revived, anticipation was high among fans. A year later, the time had actually come and the first episode of the now tenth season of “Roseanne” was broadcast and rewarded with outstanding ratings. It could have all been so beautiful, had it not been for the mental lapses of leading actress Roseanne Barr. In a Twitter post, she took tasteless shots at the Muslim community and the African-American former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett, and also made racist comparisons to monkeys. Too bad. What followed was the inevitable end of the sitcom that had brought us so much fun in the 1990s.
19: “Xena – Warrior Princess” (1995-2001)
Okay, there are certainly some of you who consider “Xena” to be pretty trashy. But we stand by our unapologetic warrior princess! Let’s face it, a list of the best series from the 90s without the participation of Xena would be absurd! We are not ashamed to admit that we watched the mythological stories and battles spellbound. And, of course, this was mainly due to the sophisticatedly written dialogues, the artistically choreographed fights and the epic story that “Xena – Warrior Princess” presented to us. In any case, the skimpy outfits and the crisp looks of leading lady Lucy Lawless were not a factor. Not in the least.
20: “Ally McBeal” (1997-2002)
Women in power! Beery and dry lawyer shows are a dime a dozen. What we want, and what we got between 1997 and 2002 with “Ally McBeal,” was an approachable, likeable character with rough edges. For Ally McBeal (played by Calista Flockhart), the search for love was at least as important as her successful performance in the courtroom. In well over 100 episodes we were part of this search, which also brightened our time with numerous original court cases. The characters, some of whom were drawn in a quirky way, were beautifully presented and remained in our memories for a long time.