Top 10 Sitcoms of the '90s
10. Home Improvement
For a show that was so commercially popular at the time, Home Improvement is a sitcom that often gets left out of the conversation. It follows the everyday life of Tim Taylor, the host of a home improvement show, and his family. He’s your typical 90’s dad- he loves his power tools, the Detroit lions, and is known for being a bit cocky at times. The plot was simple and episodes often followed a similar formula, but it was a massive success and remained in the Nielsen Top 10 throughout its nearly 10 year run. It helped carry the classic family sitcom format into the 2000’s and gave us bumbling dad moments we’ll never forget.
One of the most popular spin offs in television history, Fraser follows the misadventures of Fraser Crane, a character from the widely popular 80’s sitcom Cheers. Fraser is a psychiatrist returning to his hometown of Seattle to begin a radio advice show. He’s recently divorced, reconnecting with his father, and managing the ups and downs of bachelorhood and high society in 90’s Seattle. The show strayed from the popular family sitcom format at the time and was acclaimed for its wit and slower pacing. A reboot has been greenlit for release in 2022 and will feature many of the original cast.
8. Boy Meets World
Boy Meets World was a popular coming of age series that followed the life and times of Cory Matthews, a teenager trying to navigate things like high school, relationships, and the transition to college and adulthood. Many viewers felt that they were growing up alongside the characters because they were followed through various stages of life, from 6th grade up until Cory and Topanga’s wedding. It touched on many serious issues that few shows had addressed before and was praised for its honesty and openness. A spinoff series, Girl Meets World, premiered on Disney Channel in 2014 and followed the life of Cory and Topanga’s 13 year old daughter Riley.
7. That 70’s Show
That 70’s Show followed a group of 6 teenagers living in Wisconsin in the mid 70’s. It discussed social issues of growing up in the 1970’s while still following a very late 90’s/early 2000’s format. It also looked at the lives of their parents, mostly Eric’s parents Red and Kitty Foreman. The dialogue was fast-paced and snappy, the relationships between characters were well developed, and so many moments, especially those between Eric and his father, hold a very nostalgic place in our hearts.
6. 3rd Rock From the Sun
A show with a bold plot idea unlike many other sitcoms of the decade, 3rd Rock From the Sun followed a family of aliens on a mission to Earth and their attempts to blend in as a normal American family in the 90’s. Their attempts to study human society and their assumed superiority over the “native species” on Earth provided us with some hilarious, self-aware moments. The show was very successful, with John Lithgow’s performance receiving significant praise. In 1997, the show won the most Emmy Awards for a television series and it remains a staple of 90’s sitcoms.
We all know how hilarious Martin Lawrence can be, and giving him his own sitcom to display his comedic chops proved to be a massive success. Martin plays Detroit disc-jokey Martin Payne alongside his girlfriend Gina. Though it’s impossible to discuss the show without mentioning the difficulties that arose during production and the lawsuits actress Trisha Campbell filed against the production team, there is no denying the impact that Martin had on youth and hip hop culture in the 90’s as one of Fox’s highest-rated shows at the time.
4. Full House
We can’t talk about 90’s sitcom nostalgia without mentioning Full House. Whether you loved it or hated it, the show defined the wholesome family sitcom genre and exemplifies the bright eyed optimism of the decade. The catch phrases were cheesy, the clothes were ridiculous, and every episode ended with a life lesson from patriarch Danny Tanner. But there was something about the show that absolutely worked. Though it never gained significant critical success, it was a fan favorite and has continued to grow in popularity through syndicated reruns.
3. Saved by the Bell
Saved by the Bell is another high school sitcom following the lives of a group of high school friends that wasn’t ever afraid to touch on serious social issues. A classic Saturday morning program for many kids and teens, we followed the ups and downs of life at Bayside High and beyond. It was targeted towards younger kids originally and was one of the first programs at its time designed to be a live action children’s show. It defined the genre and is still well loved today worldwide.
Seinfeld was such a bold departure from the classic sitcom format of the time that it was nearly cancelled after its first season for being too niche. Described as “a show about nothing” it dives into the minute, universal details of daily life. The plot lines were absolutely ridiculous and problems often arose out of the most unlikely scenarios but that’s what made the show so memorable. Much of the comedy is focused on the characters having questionable morals and being terrible people, which was a stark contrast to most other 90’s sitcom characters. It ran for nine seasons and is often considered one of the best written shows of all time.
What is there to say about Friends that hasn’t already been said? It is the epitome of 90’s television, a pop culture phenomenon. It received critical acclaim worldwide throughout its 10 year run and remains one of the most popular television shows of all time. It is as popular today as it was when it first aired and its characters remain some of the most iconic in pop culture history. It received huge success internationally as well, with it being the most-watched English language program throughout most of the world. Over a quarter of all English language students credited the show with helping them improve their English. It’s undeniably a timeless classic and will likely continue its success for decades to come.