Since we’re witnessing the ‘The Golden Era of Television’ (well, the third one), it’s pretty easy to sing the praises of such shows like ‘Mad Men,’ ‘Homeland,’ ‘Modern Family,’ and basically everything on HBO. But, let’s face it: we like the bad stuff too. Whether it’s teary-eyed confessionals, stupid pranks or staged catfights, we all have a TV guilty pleasure (or two) that we simply cannot quit.
So that’s why I’m rounding up my favorite television vices each week, so that we can all find solace in knowing that someone else is watching – and enjoying – the same vast wasteland.
Because the first step in healing is admitting that you have a problem.
This week’s Guilty Pleasure: ‘90s Shows on Netflix.
The nineties were amazingly bad/awesome. Not only did the decade bestow us with baggy clothes, a cool hip hop soundtrack and a penchant for grungy, stringy-haired men, it also gave us a slew of great television with catchy theme songs and flashy credits. And also, so-bad-it’s-good television -- with catchy theme songs and flashy credits. Some of these gems can be found on Netflix, and if you were anything like me during this holiday season, you found yourself one with the couch and thinking “I Don’t Want to Wait”…for another ‘Dawson’s Creek’ episode. Here are some of my favorites that you can stream right now. Like, right now.
‘Beverly Hills, 90210’ (1990-2000)
Easily the most desirable zip code on the planet, the teen soap was what I imagined my high school experience would look like: photogenic people, fancy clothes, fast cars, and impromptu concerts by cool bands like Color Me Badd. Sadly, my suburban high school days were anything but: I was more an Andrea than a Brenda (but still wore the heavy bangs) and there were more Davids in my school than Brandons. It was just as well. Between the date rapes, the backstabbing and the diet pills, it’s amazing any of them graduated on time. (Oops – sorry, Donna!)
For me, the NBC sitcom was always that time-filler/killer between ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Frasier,’ or whatever must-see TV comedy aired on Thursday nights. ‘Wings’ was the Jan Brady of the peacock network’s comedy lineup. It had a pretty tight cast (Tim Daly, Thomas Haden Church, Steven Weber, Tony ‘Monk’ Shalhoub) and the premise was standardly funny: brothers attempt to run an airline on Nantucket amongst wacky co-workers. But the series never – pardon the pun – took off. If you want to venture into multi-cam sitcom territory again, I’d give this a second shot. The Helen/Joe hate-love relationship pre-dates Ross and Rachel and it's just as funny and compelling.
‘Melrose Place’ (1992-1999)
This was like ‘The Real World’ for grown-ups. But, fake. With lots of cat fights. So, yeah, it was like ‘The Real World.’ The series epitomized the phrase "don’t eat where you sleep" because if you lived in Melrose Place, there wasn’t a whole lot of sleeping going around. Everyone had a couple (or love triangle) to root for: Allison and Billy; Jane/Michael/Sydney; Amanda and whoever and whoever. And everyone remembers where they were when Kimberly took off her wig and revealed her scary scars (the image still brings chills down my spine). The question remains though: after six seasons, why was Heather Locklear still billed as "Special Guest Star"?
‘Party of Five’ (1994-2000)
Man, these five siblings had it rough. Not only were they orphans (hence, the "party of five" reference), but between the five of them, they endured each and every teen fear imaginable: Abortion! Cancer! Domestic Abuse! Alcoholism! Sure, it was melancholic and super earnest (and Claudia was totally obnoxious), but the cast was pretty stellar (Matthew Fox, Neve Campbell, Scott Wolf, Lacey Chabert, Jennifer Love Hewitt) and, unlike its other FOX mates (‘90210’ and ‘Melrose Place’), the show was rooted in relatable realism and accurately depicted what it was like to be a teen and twentysomething in the angst-riddled ‘90s.
‘Dawson’s Creek’ (1998-2003)
When the series debuted on The WB (now The CW), it was flanked for its unrealistic portrayal of teens. Apparently teens didn’t speak nearly as intelligently or were as emotionally aware in real-life as they were in Kevin Williamson’s Capeside. Oh, yeah – and Pacey slept with a teacher during the first season, and that was deemed pretty “racy” (but Jamie Walters’ creepy stint on ‘90210’ was OK? I digress). What really makes the show is the acting. Not surprising when you have Oscar-nominee Michelle Williams in the mix, along with James Van Der Beek’s cry face. What really makes this show so ‘90s-delicious are the butterfly barrettes and the moody soundtrack and the huge cordless phones. It will make you ache for a time when things were simple: like when you had to crawl through your best friend’s window to get their attention because texting didn’t exist.
For Melrose Place: 'The question remains though: after six seasons, why was Heather Locklear still billed as "Special Guest Star"?'
Is this a serious question? As in, you really don't know why she was billed in that manner?
For Party Of Five: 'Not only were they orphans (hence, the "party of five" reference)"
The "party of five" reference has nothing what-so-ever to do with them being orphans. It's a restaurant phrase frequently used in busy restaurants where you have to wait a while before being seated. As in "Salinger, party of five...your table is now ready". It's a reference to the fact that the 5 of them (thus a "party of five") ate supper nearly every day at the restaurant. It's also a bit of a running joke in that their parents (before they were killed) or the current restaurant manager (after the parents were killed) reserved a table for them just before they were due to arrive, so they rarely had to actually wait for a table, and on the rare occassion that the phrase was actually used with them (usually by their parents before they died), it was used jokingly as they walked through the door.
Level 4 (75%) Points: 802.8 Since: 09/Sep/13
Message Posted On Jan 2nd, 2014, 6:33 am
I loved 'Dawson's Creek' so much. Pacey forever! <3
msd85 (Global Editor)
Level 39 (91%) Points: 17879.2 Since: 07/Jul/10
Message Posted On Jan 2nd, 2014, 6:23 am
I've watched many 90210 and Party of Five episodes on Netflix, and I make no apologies for this fact. As a child of the 90's, those shows are like nostalgia being directly injected into my veins. As for Wings, while it's far from the funniest sitcom of the decade, I've never understood the hate for it. It's a light-hearted, inoffensive comedy, and introduced me to Tim Daly, Steven Weber, Thomas Haden Church, and Tony Shalhoub, four actors who I remain fans of to this day. Wings is the perfect show to throw on in the background if you want a few laughs while cleaning or doing a similar repetitive task.