If nostalgia were a form of currency, it would render the American dollar virtually useless, as our memories are as important to us as anything else in life. And over the course of that life, there are bound to be many outdated details that have been replaced by current information needed to understand the increasingly complex world around us. One of the more expendable sections of the memory bank is arguably “children’s programming from the 1990s,” but we’re here to try and strengthen that part of your brain.
Here are 15 shows that you might have forgotten about over the years, from cartoons to live-action to strange mixtures of the two. Instead of shooting for the most obscure programs imaginable, we chose shows that you probably loved for a spell on Saturday mornings or in the afternoons after school while you were sucking down Ecto Coolers and chowing down on Pizza Rolls.
Years Aired: 1996-1998
The Muppets do love entertaining others, and their fourth major TV venture, ABC’s primetimey Muppets Tonight, was centered around a variety/talk show as hosted by the dreadlocked Clifford (voiced by Elmo’s Kevin Clash). To be expected, each episode featured celebrity guests – such as Prince, Pierce Brosnan and the odd combo of Coolio and Don Rickles – and mixed sketches with musical numbers. It’s possibly the least-remembered of all the Muppets’ series thanks to its middling critical reception at the time, but it still holds a firm place in our hearts.
Years Aired: 1991-1995
The 1990s were a good time for taking established characters and giving them a modern spin. One of the best of these was Fox’s Taz-Mania, which took the twirling animal-muncher of Warner Bros.’ Golden Era and put him inside a slightly post-modern family comedy. (You can tell it’s a Warner cartoon because the dad is an obvious Bing Crosby caricature.) Beyond its catchy theme song, this Saturday morning toon was the main place you could find Australian send-ups like Bushwhacker Bob and Digeri Dingo, with occasional cameos from many Looney Tunes favorites.
Square One Television
Years Aired: 1987-1992
If you want to get kids into a series that uses math as its driving force, you’d better make it interesting, and PBS’ Square One Television did just that, using parody as its central approach. The most memorable parts to me were always the episode ending Dragnet-aping “Mathnet” segments, as well as the Pacman-skewing “Mathman.” In hindsight, the latter was probably uninterestingly slight, but there were luckily other portions revolving around game shows, a Fawlty Towers spoof, and magician Harry Blackstone, Jr. (Like other shows on this list, even though Square One kicked off in the 1980s, enough episodes were made in the 1990s for it to count. Plus, reruns!)
Years Aired: 1991-1993
Somewhat reminiscent of the Sesame Street segment “Teeny Little Super Guy,” Mr. Bogus was an animated series loosely based on a French claymation series, parts of which were used in the show itself, only spun for English-speaking audiences. It centered on a monstrous little doofus who spends most of his Earthly time inside the walls and on the counters of a suburban household, and the rest of his time in the surreally bizarre dimension called Bogusland. Problems were made and solutions were found, and Mr. Bogus usually stumbled backwards into all of them.
Years Aired: 1992-1996
While other Nickelodeon sketch shows like You Can’t Do That on Television and All That still make conversations thanks to cast members like Alanis Morissette and Kenan Thompson, Roundhouse doesn’t get brought up as much, which is kind of a crime, given how enjoyably silly that show was. Created by the Emmy-winning In Living Color writer Buddy Sheffield, Roundhouse centered its episodes around morals and themes, using sketches and songs to tell its story. The fact that it’s never officially made it to DVD is positively criminal.
Mother Goose and Grimm
Years Aired: 1991-1992
Based on the highly successful comic strip from Mike Peters – it seemed like almost every CBS Saturday morning cartoon was based on one licensed property or another – Mother Goose and Grimm was the perfect gateway cartoon between preschool fare and teen-oriented shows. It was also a nice and all-too-brief alternative for those who wanted something a little different from similar comic-based shows like Garfield and Friends. With a cat named Attila and Mother Goose herself, Grimmy went through all kinds of weird situations and interactions that could definitely use a modern update.
Years Aired: 1991-1993
We’re currently in an era of TV where soapy teen dramas are commonplace, but they’re also hyper-stylized and the characters are far more adult than they should be. But when the Canadian-American teen soap Fifteen (or Hillside) hit Nickelodeon in the early 1990s, high schoolers had a (corny as shit) show to try and relate to without an abundance of parental figures. Admittedly, its plotlines are less memorable than the fact that it served as extremely early roles for Ryan Reynolds and Laura Harris, of The Faculty and Dead Like Me fame.
Years Aired: 1995-1997
Unfairly overshadowed by such Stephen Spielberg-produced Warner Bros. animated series like Tiny Toons and Animaniacs, the surreally outrageous Freakazoid! deserves to be looked at as one of the best series of the 1990s, as it lent a Monty Python tone to the world of animated superheroes. (Not to mention Ed Asner’s amazing work as the gruff Sgt. Mike Cosgrove.) The jokes were as fast and furious as Freakazoid himself, and the episodes often jumped from serialized stories to one-off sketches that followed other heroes. And like its fellow Warner cartoons, it has aged amazingly well.
Years Aired: 1997-2000
For anybody who loved the science fun of Mr. Wizard’s World and Bill Nye the Science Guy, Science Court was a nice follow-up, even if fans of those other shows were probably too old to enjoy it properly. Using the Squigglevision form of animation made popular by Dr. Katz and Home Movies, Science Court also boasted the voicework of the latter’s H. Jon “Sterling Archer” Benjamin and Paula Poundstone. It humorously used a courtroom setting to differentiate good science from bad science, a concept we probably need now more than ever.
Years Aired: 1991-1993
While Fifteen focused on the dramatic side of the mid-teen era, Welcome Freshmen was dedicated to making kids laugh at the early high school experience through a series of high-concept sketches and situations. (My favorites were always the Mer-u-mentaries, in which David Rhoden’s Merv addressed the audience while trying to get to the bottom of school scandals.) By the time the third season rolled around, Welcome Freshmen dropped the multi-sketch format and streamlined itself as a normal teen comedy as most of the characters finally made the shift to being sophomores.
Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars
Year Aired: 1991
Even though it only lasted one season, I have distinct memories of loving this show in all its cornball post-Ninja Turtle silliness. (What other show on TV was rocking a phantom baboon?) Based on the comic book series created by Larry Hama and Michael Golden, Bucky O’Hare and the Toad Wars paired the long-eared hero with an Earth kid named Willy in a quest to save his home planet from a bunch of toads that have been brainwashed. Classic. I’m going to have this theme song in my head for the rest of the day. Feel free to do the same.
Years Aired: 1995-2000
I would have lost money betting how long Hang Time was on the air, as it was overshadowed by Peter Engel’s other teen-centric series like Saved by the Bell and its The New Class follow-up. This show is basically a cookie cutter version of everything else Engel did, only with the teen escapades centering on the Deering Tornados’ basketball team. The show saw major character changes happen early on – much like what happens in a teenager’s life – and it even brought in some major sports stars like Grant Hill and Muggsy Bogues. Dustin “Screech” Diamond even showed up, but that’s really not worth remembering.
Years Aired: 1999-2001 Don’t give me grief about the years here, because So Weird felt far more like a product of the 1990s than the 2000s. Obviously inspired by the slew of paranormal-based primetime thrillers on broadcast networks, Disney Channel’s So Weird centered on a teen girl touring with her rock star mom and having a series of strange encounters with otherworldly beings (like vampires, trolls, etc.) that she chronicles through the titular website. It skewed darker than most Disney fare, although the third season had a change in pace when the lead actress left the show.
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
Years Aired: 1994-1997
While Doug and Rugrats get the majority of the love when the subject of Nicktoons comes up, the cooler kids start talking about the odd gloriousness that was Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, a show that seemingly paved the way for the success of Monsters Inc. years later. The central trio of Ickis, Oblina and Krumm are in a monster school focused on getting the students to be professionals at scaring children. It was weird, it was funny, and it could get pretty gross at times, though never quite on a Ren and Stimpy level. It also inspired a jealousy of anyone who can hold their own eyeballs.
Big Bad Beetleborgs
Years Aired: 1996-1998
With all this talk about the Power Rangers movie coming, it’s easy to forget about the costume-heavy monster-fighting series that came in the Mighty Morphin wake, mostly seen through Fox Kids programming. In the case of Big Bad Beetleborgs, four kids are granted different powers by a pipe organ-inhabiting phantasm named Flabber, and they take on the personalities of comic book characters in an effort to destroy their enemies. High drama this isn’t, but it’s still a fun time for kids who enjoy live-action battles that are kicked off by yelling phrases like “Beetle Blast!”
Head to the next page to tell us how many of the shows were still in your memory banks.
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Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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