Best Shows of the 90's

Published: June 25, 2014

This list is about critically acclaimed shows from the 90's, and is mostly ranked by Nielsen ratings. The list is comprised of ten 90's shows that ranked consistently in the top 30 of ratings. 

  1. ER

    1.       The most memorable show from the 90’s was undoubtedly ER. Created by Michael Crichton, the medical drama television series was a critical success, winning 23 Emmy Awards during its run. It also ranked #1 three times in the mid-to-late 90’s in estimated audience. George Clooney had his breakthrough role as Dr. Doug Ross as well, winning two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series. The show continued on well into the 2000’s, but its glory days were definitely in decade prior.

  2. Friends

    1.       The popular Friends, once under the title “Insomnia Café”, consistently ranked in the top then in final primetime ratings during the 90’s. The show was about everyday life for a group of Manhattanites, including their various romantic situations, and career issues. Joey's catchphrase, "How you doin'?", became a popular part of Western English slang, often used as a pick-up line or when greeting friends. The finale attracted 52.5 million American viewers on May 6, 2004, making it the most-watched entertainment telecast in six years.

  3. Seinfeld

    1.       A critical favorite, Jerry's apartment was the center of a world visited by his eccentric friends Elaine, Kramer, and George. The show led the Nielsen ratings in its sixth and ninth seasons and finished among the top two (with the NBC's ER) every year from 1994 to 1998. In 2013, the Writers Guild of America named Seinfeld the #2 Best Written TV Series of All Time (second to The Sopranos). That same year, Entertainment Weekly named it the 3rd best TV series of all time.

  4. Cheers

    1.       After premiering on September 30, 1982, it was nearly canceled during its first season when it ranked last in ratings for its premiere (74th out of 77 shows). Cheers, however, eventually became a highly rated television show in the United States, earning a top-ten rating during eight of its eleven. Even though Cheers was on primarily in the 80’s, its highest rank in the Nielsen ratings came in the 1991-1992 season, finishing first. It also spawned another well-known series, Frasier. 


  5. Roseanne

    1.       Roseanne was successful from its beginning, ranking #1 in the Nielsen ratings its second season, becoming the most watched television program in the United States from 1989 to 1990, and spending its first six seasons among the Nielsen ratings' top five highest-rated shows. The final season had the Conner’s winning the lottery for $108 million. In the season's final episode, Roseanne reveals the entire series itself is actually a story written by Roseanne Conner about her life. To cope, Roseanne twisted major elements of her life for the story, which the audience does not find out until the final moments of the series.

  6. Home Improvment

    1.       Based on the stand-up comedy of Tim Allen, Home Improvement made its debut on ABC on September 17, 1991, and was one of the highest-rated sitcoms for almost the entire decade. Tim's own Binford-sponsored home improvement show, called Tool Time, a "meta-program," or show-within-a-show, was featured in each episode. It’s also worth noting that Pamela Anderson played the role of Tim’s Tool Girl, Lisa.

  7. Coach

    1.       The series starred Craig T. Nelson as Hayden Fox, and aired for nine seasons on ABC from 1989 to 1997. Coach Hayden coached two fictional football teams during the series’ run. One at Minnesota State University and the other being the Orlando Breakers, an NFL expansion team. The final episode of the sitcom, entitled "Leaving Orlando", aired on ABC on May 14, 1997.


  8. Murphy Brown

    1.       Murphy Brown ran for a decade, from 1988 to 1998. The program was well known for "torn-from-the-headlines" stories and blatant political satire. It achieved a high level of political notoriety in the1992 presidential election when Dan Quayle mentioned the show in a campaign speech, afterwards known as the "Murphy Brown speech". In the show's final episode, Murphy met and interviewed God (played by Alan King) and Edward R. Murrow in a dream while undergoing surgery.

  9. Full House

    1.       It's been nearly two decades since the series finale of Full House aired on television, but it's hard to forget the beloved family sitcom. It starred Bob Saget, and the cute Olsen twins in their younger years. In 1995, despite the fact the show was still rated in the top 25, ABC announced that it was canceling the show after eight seasons due to the increasing costs of producing the series.

  10. Northern Exposure

    1.       Northern Exposure was set in fictional Cicely Alaska. The quirky cast and brilliance of Rob Morrow as Dr. Joel Flesichman helped the series run for six seasons. It received a total of 57 award nominations during its five-year run and won 27, including the 1992 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Drama Series, two additional Primetime Emmy Awards, four Creative Arts Emmy Awards, and two Golden Globes.

So that's about it. I didn't stay too bias here, and instead looked into the numbers in the Nielsen ratings. I feel like any of these shows would still be popular today, and each did have staying power in their day. I also believe that each show appeals to a broad audience, which is why they were popular then and make the list now. As far as the 90's go, these shows were the face of it.

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