We may be living through the golden age of television, but don't sleep on the '90s. The decade was a hot bed for quality sitcoms (Frasier), high-grade dramas (Twin Peaks), and inventive sci-fi (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). In recent years, streaming has largely remade the way we view television, ditching an episodic format in favor of marathonable, long form storytelling. And, though online platforms have done a lot to keep throwbacks alive on screen in some capacity, there are plenty of '90s shows that still need to come to Netflix. You can only re-watch Friends so many times, guys.
As a child of the '90s, I mostly grew up on its kids' shows, which, quite honestly, were just as good as its more adult-oriented fare. But thanks to a continuous loop of re-runs and streaming hubs' fondness for nostalgia, I've also gotten the chance to discover series that fell outside of my then-7-year-old purview. I have to say, as much as I love the onslaught of buzzy original programming that modern TV provides us, it's just as fun to revisit old series. In fact, it's sort of like tracing TV history, since much of '90s television helped pave the way for the shows of present day.
So Netflix, get on it, because your lineup still needs at least 13 key additions.
1'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'
Following the fish-out-of-water story of a street smart teen who crash lands in upscale Los Angeles, Fresh Prince was a pitch-perfect mix of comedic and sentimental narratives. Plus, it launched Will Smith from rising talent to bona fide star. And knowing all the words to the show's theme song is basically a rite of passage.
2'Boy Meets World'
Perhaps no '90s show had a greater stake in doling out life lessons than Boy Meets World, a family sitcom that chronicled the coming-of-age story of Philadelphia pre-teen Cory Matthews. Two decades later, it's just as timeless, and, with a shiny new spin-off (that is on Netflix), it deserves a second look.
Seinfeld's brilliantly simple, hilariously blunt depictions of everyday life added it indelibly to the annals of great TV shows. Netflix already has '90s staples like Friends, Cheers, and Frasier, making Seinfeld's absence all the more glaring.
4'Sex and the City'
Sex and the City doesn't always hold up today, but it still lands firmly on the list of required TV viewing. Much like its four leading ladies, it was frank, funny, and fearless, exploring love, relationships, and sex in a way that was revolutionary for its time.
5'Are You Afraid of the Dark?'
Before there was American Horror Story, there was Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a truly iconic horror anthology that revolved around a batch of teens huddling around a campfire and swapping scary stories. Its not exactly prestige television, but it's a gloriously nostalgic slice of '90s fandom nonetheless.
6'My So-Called Life'
For a show that only ran for one season, My So-Called Life certainly left a lasting mark on-screen. The seminal teen drama traversed the highs and lows of adolescence with aplomb, capturing crushes, betrayal, and a hell of a lot of awkwardness with a refreshing realism that never veered too sentimental. Throw in a young Claire Danes and Jared Leto, and you've got an insta-classic that demands another watch (or three).
7'3rd Rock From the Sun'
With an absurdist plot about a family of aliens adapting to life on earth, 3rd Rock From the Sun reveled in its ridiculousness. Thoughtful undertones of race and sexism occasionally peeked through as the Solomons struggled to shake their outsider status, but its silly, laugh-out-loud humor was what truly made it shine.
8'The Larry Sanders Show'
An adept blend of meta satire and deadpan humor, The Larry Sanders Show is largely considered one of the most influential comedies of all time. Even two decades after it went off-air, it remains a touchstone for many modern series, and fans should be able to revisit such an impactful piece of TV history.
On the list of '90s kids shows, Rugrats ranks high. In a delightful shift in perspective, the animated series dove into the toddler world of Tommy Pickles and his playpen misadventures. Whether you want to re-watch for a silly dose of nostalgia or pass it on to a new generation, Rugrats needs to get on Netflix stat.
10'Will & Grace'
Will & Grace was quirky, fun, and groundbreaking, racking up a staggering 83 Emmy nominations throughout its eight season run. It was one of the first shows to feature an openly gay character in the main cast, and, though it was sometimes criticized for falling back on stereotypes, it remains a landmark series.
11'Saved By the Bell'
The definitive high school sitcom of the early 1990s, Saved by the Bell was a spot-on examination of teenage tropes, from quintessential cheerleader Kelly Kapowski to token geek Screech Powers. It stuck mostly to light-hearted comedy, but touched on weighty issues like drug use, drunk driving, and women's rights, too, making it both enjoyable and earnest.
12'Beverly Hills, 90210'
Similar to Saved By the Bell, Beverly Hills, 90210, was at once entertaining and topical, following teen twins Brandon and Brenda as they navigated the leap from small town Minnesota to upscale Beverly Hills. Despite initially soft ratings, it fast rocketed into a megahit and went on to run for a decade. If you're looking for the epitome of '90s television, this is it.
13'The Amanda Show'
The Amanda Show was a treasure trove for good sketch comedy — Judge Trudy, Dancing Lobsters, the Girls Room — and Nickelodeon simply wouldn't be the same without it.
The streaming slate may be filled with plenty of compelling television, but these shows are just as worthy of a second life on-screen. Let's keep our fingers crossed any or all of these make their way to Netflix soon.