13 '90s TV Shows That You Only Watched When Your Parents Weren't Around

Sony Pictures Television

With great and unimaginably awkward anguish, I can clearly remember specific TV shows that I'd avoid watching with my family. And I know you get it. These were the '90s TV shows you watched when your parents weren't around. The ones that you lied about being interested in. The ones that you used to watch at friends' houses when their parents were at work, or that made you get a summer job just so you could save up money for your own, wondrous bedroom TV set. And there were numerous reasons for this, of course. There was a whole host of '90s shows that were too adult for teenagers to watch, for instance. But, actually, hiding certain TV shows from our parents was way more complicated than that.

Because, sure. There were some shows that were just too sexy to endure with your parents in the same room, and others featured the sort of horror or violence that automatically got it banned from the household. But there were also shows that felt too close to who you were and how you felt as a teenager, so close that watching them with your parents revealed more about yourself than you wanted to show. And then there were others that your parents just wouldn't understand, shows that you knew for a damn fact would just end in an argument or a fruitless debate.

Well, my friends. I suffered through those times right there with you. And I organized myself, my TV schedule, and the TV schedules of my friends as a teenager, to ensure that I never had to watch any of these shows while my parents were around.

1. My So Called Life


My So Called Life so profoundly understood the innate suffering of your teenage world that allowing your parents to watch it with you was like showing them the contents of your personal diary. No way. Not happening.

2. Buffy The Vampire Slayer


Though the show cleverly addressed a variety of teen issues like sex, drug addiction, peer pressure, mental health, and sexuality via supernatural monsters and plot lines, none of that got past your parents. And, as if that wasn't enough, the mere sight of Spike or Angel was likely enough to make you blush so hard that your Dad made fun of you for it for months afterwards. Not cool, Dad.

3. Beverly Hills 90210


Any discussion concerning Beverly Hills 90210 with your parents was usually followed by some form of argument involving "growing up too fast." Which was fine, because as if you could stand any of this show's sexiness with either of your parents in the room with you at the same time, anyway. Better to just pretend it doesn't exist and then watch a VHS-recorded copy at your friend's house, instead.

4. Melrose Place


As well as being consistently full of the sort of sex scenes that you definitely did not want to be watching alongside your parents, Melrose Place was just a cornucopia of offensive material to Moms and Dads everywhere.

5. Married With Children


Hearing your parents share a private chuckle over a sex joke made on Married With Children was a teenage experience so cringe-worthy it could have summoned a gateway to hell in your living room. Avoidance was survival, folks.

6. Beavis And Butthead


It was dumb, crude and rude and admit it — you loved every second of it. Except it was absolutely zero fun with your parents sitting right there with you, grimacing away and complaining about its stupidity. Like, sorry Mom, but that's Beavis and Butthead and they're WAY existential.

7. Baywatch


This may shock some of you to know, but Baywatch didn't make for friendly television. When the bouncing bosoms of every female lifeguard are so important that they're basically a whole other character in and of themselves, you know you're in trouble.

8. Dawson's Creek


If, like my Dad did, yours also made smooching noises whenever one Pacey Witter came on screen (what a dream), then you'll understand my plight here. But, most of all, the fact that the teenagers of Dawson's Creek spoke like overly-caffeinated literature professors and were seemingly sex-obsessed did nothing to endear your parents to it. Like, at all.

9. Sex And The City


The clue is in the title, folks. This was a show of such unbelievable levels of potential cringing-in-front-of-the-parents that I'm just so happy that I managed to save up enough money to buy myself my own TV set for my room by 1998. And even then, I couldn't even admit to my parents that I was secretly watching it.

10. Daria


Anybody who happened to storm through their teenage years in a mist of angry, black-clothing obsessed cynicism will understand the fury of watching Daria with their parents. The result? For them to constantly refer to you as "Daria" throughout it. And, sure, there were flattering elements to that comparison. But mostly you just wanted them to stop snickering between them about your personal, teenage suffering so you could just enjoy your damn show in peace.

11. Oz


You were too young to watch this super violent prison drama. You knew it, and your parents knew it. But you going to find a way to watch it without them knowing about it, no matter what. And it was so totally worth it.

12. South Park


As well as being offensive on multiple levels that your parents definitely wouldn't have approved of, it was also hilarious on multiple levels too. And both of these elements work in a dangerous tandem together.

13. Space Ghost: Coast To Coast


Basically, the show most likely to provoke one, or both, of your parents to go on a rant about how badly modern TV shows suck and how this thing doesn't even make any sense. Back in their day, TV shows had substance, dammit.

Now, please, join me in this rare moment of celebrating adulthood: We can now watch whatever we want to, whenever, and wherever, we want to. Here's to growing up, guys.