When people think of the 90s, Friends is usually the television show that comes to mind. (About every major 90s actor played a guest role.) The series follows the lives of six friends in their 20s and 30s as they go about their lives in Manhattan, somehow affording rent despite their mediocre jobs. The show premiered on NBC in 1994 and spanned ten highly successful seasons and defined a generation.
9. Star Trek the Next Generation
While Captain Kirk and Spock started the Star Trek franchise, it was Jean-Luc Picard and William Riker who cemented The Next Generation as great television. Very few shows have such an interesting array of characters, from Data, the android who wants to be more human, to Wolf, the Klingon security officer to even supporting characters like Q, a god-like character.
The show explores many social issues that are still much at the forefront today such as race, gender identity, and what it means to be human.
The Simpsons has been making people laugh for decades, and it’s astounding that it’s on its 31st season. No one could have predicted this show would have lasted for more than 639 episodes, but this dysfunctional family has definitely earned its place on this list. It paved the way for popular shows like South Park, Family Guy, and Futurama.
Dexter is about a serial killer who lives a double life as a forensic technician for the Miami police department. The catch is he only kills other serial killers. Not only does the show wrestle with good and evil, morality and social acceptance. The showcase successfully blended suspense, action, and intriguing characters. Each season Dexter struggles to become a better person, to live a normal life and fit into society – sentiments we can all share.
The Show About Nothing is great because no other show takes the strange, the weird, and the funny and wrap it all together into one show. It takes everyday subjects and strikes at the heart of them, exposing the truth. No other show combines so many great comedians in one great show and no other show has so many catchphrases that are still in modern lexicon.
5. The Sopranos
The Sopranos is a show about a man who struggles to do the right thing, despite his tendencies to stray down the darker path. Tony Soprano is a complex character who as the leader of a ruthless New Jersey crime syndicate, starts to have anxiety attacks and starts to go see a psychiatrist.
This mob series set the tone for modern, elevated television. The Sopranos is responsible for television as we know it.
4. Buffy The Vampire Slayer
This show is an American supernatural drama television series that was based on the 1992 film of the same name.
The show follows a young female vampire slayer Buffy Summers as she’s chosen to battle against all different kinds of vampires, monsters, and demonic forces.
The show somehow manages to blend comedic elements with the difficulties of growing up and becoming an adult. While Buffy goes about killing vampires, she also struggles with her own identity and relationships, giving her a complete rarely seen in female television characters.
3. Mad Men
Few shows have seen the kind of mass critical acclaim that Matthew Weiner’s period drama Mad Men earned during its seven seasons. Through exquisite attention to detail and a cast of characters with complicated motivations, this series made Dom Draper a household name and reminded the world just how much alcohol and cigarettes were abused during the 1960s.
There are few characters on television who are as deep or as complex as Don Draper. He is deeply flawed, yet with his slick, polished exterior.
2. The Wire
It didn’t win any Emmys and struggled every season to get renewed, however no other show puts a lens up to reality quite like The Wire did.
What gave The Wire its reality is that the show’s writers, David Simon and Ed Burns, had worked in Baltimore’s police department, and in the case of Burns, as a school teacher too – so the writing was grounded in reality.
The show takes a sweeping look at the city of Baltimore, from its drug dealers to the city’s police department, to its schools and print media.
The Wire broke the mold in another respect too: unlike other mainstream TV hits of the era – The Sopranos, Sex and the City, ER – The Wire’s cast featured a number of black actors in its ensemble cast.
1. Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad is positively Shakespearean the way Bryan Cranston’s character Walter White, turned from a mild-mannered high school teacher who learns he has cancer to an international drug kin pin. The transformation of Walter White is astounding from season to season as he watch as he grapples with his illness, with his family, and with morality. It is storytelling at its finest. The series never lost its black humor while laying out one dismally dark turn of events after another. Breaking Bad will probably remain one of TV’s best series for decades to come.
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