Everybody talks about the golden age that television has entered over the past decade, and while it’s true that the medium has truly exploded in a significant way, there’s something deeply soothing about the 1990s and kind of shows that came out of that era. Audiences almost take for granted how impressive television has become and the high standard that we’ve come to expect from it. There was definitely more of a freewheeling quality from the ‘90s, during which there was less of an agenda to reinvent storytelling and instead an aim to throw things at the wall and see what stuck.
The ‘90s also helped establish many of the sitcom rules that are now entrenched in the medium. It was a decade that took to romantic pairings like no other and unrequited unconventional romances were all of the rage. It’s also very rewarding to look at many of the celebrity A-listers’ humble origins when they were just getting started in the ‘90s. It’s a comforting blast to the past, especially when some of these actors are now returning to television or a few of these classic shows are being remade or rebooted.
Thankfully, streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have been able to cater to these retro classics and have helped make shows that were previously unwatchable finally watchable.
With that said, here are the 20 Best (And 10 Worst) Forgotten '90s Sitcoms, Officially Ranked.
30 Best: Moesha
Moesha was a real gem for the UPN network, and in spite of the impression that the series made with audiences, it’s easy to overlook this sitcom that came out during the network’s infancy. Moesha starred popular musician Brandy and acted as a launching pad for the actress/musician. The series depicts Moesha’s everyday life at school and home as she copes with changes.
Moesha definitely made use of Brandy’s celebrity status and featured impressive guest stars from the music industry, such as Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre, Usher, and Quincy Jones. There’s even an episode where Moesha meets Brandy and she plays dual roles.
29 Best: Unhappily Ever After
Unhappily Ever After very much felt like the WB’s attempt to mimic the success of FOX’s blue collar Married With Children. Unhappily Ever After feels like a watered down clone in many ways, but it still finds a unique voice.
The show focuses on a dysfunctional family. Unhappily Ever After filters its perspective through Jack Malloy, the unhappy head of the household who’s depressed, schizophrenic, and whose friend is a stuffed rabbit named Mr. Floppy, who only he can hear talk. Unhappily Ever After is weird in the best kind of way and it managed to grab audience’s attention for 100 episodes.
28 Worst: Me And The Boys
Me and the Boys is a pretty bleak premise for a sitcom, which is perhaps the reason why the comedy only lasted for a brief 19 episodes before its plug was pulled. In the series, Steve Harvey plays a widowed father who makes a living as the manager of a video rental store and he struggles to raise his three sons.
Me and the Boys doesn’t try to be flashy and it banks on authentic stories and real emotion. It’s a very down to Earth concept. However, it didn't get that much notice from viewers. At the least the sitcom helped put Steve Harvey in the spotlight.
27 Best: Clueless
A spin-off of the popular Alicia Silverstone movie from the ‘90s, the Clueless television show finds its niche and plays into it well. Rachel Blanchard makes for an exceptional Cher and her continued adventures as she grows up with a privileged lifestyle in Beverly Hills make for an entertaining series. The show also put Donald Faison's name on the map and the cast found a comfortable chemistry with each other.
The Clueless series may still fall in the shadow of the feature film, but the show survived a switch between networks and even contained bizarre crossovers with Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and Moesha.
26 Best: Two Guys, A Girl, And A Pizza Place
This sitcom features a very loose plot that involves Pete and Berg, who are two friends who live together and also both work at a pizza parlor. Meanwhile, their friend and constant source of tension, Sharon, lives upstairs. Because of this, wackiness abounds. The show's real hook is its incredible performances, as the series actually stars Ryan Reynolds and features Nathan Fillion in a recurring role before either of them were the sensations they are now.
In an effort to retain viewers and seem more mainstream, the series eventually dropped "and a Pizza Place” from its title and became just Two Guys and a Girl.
25 Worst: Boston Common
One of NBC’s biggest problems during the ‘90s was to fine a genuine hit that could survive between their behemoths Friends and Seinfeld. This led to a number of revolving shows in hot timeslots, as the networked hoped that one of the new series would become their next hit.
Boston Common was able to stick around for two seasons and was made by Will & Grace creators David Kohan and Max Mutchnik. However, the show is basically “Friends… but in Boston.” In it, an out-of-towner from Virginia finds himself unexpectedly relocating to Boston and his personality clashes with the local who he’s befriended.
24 Best: Grace Under Fire
Grace Under Fire provided a raw look at middle America families. While it may not have been the cleanest series, it definitely stood out to those who gave it a chance. The series explores the trials and tribulations of Grace Kelly, a single parent and a recovering alcoholic, after she decides to leave her husband and raise her children on her own.
Grace Under Fire operated much in the same vein as Roseanne. It took a look at a lower-middle class family in an honest way and capitalized on the career of comedian Brett Butler.
23 Best: The Nanny
The Nanny is basically a sitcom version of My Fair Lady. It gets tremendous mileage out of the opposites attract trope and will they/won’t they dynamic that was rampant in ‘90s sitcoms. This fish out of water story sees Fran Drescher’s unrefined Fran Fine stumble into a nanny job for illustrious Broadway producer, Maxwell Sheffield.
Fran joins the Sheffield family, and though the series is deeply endearing, right from the beginning most fans were eager to see whether Fran and Maxwell would get together. The Nanny might have been forgotten by many today, but it ran on CBS for nearly 150 episodes and was a real juggernaut of its time.
22 Worst: Brotherly Love
Brotherly Love feels much more in line with the slew of Disney Channel sitcoms that come along now and try to cash in on real-life siblings or uniquely famous families. Brotherly Love features a bit of a higher pedigree, however, since it aired on NBC (and then later The WB), but there’s still not much behind its premise.
The show revolves around the three Lawrence brothers, who find themselves reconnecting and working together after the loss of their father. It’s a sweet show that doesn’t try to overextend itself or be more than it is, but it’s still pretty dull television.
21 Best: Caroline In The City
Caroline in the City is your standard sitcom in which a character and their friends try to navigate through their personal lives and find love and validation in the big city (and in New York City, no less). That being said, the series finds an interesting vantage point since the show’s main character, Caroline Duffy (Lea Thompson), is the creator of a successful comic strip.
It’s a profession that you don’t see often in comedies and it’s enough to make these distinct, unusual characters stand out. Caroline in the City plays into the typical sitcom tropes and also deals with a lot of tension about whether Caroline will get together with her colorist, Richard.
20 Best: Spin City
ABC had a modest hit on their hands with Spin City, which locked Michael J. Fox into a sitcom role and provided him with a rich cast of characters and gifted actors to bounce off of. Michael J. Fox played Mike Flaherty, the Deputy Mayor of New York City who’s often putting out fires for his boss and trying to keep the rest of City Hall in check.
Spin City finds a great manic energy, but Fox unfortunately leaves the series when he receives his Parkinson’s diagnosis, so Charlie Sheen (and Heather Locklear) replace him for the series’ final two seasons. Though Sheen brings plenty to the show, he’s very different from Fox.
19 Worst: City Guys
City Guys is one of those disposable high school sitcoms that became popular after the rise of Saved by the Bell. Some of the shows that came out after this phenomenon had value, but City Guys — in spite of the fact that it ran for five seasons — is very by the book and doesn't offer us anything unique.
The show supports a very standard formula in which Chris and Jamal are two friends from different neighborhoods who have to get through school together. The series handles very "educational" plot lines. City Guys has good intentions, but its so generic that it's no surprise that it faded into the background.
18 Best: Hangin' With Mr. Cooper
There was a glorious period of time for sitcoms when simply combining two random elements together was enough to make a decent television show. Take two professions, put them together, and there’s your sitcom. Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper pushes that philosophy and tells the story of a retired NBA player who becomes a schoolteacher.
During a time when movies like Dangerous Minds and Stand and Deliver were still in the collective consciousness, a series like this made sense. Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper looks at Mark Cooper’s transition into becoming a teacher and focuses on his relationships with his friends and extended family.
17 Best: Phenom
Some of the sitcoms on this list are forgotten just because there is so much content out there that they weren’t able to leave a lasting legacy. Phenom is a bit of a different case, however, as the sitcom only lasted for a year on ABC. It came, and then it disappeared forever.
Phenom starred Judith Light and told the story of a young tennis prodigy and her struggles with life, family, and her rise to stardom. It’s an admittedly odd premise that piqued the interest of a few viewers and was actually fairly popular in its timeslot. In spite of this, the show was still short-lived and was never given a chance to grow.
16 Worst: Teen Angel
You’ve got to at least give Teen Angel points for effort. The show follows a teenager who gets sent back to Earth to become the guardian angel of his best friend. It’s a very crazy premise, but the series was a part of ABC’s TGIF line-up, which also featured more radical sitcoms like Sabrina, the Teenage Witch and You Wish, so it wasn’t even the weirdest show on the schedule.
Teen Angel had a strange sense of humor and even came from The Simpsons writers, Al Jean and Mike Reiss. However, the show only lasted 17 episodes and was never given a chance to develop into something better.
15 Best: Blossom
Mayim Bialik became a real icon in the ‘90s, and even though she’s again found sitcom success via The Big Bang Theory, many will still forever think of her as the out of the box Blossom Russo.
Blossom was the perfect mascot for outsiders, as presented a main character who was flawed, dorky, and deeply relatable. The same could be said about Blossom’s rough around the edges family and her misfit best friend, Six. Blossom was on NBC for over 100 episodes, and while shows like Clueless could validate the privileged, this show gave the lovable weirdoes an ally to rely on.
14 Best: Sister, Sister
Sister, Sister is firmly entrenched in sitcom history for any ‘90s kid. The sitcom features a touch of The Parent Trap, as identical twins Tia and Tamera, who were separated at birth and adopted by different parents, randomly run into each other. This sets both of these families on a collision course. Eventually, an unconventional new household is created.
Much of Sister, Sister gets by on the chemistry between Tia and Tamera and their twin-based hijinks. Naturally, the sisters are also complimentary personalities and help each other better themselves and become more rounded as the series goes on. Also, we can't ever forget about that theme song.
13 Worst: My Two Dads
It’s unclear what’s more incredible, that something like My Two Dads exists, or that it was able to last for 60 episodes. In a plot that barely makes any sense, two grown men are strangely awarded joint-custody of a 13-year old girl after her mother passes away.
Either one of them may be her father, but rather than do the sensible thing and get a paternity test, they decide to just move in together and raise the kid as an unconventional family. My Two Dads has its heart in the right place, but it’s always hard to just get past its wacky story, even if it does feature Paul Reiser.
12 Best: 3rd Rock From The Sun
NBC’s 3rd Rock From the Sun features a rather outlandish premise in which a group of aliens land on Earth in order to study the human population, but they get saddled in human bodies in the process.
Every member of 3rd Rock’s cast is electric, but the show is led by John Lithgow and also provides Jane Curtin with a sitcom role that properly utilizes her comedic abilities. Plus, it also features a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. It’s deeply entertaining to watch these aliens try to blend in with humans, and the show is also well written and creates some great suspense for a comedy.
11 Best: Stark Raving Mad
Stark Raving Mad could have been something really special, but it’s a victim of bad timing, since it only hit NBC’s schedule when the network was very much in flux. The show only lasted for a single season (and even had episodes that went unaired), but audiences still connected with the series and gave it strong numbers.
Stark Raving Mad sees Tony Shaloub playing a Stephen King-esque horror writer and Neil Patrick Harris play his frail, persnickety editor. There's a solid premise, with strong performances that expertly play off of each other in a sublimely Odd Couple kind of way.
10 Worst: Smart Guy
Brace yourself for this one. In Smart Guy, a super-smart ten-year old gets bumped from the fourth grade all the way up to high school and, of course, craziness ensues. Tahj Mowry plays TJ, the titular “smart guy.” The series focuses on this extreme fish out of water story.
TJ attempts to fit in at high school, but even if he’s incredibly intelligent, he’s still just a ten-year old and needs to grow in fundamental ways there, too. Mowry is great in the role, but the whole idea is just so insane that it’s hard to ever fully buy in. That being said, the show lasted for three seasons on The WB.
9 Best: Home Improvement
Home Improvement was one of the most successful sitcoms during the ‘90s. In fact, it even became more popular than Seinfeld during its peak. If you watched TV in the ‘90s, then you knew about Home Improvement. Even though the series ran for eight seasons and spawned over 200 episodes, it hasn’t exactly found much of a life in the current streaming market.
Home Improvement was a vehicle for comedian Tim Allen, a man’s man, who channeled that energy into his Tim “The Toolman” Taylor character. The series took a very conventional look at a regular family, but Tim’s destructive antics and his bumbling nature gave the show enough of a hook.
8 Best: Mad About You
Mad About You impressively starts with the humble aim to depict the fresh marriage of New Yorkers, Paul and Jamie Buchman. The series explores this honestly and with impressive clarity, but it’s amazing to see how this relationship organically evolves as Paul and Jamie get a baby in their lives and more as the series develops.
Series stars Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt are incredibly believable in these roles, and while the show covers usual relationship territory, it also takes a bunch of stylistic and creative risks that highlight the program’s ambition. There’s been recent talk of a possible Mad About You reunion and it’s easy to understand why people would want more.
7 Worst: Herman's Head
Herman’s Head is about as crazy as it gets. Herman is a neurotic, stressed fact checker who always has a lot on his mind. As Herman attempts to go about his life and carry out his job, the series depicts his thought process and decision making with four personalities that “live” inside of his head.
Whenever Herman has a new obstacle in front of him, it’s these four personalities argue about what path to follow and ultimately have Herman decide what he will do. The show was a formative program for FOX during its earlier years, and while the series' reputation is mixed, it certainly tried something different.
6 Best: ALF
ALF is pretty much as weird as it gets and it’s a little remarkable that this show even happened in the first place. An Alien Life Form (ALF) crash lands in the garage of the Tanner family and the displaced creature resolves himself to shack up with the family and make the best out of this situation. This rude, incorrigible puppet plays off of the human family and it’s surprisingly captivating.
It’s hard to deny the power of ALF’s personality. After all, there’s a reason why he’s a character that still comes up in conversation today. He marks a truly unreal time for television and it’s crazy to think that this cat-eating rascal could find mainstream success.
5 Best: Ellen
Before Ellen DeGeneres was one of the biggest names of daytime television, she had a ‘90s sitcom that ran for over 100 episodes on ABC. What’s curious about Ellen is that the show started as a very pedestrian sitcom in which Ellen works a simple job at a bookstore and gets by with her quirky friends.
However, as the show continued, it began to more closely resemble DeGeneres' personality, with this building to a head in the show’s fourth season when both Ellen the character and Ellen the actress came out as gay. It’s certainly an interesting steppingstone for Ellen’s career.
4 Worst: Laurie Hill
Ellen DeGeneres had a winner on her hands with her late-‘90s sitcom Ellen, but many people have no clue that she also had a failed sitcom that came before it in 1992. Laurie Hill is as bland and mundane as can be. It put DeGeneres in the role of an air-headed nurse who tries to juggle her job and her commitments as a wife and mother.
Laurie Hill received little promotional support from ABC and only lasted five episodes (with five more going unaired). However, obviously things worked out okay for DeGeneres anyway.
3 Best: Carol & Company
Carol Burnett is a legend in the world of television comedy, but Carol & Company is an unusual blind spot for some of even the biggest Burnett fans. Rather than using a simple approach for the sitcom, Carol & Company combines elements from both sitcoms and sketch comedy to create a bewildering parody of the form.
Each episode would spoof a different famous sitcom and guest stars from the shows who were being parodied would often appear. The show had an exceptional cast, which featured Richard Kind, Peter Krause, and Jeremy Piven, but in spite of its popularity, it only lasted for a year.
2 Best: NewsRadio
To this day, NewsRadio remains one of the best workplace sitcoms in existence, and it really boils the format down to its basics and finds great success with its precise character work. The show is set at a talk radio station in New York City, but it’s the show’s cast of Dave Foley, Phil Hartman, Andy Dick, Stephen Root, Maura Tierney, and more that’s the real selling point.
NewsRadio was always the underdog during its run on NBC, but it was the loss of Phil Hartman that really signaled the show’s end. Jon Lovitz filled in for a final season, but Hartman could never be replaced.
1 Worst: Baby Talk
Shows that feature talking babies are always problematic and ABC’s Baby Talk is one of the more maligned examples of this, even though there’s some decent talent behind the program. Baby Talk was designed as a loose spin-off of the Look Who’s Talking movie series, with Tony Danza now providing the voice for the signature talking baby.
In spite of how Baby Talk was quite low-hanging fruit, the show was still able to get the likes of Scott Baio and George Clooney. Baby Talk was critically panned, and although it got good ratings, it was canceled after 14 months.
Are there any other incredible or awful sitcoms from the '90s that we forgot to mention? Sound off in the comments!