Being a program manager for a television station is a thankless job. You have to take all of the shows that your network bought, paid for, and produced, and find nights and times to place them. Then you have to figure out where to place them against other networks and their shows. It’s almost like playing chess against another program manager. After you place all of your pawns, bishops, and rooks on the board, all you can do is sit back and hope the TV shows catch fire with audiences.
The nineties were an interesting time for sitcoms. You had a layover of saccharine family shows from the eighties that, during that decade, were a proven commodity. But during the nineties, all of that schmaltzy, sugary family love gave way to a bunch of crews and squads hanging out and not doing much of anything. Thanks to Seinfeld and Friends, there were plenty of those clones. Toss in trying to revive the workplace sitcoms that were popular during the seventies and you have a healthy dose of sitcoms for just about every kind of fan.
There were wildly popular sitcoms that everyone watched, even though they were pretty bad. But there were also great shows that were hysterical but couldn’t find their audience. How many of these do you remember fondly or loathe completely? Here are The Ten Best 90’s Sitcoms No One Watched (And Ten Bad Ones Everyone Did)
19 Best No One Watched: The Critic
ABC thought they found their Simpsons with The Critic. Created by Simpsons showrunners Al Jean and Mike Reiss, the series debuted in 1994 and ABC had cancelled it, only for Fox to revive it in 1995. The title character was voiced by comic Jon Lovitz, the show was about Jay Sherman, a down on his luck movie critic.
The show suffered from being too smart for its own good with a lot inside jokes that the mass audience scratched their heads at. During today’s era of niche audiences, the show would be a smash, but back then, not enough people were watching.
18 Bad One Everyone Did: Unhappily Ever After
As the Fox network’s first live action and (still) longest running live-action sitcom, Married...With Children spoke to a lot of fans who were tired with the “aww shucks” sweet-natured family shows. Series co-creator, Ron Leavitt left the series and tried his luck again with Unhappily Ever After.
The series has always been seen as a clone of Married, and in some ways it was. Besides a puppet voiced by Bobcat Goldthwait and the vivacious Nikki Cox as an analog for Kelly, but with Bud’s brains, the show wasn’t that great and somehow lasted five seasons.
17 Best No One Watched: Herman’s Head
If you’ve seen both Herman’s Head and Disney’s Inside Out, then you’ll know full well that Pixar ripped off of the early nineties Fox sitcom. The premise featured several aspects of Herman’s personality: Angel, Animal, Wimp, and Genius all duking it out in Herman’s head, deciding how he’d act in certain situations.
For three seasons, the show tried to find its voice and its audience. While there are many who were fans of the premise, it never caught on the way it deserved to.
16 Bad Ones Everyone Did: Saved By The Bell
It’s ok to admit you had a problem in the nineties. You might even still have it (it’s a shared universal sickness). Whenever Saved By The Bell is on, you are compelled to watch it. It’s ok, you’re not alone. There are even people who also have to watch The New Class and The College Years.
Scientists have hypothesized that it is due to Zack Morris’ blond mushroom top with black undershave. But much like the number of licks to get to the center of a tootsie pop, the world will never know the cause of this insipid disease or how to stop it.
15 Best No One Watched: Futurama
Matt Groening tried to bring his love of sci-fi mixed with his demented sense of humor to the masses when he and co-creator, David X. Cohen, debuted Futurama. But the stellar show about an interstellar delivery service crew and all of their mishaps and misadventures never found the same powerhouse audience that Groening’s Simpsons had commanded.
Then again Fox was kind of dumb when scheduling the show. It was consistently placed in and around whatever NFL game was on at that time. Depending on how long the game went, the show was almost always started "somewhere in the middle" or not even at all. How are you supposed to build an audience scheduling a show like that?
14 Best No One Watched: Roc
For all of the hoopla that Thirty Rock got for airing a few live episodes during their run, Roc’s entire second season was live! Take that, NBC! The show was about a frugal sanitation worker who would bring home all sorts of junk to fix-up and furnish his own home with.
Nowadays they’d probably have an eBay listing for the show to snag all of the things that Roc kept. But the actors were so good that critics actually said that hurt the live feel of the show. The third season went back to traditional taped sitcom flare. But it also started getting more dramatic, which is usually the end for any sitcom.
13 Bad Ones Everyone Did: Just Shoot Me
David Spade without Chris Farley has never been very good. But a guy's gotta earn a living, so he joined the cast of a workplace sitcom, Just Shoot Me. Debuting in 1997, the series had some prime real estate, scheduled right after Seinfeld.
The series lasted for seven years and was actually more a starring vehicle for Laura San Giacomo, than it was Spade. But the show had tired sitcom tropes right from the start. The series played it safe with its storylines and jokes. Perhaps that’s why the mundane show lasted as long as it did. Most people aren’t looking for experimental in their sitcoms.
12 Best No One Watched: Two Guys A Girl And A Pizza Place
Strange name for a show aside, it’s astonishing to think that a sitcom starring both Ryan Reynolds and Nathan Fillion would still be on to this very day, cashing in both Canucklheads’ good looks and quirky one-liners. But the show couldn’t even make the heralded hundred-episode mark that guarantees syndication in perpetuity.
Two Guys And A Girl was one of the many Friends clones that came out of the pipe to try and cash in on that show’s mammoth success. While the show was garnering a small fan base, it didn’t help that ABC moved the moderately successful show from mid-week to the then demise-spot of Friday nights, so there went the fan base.
11 Bad Ones Everyone Did: City Guys
“Roll with the City Guys,” is what the City Guys theme song implored is to do. The show, which was created by Saved By The Bell’s creator, Peter Engel tried to use the same formula that made Saved so popular. The twist was an urban take with an even more... urban take.
The two male stars came from different backgrounds, one wealthy and one more working class. Their similarities had them at odds at first, until they realized together they could rule their high school, “Manny High.” Not to mention keep pulling fast ones on the school’s principal. I’ll take Zack, Slater, and Belding Clones for the win, Alex.
10 Best No One Watched: Spin City
Michael J. Fox was a darling of the eighties. He was America’s teenager, both on TV and in film. He’s still one of the most beloved actors of the past forty years. Might as well make him “America’s Mayor,” right? He played New York Deputy Mayor, Mike Flaherty, on Spin City for several years, until he bowed out due to his battle with illness.
Charlie Sheen replaced him, and the show didn’t lose too much of a step, just swapped Fox’s comic sensibility for Sheen’s. But try as they might, once Sheen came aboard the show’s ratings tanked. That’s not a knock on ol’ Tiger Blood. It’s just what happened.
9 Bad Ones Everyone Did: Family Matters
You read that right. Family Matters was not very good at all. It’s a show about a neighbor-boy watcher that no one seems to notice won’t leave the daughter alone. They just make fun of him for being a nerd. Then he invents a machine to make a suave, cooler version of himself. Now, the daughter and her whole family adore the kid.
Meanwhile, Urkel ends up with another girl, the sultry Myra, who is beautiful, buxom, and brainy (everything a guy would want). Oh, and she adores Steve for who he is, not for some carbon-copy machine version. What kind of vapid lessons would this show teach to today’s selfie-centered generation?
8 Best No One Watched: NewsRadio
In NewsRadio’s defense, it was going to be really hard to continue watching a comedy that starred a beloved funny man who was tragically taken from the world too soon.
Shows like this NewsRadio only last due to being critical darlings. It is really hard to market a show devoted to sight gags, pop culture, and whip-smart writing to the mass public. But to the people who found the show, they found an amazingly entertaining series.
7 Bad Ones Everyone Did: Sabrina The Teenage Witch
When she turned 16, Sabrina Spellman found out she was actually a witch. Because with a last name like Spellman, how could she be anything but? So, she headed off to Massachusetts to live with her aunts, who were very old and experienced witches.
Plenty of episodes over the course of seven seasons were dedicated to the perils of a teenager growing up, only with magical elements. Such as not studying to get your driver’s license; only here it’s Sabrina’s witch’s license. The incredibly likable Melissa Joan Hart and her infectious smile might be the only reason that Sabrina The Teenage Witch worked as well as it did.
6 Best No One Watched: Phenom
Take a precocious Ashley Johnson, incredible character actor William Devane, and “Angela” herself, Judith Light. Toss in then-rising star, Angela Goethals as the series star, Angela Doolan and Phenom should have been just that.
The show focused on Angela, a rising tennis star, her coach (Devane) trying to bring out the big-time player he saw within, and how all of that gets juggled with her family. Thanks to following Roseanne, the show was able to survive one season, but for some strange reason couldn’t find an audience.
5 Bad Ones Everyone Did: Step By Step
Seventies stars Suzanne Somers and Patrick Duffy play Frank and Carol, both single parents of three who spontaneously get married. Now the six kids all have to try and get together. If that doesn’t sound like The Brady Bunch, then go tape your eyelids open and watch a bunch of those episodes.
The complete rip–off was updated for the nineties and somehow lasted seven years. Produced by Miller–Boyett Productions, the same team responsible for Full House and Family Matters, the show had the same super saccharine and super safe family humor that its predecessors were known for.
4 Best No One Watched: Carol And Company
Carol Burnett is one of comedy's beloved treasures. In 1990, she tried a new concept for a television series – Carol And Company. Instead of being a traditional sitcom, each episode was a riff on a popular sitcom or a show, for example, one show featured Burnett and Terry “Weekend At Bernie’s” Kiser as a married couple applying for a loan at a bank. The bank winds up being robbed by their son, played by Peter Krause.
The series boasted a helluva of a cast – besides the aforementioned Burnett, Kiser, and Krause; comic stars Jeremy Piven, Richard Kind, and Anita Barone were part of the show; and guest stars like Betty White and Martin Short were also part of the proceedings. How this show, way ahead of its time couldn’t find an audience is a travesty.
3 Bad Ones Everyone Did: Sister, Sister
Twins. It doesn’t matter what age they are, when you have a series focusing on twins, you have a bonafide hit. The doppelgangers have a spell cast on anyone and everyone who comes into their gaze.
Sister, Sister is no different. It’s not a good show at all. It lasted six years, thanks largely in part to Tia and Tamera Mowry’s twin magic. Rounding out the cast was Tim Reid and Jackee Harry. Instead of being a family from the get-go, they played twins separated at birth, who now for some reason had to live together and try to get along.
2 Best No One Watched: The Larry Sanders Show
Even before his passing, if you asked many a comedian, Garry Shandling was a genius. His seminal work, The Larry Sanders Show thankfully lasted six years. But thanks to being on a pre–Sopranos ]o]i
HBO, not a lot of people watched it.
The series featured him playing a late-night talk show host and the format has been copied by many of the most popular workplace sitcoms of the past 20 years, like 30 Rock, Parks And Recreation, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and The Office. Some of the best parts of the show where when it blended the real-life rumor and innuendo of the episode’s guest star with their fictional counterpart’s appearance on Larry’s show.
1 Bad Ones Everyone Did: Dharma And Greg
She’s a free spirit daughter of commune hippies. He’s an uppity yuppie raised by conservatives. Only in TV world, do these two people get married. But they don’t just get married; they get married on their very first date.
Dharma And Greg’s odd couple feel was able to run for five years. Just about every single episode had an argument in regards to both characters staunch differences. Which has, of course, become series creator, Chuck Lorre’s bread and butter – sticking to his character’s tropes, no matter the issue.