Some years are certainly more interesting than others when in comes to TV fare. And 1990 certainly had a number of memorable TV escapades, for better or worse.
It didn’t seem right to shine a spotlight on a young Sandra Bullock’s ill-fated starring stint in a TV adaptation of Working Girl. Then again, that wasn’t as big a bomb as the one that executive producer Steven Bochco dropped when he combined a gritty police-procedural drama with almost-laughable musical numbers in a show called Cop Rock.
While those may be amusing binge-watch exercises, there are plenty of others that are also notable. And, in some cases, they prove that, in the TV world, everything old is new again … and again.
So, with that in mind, here are 10 (well, actually 11) TV series from 1990 that are worth binge-watching now:
Twin Peaks (ABC, premiere: April 8, 1990)
A reboot of this series is currently in the works, but the new rendition will have a lot to live up to. In fact, it has been argued (and rightfully so) that the first season of the original Twin Peaks was some of the best television EVER made. The brainchild of Mark Frost and David Lynch, this serialized mystery/drama casts Kyle MacLachlan as FBI special agent Dale Cooper, who heads for the town of Twin Peaks to help Sheriff Harry S. Truman (Michael Ontkean) investigate the murder of a young girl named Laura Palmer (Sheryl Lee). There’s a multitude of quirky, offbeat characters – and a gang of outstanding actors who portray them. Among the pack: Lara Flynn Boyle, Russ Tamblyn, Joan Chen, Piper Laurie, Sherilyn Fenn, Mädchen Amick, Peggy Lipton, Ray Wise, Kimmy Robertson, Miguel Ferrer, Heather Graham and Kenneth Welsh.
Beverly Hills 90210 (Fox, premiere: Oct. 4, 1990)
The CW brought viewers back to the same Zip Code for five seasons via a new series a few years ago. But this is “the real McCoy” that inspired that revisit. In the original incarnation, Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty top the cast as Brandon and Brenda Walsh, twin siblings who moved to Beverly Hills from Minneapolis with their parents (James Eckhouse, Carol Potter). Surrounding the Walsh twins at West Beverly Hills High School is a gaggle of students who become their close pals. Jennie Garth, Ian Ziering, Luke Perry, Tori Spelling, Gabrielle Carteris and Brian Austin Green round out the core cast.
Blossom (NBC, premiere: July 5, 1990)
Long before the character known as Amy Farrah Fowler became part of The Big Bang Theory, a young Mayim Bialik found widespread TV fame in the title role of this sitcom about a bright teenaged girl named Blossom Russo, who is living with her father (Ted Wass) and her two brothers (Michael Stoyanov, Joey Lawrence) after her mother (Melissa Manchester) packs up and leaves the family. Jenna von Oÿ co-stars as Blossom’s best friend, Six. Although the pilot episode of the show aired as a “preview” in July 1990, Blossom didn’t actually surface as a weekly series until the following January.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (NBC, premiere: Sept. 10, 1990)
OK, so this is how Will Smith began his journey to becoming a TV and movie superstar. Smith started out in the music world back in the 1980s, as a rapper known as The Fresh Prince. He was recruited by NBC for this sitcom that cast him as, yes, Will Smith – a streetwise teenager from Philadelphia who is sent by his mother to live in Bel-Air, California with his well-to-do Uncle Phil (James Avery) and Aunt Vivian (played by Janet Hubert-Whitten in the first three seasons and then by Daphne Maxwell Reid for the second three seasons) and their three kids (Alfonso Ribeiro, Karyn Parsons, Tatyana M. Ali). Much of the comedy is built around the culture clash that ensues.
Law & Order (NBC, premiere: Sept. 13, 1990)
It’s hard to believe that the Law & Order franchise got its start a quarter of a century ago! This trailblazing original procedural lasted for 20 years and followed the same basic blueprint in each episode. The first half revolves around the police investigation of a crime (usually murder) and the arrest of a suspect, while the second half follows the case through the courts. The series had a revolving door of actors over the years. Among those in the first season: George Dzundza, Chris Noth, Dann Florek, Michael Moriarty, Richard Brooks and Steven Hill.
In Living Color (Fox, premiere: April 15, 1990)
Many would still say this series was TV sketch comedy at its best, giving birth to a plethora of memorable characters and some biting satire, not to mention a host of musical numbers. Brothers Damon and Keenan Ivory Wayans wrote, produced and starred in the show. Others in the talented ensemble included: Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, T’Keyah Crystal Keymáh, Tommy Davidson, Kelly Coffield Park, Kim Wayans, Shawn Wayans, Marlon Wayans, Chris Rock, Molly Shannon, Larry Wilmore and Jamie Foxx. Also notable were the “Fly Girls” in the show. Among those who populated that group: Jennifer Lopez, Carrie Ann Inaba, Lisa Marie Todd Deidre Lang and Cari French.
Road To Avonlea (a.k.a. Avonlea) (CBC / The Disney Channel, premiere: Jan. 7, 1990 / March 5, 1990)
Loosely based on Anne of Green Gables and several other books by Lucy Maud Montgomery, this family drama series set in the early 20th century casts a young Sarah Polley as Sara Stanley, a girl who is sent by her wealthy father to live in Prince Edward Island with her two spinster aunts, Hetty (Jackie Burroughs) and Olivia (Mag Ruffman). The well-seasoned ensemble cast includes: Cedric Smith, Colleen Dewhurst, Lally Cadeau, Patricia Hamilton, Gema Zamprogna and Zachary Bennett).
Parenthood (NBC, premiere: Aug. 20, 1990)
No, this isn’t the popular series that recently ended its run. This is the original TV series on which that remake was based. Actually, both series were based on a 1989 movie of the same name. This incarnation featured an ensemble cast that included such notable names as: David Arquette, Jayne Atkinson, Thora Birch, Leonardo DiCaprio, Sheila MacRae and Ed Begley, Jr. The series only lasted for one season of 12 episodes. It deserved to stick around longer.
The Flash (CBS, premiere: Sept. 20, 1990)
So, here’s another interesting comparison. Grant Gustin’s portrayal of the lead character in The CW’s current rendition of the series has made its mark on the TV landscape. And although this earlier rendition does a good job, tough competition from other networks led to this series lasting for only one season. It’s still worth a look, though, if only to check out how John Wesley Shipp’s stint in the lead role compares to how things are played now.
Ferris Bueller / Parker Lewis Can’t Lose (NBC, premiere: Aug. 23, 1990 / Fox, premiere: Sept. 2, 1990)
OK, one final comparison! NBC adapted Ferris Bueller’s Day Off into a TV series starring Charlie Schlatter as Ferris Bueller and Jennifer Aniston as his sister, Jeannie. It only lasted for 13 episodes. Meanwhile, at virtually the same time, Fox served up this more successful version of basically the same premise, churning out 73 episodes over three seasons. Corin Nemec takes on the title role of Parker Lewis, a cool high-school kid with a “not a problem” attitude as he tackles virtually any challenge.