Den of Geek Feature – Party of Five: Revisiting a 90s Teen Favourite

In each generation, there will be one. One of those shows that mixes drama, tragedy and humour. That can make you chuckle one minute and break your heart the next.

Starting in the 80s with Thirtysomething, later in the 00s with Parenthood and now with the juggernaut that is This Is Us winning praise, it seems the genre is firmly here to stay, but there is another show that quietly made its way onto the screen in the 90s that not only built on the foundations laid by Thirtysomething, but has been a quiet and steadfast influence ever since.

When Party Of Five hit the airwaves in 1994, it was a bit of a filler show. Fox had wanted something that could be a possible replacement for Beverly Hills 90210, whose ratings had fallen since moving the characters from high school to college, and initial thoughts were for it to be a bit of light-hearted drama, focusing on what kind of mischief a group of kids could get up to without any parents around (oddly enough the parents were also meant to be deceased which would make for odd viewing in this context).

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Den of Geek Feature – Celebrating Nickelodeon’s Golden Age

Wednesday the 1st of September 1993, a seemingly uneventful day for the majority of the world, but in the UK the world of kids television was about to be shaken-up with the launch of the hugely popular Nickelodeon network, which was soon to become a staple of the still emerging BSkyB satellite empire.

Although kids in the UK at the time had a staple diet of The Broom Cupboard and CITV to keep them entertained in the after-school hours until Neighbours and Home & Awaystarted, the introduction of Nickelodeon, the re-formatted TCC and the golden hour of 6-7pm on BBC2 and Channel 4 gave them an even wider choice of shows to watch in their free time, something which had been rather limited in the past.

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Den of Geek Feature – Revisiting Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

A flash of red cape, the S sitting proudly on the chest, the warrior of Truth, Justice and the American Way, Superman has always been the most recognisable and iconic of all the superheroes. After many changes on-screen over the years from the All-American hero in the 1978 movie to the recent darker and moodier version, you’d be hard pressed to go anywhere on the planet and find somebody who had never heard of the Man of Steel.

The character has had many faces and been in many decades and settings, but one of the best that deserves a bit more love and a lot more praise is that of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures Of Superman, a show that brought the character to life for a new generation of fans and brought, what I would consider at least, the last truly great version of Clark Kent/Superman to the screen.

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Den of Geek Feature – How My So-Called Life Changed Teen Drama

There are a few things I remember clearly about the summer of 1995. Firstly there was the incessant repeating of the Seal and U2 music videos for Batman Forever, then there was going to the cinema to watch Clueless(hands down the best teen comedy of the decade) and lastly on the 26th of July (lucky Americans got there a year earlier – twenty years ago today on the 25th of August 1994) there was meeting Angela Chase for the very first time.

It’s hard to explain how important My So-Called Life was to a generation of teenage girls across the world. Here was a leading character who was in many ways just like us – she wasn’t the most popular girl in school and her friends were not even on the outskirts of the popular clique, and she faced the same issues and problems of growing up as we did. She even dressed like us (I miss the flannel shirt/Doc Martin combo) and for a short but brilliant season we followed her through one of the most formative years of her life. I could argue that the show should have gone on, that it was cancelled too soon and dammit I really wanted to know what was going to happen after Angela found out who really wrote that letter, but a better tribute is to trace the influence it continues to have on teen drama today.

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A Geeky Girl’s Guide to 90’s Television

So this is it, I’ve made it through to the end of my look back at 90’s culture, I’ve looked the the films and the music that made the decade now I’m turning my attention to the television shows that did the same.

The 80’s and 90’s signaled a boom in both Sky and cable services in the UK and now we had more choice than ever when it came to sitting down in front of TV, but what was actually worth watching? Well there was,

Comedy

The 90’s were the decade that gave us two juggernaut comedies that laid the foundations for all comedy shows in the future; massive ratings winners – check, massive pay days for their stars – check, phrases that will forever enter the cultural lexicon – check, of course I’m talking about Friends and Seinfeld. Two shows about a group of friends that couldn’t be more different from each other if they tried, yet both were so hugely popular you couldn’t move without bumping into a fan, a piece of merchandise or a puffy shirt. They were also both really fantastic, funny, well written and well acted shows and both ended while they were still wildly popular (something some other shows could take heed from). Today you can find both shows constantly being re-run, keeping old fans happy and finding a whole new generation to appeal to.

It wasn’t just our friends that were keeping us laughing though, family life also raised a chuckle or two with one lady in particular owning the airwaves. Roseanne began in the 1980’s but the show’ popularity peaked in the 90’s, making a household name and superstar of its namesake. It also broke down the barriers of class and sexuality, representing the working class families of America as well as being one of the first prime time shows to screen a same sex kiss and have a character who was out and proud, a feat only topped a few years later by Ellen Degeneres when she came out not only as her autobiographical character on the show but in real life.

By the late 90’s a new breed of comedy was beginning to emerge. HBO had laid successful ground in being the independent voice in a sea of network television in the US market, but it was the launch of Sex and the City, a comedy/drama that was aimed squarely at a female audience that really got people talking. Funny and racey the show raised questions about relationships, love and sex that any other network would have run a mile from.

Best Comedy Shows of the 90’s

Friends

Seinfeld

Sex and the City

Absolutely Fabulous 

Mad About You

Will & Grace

Ellen

3rd Rock from the Sun

Step by Step

Frasier

Caroline in the City

Teen Comedy 

While the 90’s will be remembered from the main network comedies, teen comedy was doing a roaring trade in the background. The granddaddy of them all was Saved by the Bell, the format of which was copied over and over again by NBC with varying success – California Dreams = good, Hang Time/USA High = not so much.

We were also introduced to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air a little known rapper called Will Smith who would soon become one of the biggest stars in the world. Rumor has it he only signed on as he had a big tax bill to pay, possibly the only time the US Tax Dept. has ever given anything useful back to the public. Then much like his big brother before him, Ben Savage grew up in front of our eyes in Boy Meets World, which was and still is one of my all time favourite shows. It was doofy, funny but heartfelt and somewhat honest in its portrayal of growing up and the fact that many years later it has spawned a successful spin off show, Girl Meets World, proves that it must have got something right in the first place.

The final year of the decade also gave us one of the finest shows to grace our screens, Freaks and Geeks, which not only was a launching pad for stars such as Seth Rogen, James Franco and Jason Segel but was also a truly funny and honest look at being the outsider in High School. While in it’s lead, Lindsey Weir, the voice of a million teenage girls was finally represented.

Best Teen Comedy Shows of the 90’s

Boy Meets World

Saved By The Bell

Freaks and Geeks

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Sabrina The Teenage Witch

Home Improvement

California Dreams

Blossom

Sister, Sister

Dinosaurs 

Supernatural/Sci-Fi Drama & Comedy

If there was anything to be thankful to the decade for, it was the introduction of Supernatural/Sci-Fi Drama to the small screen. There had always been the likes of Star Trek to entertain the masses, and the popularity of Star Trek: The Next Generation was probably a great help in getting some of these shows developed and produced. From Sam Beckett leaping through time in Quantum Leap to the Crypt Keeper telling scary stories or the guys over at Mystery Science Theater 3000 making fun of it all, there was plenty for every one to enjoy.

Twin Peaks took a look at the darker side of it all. Starting off as a murder mystery, we were all soon to discover that the small Washington town was home to more than just a run of the mill murder. As cult TV shows go you will probably not find any better than this peak into the mind of David Lynch.

The biggest supernatural show of the decade had to be however The X-Files. Following agents Mulder and Scully as they made their way through weird and wonderful cases, the believer and the skeptic had one of the greatest will they/won’t they relationships on television.

Then there was Buffy the Vampire Slayer, a hugely successful show that was a spin-off of a not so successful movie. Vampires, high school drama, monsters, witches, kick-ass ladies, it had it all and then some, a huge hit for the fledgling WB network, it would lay the ground work for future supernatural TV series well into the new millennium.

Best Supernatural/Sci-Fi Drama & Comedy Shows of the 90’s

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

The X-Files

Twin Peaks

Picket Fences

The Outer Limits

Eerie Indiana

Highlander

The New Adventures of Superman

Quantum Leap

Tales from the Crypt

Mystery Science Theater 3000

Rosewell

Teen Drama

This past week I have written quite a bit about Teen Drama for Den of Geek and you can find that right here.

The 90’s was when Teen Drama was really created as a genre, starting with the glitzy Beverly Hills 90210 and moving into the more realistic with the superb My So-Called Life. By the Mid-90’s it had taken off so much that The WB was created just to cater for the growing market with its flagship show, Dawson’s Creek becoming the poster child for the genre.

Best Teen Drama Shows of the 90’s

Beverly Hills 90210

Dawson’s Creek

My So-Called Life

Party of Five

Doogie Howser M.D.

Nickelodeon 

If there was one television network that had its glory days in the 90’s it was sure to have been Nickelodeon. Not only did cater for kids with shows that spoke their language and didn’t condescend, it also made really great programmes that appealed to the wider audience to boot.

They made off the wall comedy shows, scary shows, kid friendly but slightly subversive animation and made the act of sliming major Hollywood stars the norm. Their output was proof that kid’s can be some of the most savvy consumers out there, each show had strong, relatable characters, strong story lines which were well written and well acted. They didn’t skimp on their budgets and left a legacy of work that most working in the industry now would be enviable of. I think it is sad that kids TV today doesn’t take half as many risks as it did back in the 90’s, but thankfully due to the majority of shows getting DVD release, we can at least look back to the glory days with fondness.

Best Nickelodeon Shows of the 90’s 

Are You Afraid of the Dark?

The Adventures of Pete & Pete

Clarissa Explain’s It All

The Secret World of Alex Mack

Kenan & Kel

Rocko’s Modern Life

Rugrats

Doug

The Ren & Stimpy Show

Best of the Rest

The 90’s was also the decade that gave us the beginning of the ‘harder’ cop dramas like Homicide: Life on the Street, the heart in your mouth medical drama’s like ER, cruder, boundary pushing animation like South Park and the advent of what was to become the reality TV revolution. As we moved into the new decade a show would start that would mark the resurgence of the well written, well acted drama and who would have thought it would have started with a mob boss with physiological issues.

Best of the Rest 90’s Shows

The Soprano’s

ER

Once and Again

Due South

Early Edition

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

LA Law

Homicide: Life on the Street

Life Goes On

Beavis and Butthead

South Park

Futurama

Daria