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All That and A Bag of Chips: My Favorite TV Shows From Childhood
I Know You Love the Title!
And if you don't, you will. As a 90s kid this was one of those sayings that everyone said at some point in time. But it didn't really apply to everything as much as we would have liked to have thought. However, for the purposes of this hub it does apply to every show that I mention.
Now the definition is essentially what it means to be something great that becomes insatiable. Hence, the bag of chips. But in this list you will find shows that I think helped inspire me as a writer and a lover of pop culture in general.
Please be warned, if you are a lover of high brow entertainment and intellectually stimulating programming, then you might not want to read this hub. Well, at least not every part of it.
I'm not including cartoons in hopes of a future hub, so stay tuned!
All That Was Really All That
When Nickelodeon finally decided to reopen the vault to what most kids of the 1990s longed for, there was a collective sigh of relief and joy or maybe just last night's hot dog talking back but either way it was good.
All That ran for a grand total of ten seasons and helped launch the careers of some pretty talented actors and comedians like Amanda Bynes and Kenan Thompson. While their star roster still pales in comparison to the juggernaut that was "The All New Mickey Mouse Club", it still was dope.
What I personally liked about the show was that it was relateable to my age group while still epitomizing the essence of great satire and pop culture commentary that was first exemplified in shows before it like "In Living Color" and "Saturday Night Live."
And while I did watch those other two shows, my relationship to them is a little different. "In Living Color" was on when I was too young to understand all of the inside jokes and innuendo. My first run-in with "Saturday Night Live" wasn't until the age of 15 and that was more about my favorite former Mouseketeer than it was the show...
I digress, but what I really loved about the show was that it captured a time that was fraught with innocence and chaos as well as the lifelong process of self-awareness and self-deprecation. More than that, you could watch something on Saturday night that was funny and that you could talk to your friends about while trying to do impersonations of Pierre Escargot among others.
And lest I forget, they had one of the best theme songs of all time!
The Boy Band Revolution Was Televised!
I grew up watching BET and MTV in the 1990s and while my parents probably didn't fully embrace everything that happened on those networks, it wasn't my fault that there was a television in my room. But with that came a great moment of realization that the music my parents listened to wasn't the only thing that was available.
With shows like Video Soul and Soul Train, I constantly got to see my favorite artists perform and talk about their music but there was one show that really took the cake in terms of giving the fan the power of who their real favorites were.
Total Request Live or TRL as it is more commonly known as was essentially the crown jewel in the vastly disintegrating landscape of music programming on MTV in the late 1990s. And while I know many people hated that show, it did a lot more for music and television than most of us would like to think.
TRL gave people the opportunity to vote for their favorite videos, see their favorite artists perform, and have one of a kind crazy live moments everyday at 3:30. While the show essentially peaked in 2000, it was a great place to see artists who wouldn't usually come together hang out.
There were also key watercooler moments like Snoop Dogg's hip-hop rendition of "The Night Before Christmas," Eminem's jab at Mark Wahlberg, and probably the most important argument in late 1990s/ early 2000s pop culture: 'N Sync vs. BSB.
But what I loved most about it was that it presented a choice and while there was always a clear winner at number one, the fans always won in one way or another. It opened the door for collaborations across genres, fan accessibility, and a new way of marketing in the dawn of the internet age.
Without TRL, there probably wouldn't have been a Bieber, a Gaga, or a YouTube. So there!
A Wrinkle in TV Time Travel
This show to me sums up what it's like to grow up in any era. It's not all good and it's never all bad. It's just, life. And while this coming of age show wasn't unique in the issues it addressed, it was unique in not romanticizing the past. Who would have thought a late 1980s show on life in the 1960s would be so powerful?
Without "The Wonder Years" I seriously doubt that we would have had a "Mad Men" or a "That 70s Show" to give us glimpses into the past and hope for the future. But unlike these shows that essentially became building blocks to their respective networks, "The Wonder Years" was an asset in ABC's history of bringing real life stories to the people in an honest and unique way.
Even though I am a lot different on the surface to Kevin Arnold, he is one of those characters that you only see once in a generation. His struggle to survive the challenges of a family pulled in different directions as well as the comedic awkwardness of adolescence resonated across many generations.
I wasn't a teen when this show was on, but I always could relate. Kevin was trying to do the right thing by his friends and family as well as try not to fall for Winnie Cooper. Fred Savage, to me was and is one of the best child actors of all time, just for so simply embodying a difficult and exciting time.
"The Wonder Years" so well captured the social, psychological, and cultural tensions that exist beyond the surface of nostalgia, it's almost become just as memorable as the time it depicted. I could watch that show right now and feel the exact same way as I did the first time I saw it.
Just the Facts and Then Some
I've been playing board games for the better part of twenty years, and everyone I've ever played with always asks, where I get the answers from. Well, the truth is, there's no one source. It's a multitude of sources, but one very big source was and is "Biography".
Now, I know you're wondering why I put such an ordinary show on this list. That's a misconception made by many that's simply not true. There are some episodes of "Biography" that I would say are better than reading the books themselves. It's just that good. Now, of course it's not everyone's cup of tea but I say it's at least worth one sip.
Biography started right around the time the internet became widely available, but this was before we found Wikipedia. And it also was around the time scandal television took off with the OJ Simpson Trial, Princess Diana's tragic death, and so much more. What "Biography" did with this period of time was tell life stories from the perspective of the omniscient third person.
It became so iconic in the late 1990s, it eventually became its own network, solely devoted to showing episodes of the series and branched out beyond telling the stories of just the rich and famous of the moment. They covered business titans, business empires, and iconic television shows.
"Biography" helped to launch a million and one copycat series. Most of them, were specific to the channel they aired on. Some of the most famous ripoffs included "E! True Hollywood Story" and "Behind the Music."
I Wanted to Be Jeannie
While many girls my age idolized such figures as the Spice Girls, my female hero was actual Jeannie from "I Dream of Jeannie." Now of course she was a representation of what writers thought would be a good genie, but still I loved that show and still do.
She was one of the first prominent women in television to be featured almost exclusively in pants as well as one of the first single women. Of course she didn't have the ideal career or a formal education, but she had great intuition.
Most of all what I admired about Jeannie was how whimsical she was. She showed that being an adult, while challenging, is no less fun than being a child. It all depends on how you take life. And no matter what kind of situation she got Major Nelson into, she was always calm.
While I didn't know that she would end up with Major Nelson, looking back it was obvious that she loved him. Jeannie had multiple chances to leave and pursue her own life but she realized how much Tony meant to her. It's possibly one of my favorite love stories of all time in television.
Fortunately there hasn't been a big Hollywood remake of this to ruin my memories and even if there is, it wouldn't mean the same as the original.
Love and Laughter Is All Around
It goes without saying that "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" is one of the best shows to grace television. Using simplicity and honesty about the times, it was also very much timeless. Even though I wasn't alive during the original run of the show, the reruns had so much heart it felt like I was watching it in the 1970s.
Mary was awesome because of who she was and who she believed she could be. But she was vulnerable and thankfully she had Rhoda to rely on and commiserate with. They were not only best friends but each other's cheerleader. And while Rhoda proved to be a solid friend, she also had the most amazing co-workers in the crew at WJM.
Murray was the man. Overworked and underpaid, he was not above insulting any and everybody, most notably one of my favorite inept characters ever the incomparable Ted Baxter. But let's not forget Lou Grant, the most lovable curmudgeon in television. I just loved their chemistry together, but most of all they grew to see Mary as more than just a woman but a valued friend, confidante, and co worker.
Now I don't want to leave out the other characters like Mary's manipulative and backstabbing best friend Phyllis Lindstrom and her daughter Bess. But my favorite supporting character had to be Sue Ann Nivens. She was like Martha Stewart before the 1990s combined with the trustworthiness of Erica Kane.
Even though the characters were great, the show would have never survived without great plots. And the writing was in such a way, that everyone had their shine in one way or another. My favorite episodes have to be Chuckles the Clown's funeral which set the standard for all future television funerals and of course the finale with the sweetest group hug ever.
I could go on for days about Mary, Lou, Rhoda, Murray and the gang but it goes without saying that this show made me dream big.
I would like to mention these shows as I liked them, but didn't consider them for this hub because there were other shows that won out in terms of impact and influence on me.
Boy Meets World - Fred Savage's younger brother, Ben, picked up where he left off except only in the present. I distinctly remember watching the show every week during TGIF. Corey and Topanga are among one of my favorite television couples ever, but unfortunately the cast changes and inconsistencies made this show hard to follow at times.
A Different World - This is quite possibly one of the best spinoffs in comedy television. It was doomed by it's parent show's (The Cosby Show) success. Clever and insightful, it inspired a generation of young people of all types to go to college and follow their dreams. There was also a renewed faith in romance due to the story of Whitley and Dwayne. I left this show off because I didn't like the fact that the show was retooled and recast several times (including a botched 1st season).
The New Adventures of Superman - Long before "Smallville" there was Dean Cain playing the Man of Steel. I liked this show because there was a lot of great realism incorporated into a storied franchise without the cheesiness of previous incarnations. What I didn't enjoy was the strange twists and missing finale but overall it was enjoyable.
I hope you liked this hub and as always, thanks for reading! I look forward to your responses!
- All That (TV Series 1994–2005) - IMDb
Created by Brian Robbins, Michael Tollin. Directed by Ken Ceizler, Linda Mendoza. With Amanda Bynes, Nick Cannon, Kenan Thompson, Josh Server. A combination sketch comedy/musical performance show in the tradition of "Saturday Night Live"...
- TRL | Total Request Live | MTV
Tune in November 16 at 8 p.m. ET when MTV throws TRL a finale celebration from the Time Square studios. Check out video shows, photo galleries and more from Total Request Live exclusively at MTV.com
- The Wonder Years- AOL Television
The Wonder Years episodes, cast and crew, photos, listings and more on AOL Television! ``The Wonder Years'' tracks life in the turbulent late 1960s and early '70s through the eyes of the increasingly less innocent Kevin Arnold. Narrated by an adult
- I Dream of Jeannie (TV Series 1965–1970) - IMDb
Created by Sidney Sheldon. With Barbara Eden, Larry Hagman, Bill Daily, Hayden Rorke. A United States astronaut finds his life vastly complicated when he stumbles on to a bottle containing a female genie.
- THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW - The Museum of Broadcast Communications