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The Top Ten Greatest 1990s Nickelodeon Shows Of All Time

Updated on May 5, 2014
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Back in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, there was a TV network whose shows centered around entertaining kids. There was much variety in the broadcasts that included cartoons, live action comedies and game shows. Each year, children would look forward to the next big new show that was produced for the channel. I’m not talking about the Nickelodeon of today, but the Nickelodeon when it first began. Somehow entering the new millennium, the special quality that came with each show seemed to disappear. Many can argue that there are still several good shows currently running but it’s hard to compare those to the ones back in the “Golden Era” of the network.

More than likely if you grew up in the late 80’s to 90’s, you can see a huge difference in the shows back then to now. The clever shows that would be memorable just don’t seem to exist as much as they used to. Maybe that means that crowd is getting old, but nevertheless most will agree they remember sitting down during “Snick” (that was primetime teen shows on Saturday night for all you younglings) and watching some great entertainment.

In honor of these shows, we put together a list dealing with the best of the best. In order to make the top ten list of greatest 90’s Nickelodeon shows, it obviously needed to get its start in the 90’s. Therefore, shows that began in the late 1980’s, 2000’s, and 2010’s are not included. No doubt with the quantity of shows that were around back then, some did not crack the top ten. Still, that does diminish any of the greatness they possessed. If there was a top 20, no doubt many would place in that list. So sit back, relax, and take a trip down memory lane as we consider the greatest shows starting at number 10.

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10. Clarissa Explains It All

Original Run: 1991-1994

As far as female leads in a show, this was the one that started them all. Before iCarly, Zoey 101 and others there was Clarissa Explains It All. What made it unique was the show had the ability to be relatable for both boys and girls. Sure, it may have concentrated more on a girl’s perspective, but it was focused on her family and the life of a kid growing up. Subjects ranged from episode to episode, but the sibling rivalry between Clarissa and her brother Ferguson were always comedic and entertaining. It was a fun show that was able to teach kids important lessons that included the pressures of doing well in school, first crushes, learning to drive a car and even underage drinking. Put simply this was the even more kid centered version of “Full House” to some extents. A lot of Nickelodeon shows today could take notes on how it’s done from simply watching a few episodes of this.

9. Salute Your Shorts

Original Run: 1991-1992

Despite only lasting two seasons, this was a solid and enjoyable show. Taking place in the fictional Camp Anawanna, it was easy for many children to relate that spent their summers in an organized camp. For such a low budget kid’s show, it’s writing and characters were very well done. Time and again viewers would wonder what kind of trouble the gang consisting of Robert “Bobby” Budnick, Sponge Harris, Ziff, Dina Alexandar, Mona Tibbs, Eddie “Donkeylips” Gelfen (a favorite and anchor for the show) and others would get into. A lot of the humor and fun was the pranks that Budnick and his pal “Donkeylips” would play on the strict and bossy camp counselor Kevin “Ug” Lee. Even with its short lifespan it was a must to watch when the reruns came on.

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8. Wild & Crazy Kids

Original Run: 1990-1992

One of the more interesting shows to be on Nickelodeon in the 90’s was Wild & Crazy Kids. Being one of the first game shows to appear on the network, its core was sports themed games that teams would engage in. Each episode consisted of 3 different games with 3 of the show’s regular hosts emceeing each game. The first season hosts consisted of Omar Gooding (Cuba Gooding Jr.’s brother), Donnie Jeffcoat and Annette Chavez. Chavez was later replaced in the second season by Jessica Gaynes. It was famous for games such as "Dizzy Bat Homerun Derby" that pitted kids vs. adults in a homerun derby of three innings. The catch was the adults had to place their head on a bat and spin three times before hitting the ball. What made the show so entertaining was the different spins on sports such as soccer (turned into three-legged soccer, where kids were tied together at the ankle), Football (played in a pool with kids catching footballs while jumping off diving boards) and many others.

7. Nickelodeon Guts

Original Run: 1992-1995

If physical sports and games were the kind of shows you liked, Guts had you covered. Hosted by Mike O’Malley, Three players would compete in various games and earn points depending on their performance. Back in those days, American Gladiators was one of the more popular shows on TV. Guts took that element and made it possible for kids to play in. What captured the attention of viewers was the games themselves that included mountain climbing (the Crag), track and field, pool, and aerial style sports . While watching, you could only imagine how much fun it would be to play on the show. Plus, who can forget the memorable theme song? “Do, do, do, do you have it? GUTS!”

6. The Adventures of Pete & Pete

Original Run: 1993-1996

Back in the 80’s a show about being kid growing up with the pressures of life were confined to few programs such as “The Wonder Years.” The Adventures of Pete & Pete was the more kid version of those kind of shows. It was a comedy series that took out the typical laugh-track and filmed on location rather than a studio. It truly had an element that was different and sometimes strange, but nonetheless intriguing. Just trying to explain the concept of the show could raise eyebrows. Its premise was about a family with different quirks and personalities. Two brothers with the same name of Pete but had far different traits. The older Pete was your main character and narrator of the show, who displays a more balanced view of things being in the teenage years of his life. The younger brother was more energetic and sporadic with situations. Also unique about the younger Pete was a tattoo of a woman “Petunia” on his arm (being around the age of 10 too made it a bit odd) and also in later seasons having a friend “Artie” claiming to be the strongest man in the world. He would typically be in some of the more strange aspects of the plot for episodes. The mother had a metal plate in her head that would ensue with funny jokes of picking up radio signals. The father was more oblivious to what was going on, but fit the mold of the dad in the Wrigley family. Many other characters were included in the show which always made it interesting from season to season. Even today it’s a great show to watch and see the many adventures the Pete brothers would get into.

5. Ren & Stimpy

Original Run: 1991-1995

A whole other breed of cartoon is what Ren & Stimpy could be best described as in short. No other cartoon existed before it, breaking barriers that many never dreamed of trying. On the outside it seemed to be a fart-joke filled show with nothing else. Of course, ones who watched the show knew there was much more to it. One episode had the angry Chihuahua Ren Hoek and his pal Stimpson “Stimpy” J. Cat in outer space trying to survive, and the next had them saving people as fire dogs (yes Stimpy although being a cat had to pretend to be a Dalmatian with Ren). The genius in humor was enough to appeal to not only children but adults. This is where the show really pushed the envelope in terms of censorship. After two seasons, creator John Kricfalusi was fired by Nickelodeon along with his studio (Spumco), and was replaced by Games Animation. Here is where the series took a nosedive in quality to many. Although not everything was bad later in the series, the special touch of the show was mostly gone. Episodes seem to lack the humor it once had. If the series could’ve lasted longer with Mr. Kricfalusi it could very well have been considered the greatest Nickelodeon show. Still, Ren & Stimpy overall places in the top ten easily as one of the greatest.

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4. Legends of the Hidden Temple

Original Run: 1993-1995

Out of all of the Nickelodeon game shows, nothing was more original and fun than Legends of the Hidden Temple. Although its theme was based around the Indiana Jones franchise, the concept was different and cool. Hosted by Kirk Fogg (who was a guide for the teams) and announced by a talking Olmec Head, it drew in viewers with its interesting historical accounts and puzzles. The show was broken up into four stages: First was “The Moat”, where six teams crossed a pool and tried to be one of four teams to move on. Next was the “Steps of Knowledge”, where questions would follow after a legend was told by Olmec. In the story was also described the show’s artifact (each episode varied) that a team would try to retrieve in the last round during the temple run. Each team would “ring-in” by stomping the step they were standing on, and if they answered correctly they would move down to the next step. The first two teams that reached the bottom of the steps would advance. The third round was three temple games where a win by a team in the first two games would get half a pendant of life. Some were timed, others were not, but the last of these games would give the team a full pendant. The team that earned the most pendants would move on to the last round playing the temple run. This is where the show was the most fun to watch. At this point, one person would enter the temple and try to get the artifact by going room to room. By passing a physical course such as climbing a rope or a puzzle, the player could move on. However if a temple guard was in a room, the only way they could stay is if they gave the guard a full pendant of life (which they won earlier). If the first player was taken by a guard, the next player raced back in from the entrance to the temple. Depending on if the team got two total pendants, they could bypass all the temple guards. The team had before time ran out to find the artifact and get back to the starting point at the front of the temple to win. If the last player was caught by a temple guard without a pendant or time ran out they would lose. An exciting game show that is missed by many even today.

3. All That

Original Run: 1994-2005

The longest non-cartoon show to run from the 1990’s, All That was the most related to “Saturday Night Live” in terms of comedy skits. Regarded as one of the most popular, it struck a chord with kids of all ages. Allowing kids themselves to act out scenes it made for funny entertainment. The first few seasons included now fairly known stars such as Amanda Bynes, Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchel. Some famous sketches were Good Burger (made into a movie in 1997), The Loud Librarian (played by cast member Lori Beth Denberg), Superdude, Repairman, Everyday French with Pierre Escargot and Vital Information (much like weekend update on “Saturday Night Live” but ridiculous sayings instead of news). It would later inspire similar comedy shows such as “The Amanda Show” and “Kenan and Kel”. Still, the original All That series was the best at being a funny TV show for kids.

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2. Doug

Original Run: 1991-1994

Along with Ren & Stimpy, Nickelodeon released Doug as one of the first “Nicktoons” for the network in 1991. The show had an element that was different from most cartoons during that time. Doug Funnie is a young adult whose family moves to the town of Bluffington, thus causing him to try his best to adjust. By narration, Doug describes events each episode through his personal journal. He has an anxious and somewhat gullible personality, and finds himself daydreaming throughout the day. Sometimes he dreams he is the super hero Quailman, a secret spy Smash Adams, or the archaeologist Race Canyon. Most of the time he envisions himself in his daydreams coming out on top such as winning a big sports game or the affections of his crush Patti Mayonnaise. Along with his dog Porkchop, Doug attempts to fit in as a kid growing up through many funny and interesting adventures. As he tries to find a way to survive Junior High School, he is befriended by a nerdy but smooth peer named Skeeter Valentine. Also is his quirky neighbor Mr. Dink, who constantly buys the newest gadget and shows it off to Doug (usually following with him saying it’s “very expensive”). Like most kids, he has disputes with the school bully Roger Klotz who is not liked by most in the school. Compared to the crude Ren & Stimpy, Doug was the cartoon that fit the more mild cartoon kid’s show. It taught life lessons that anyone could relate to, even if it was cheesy at times. Regardless, it was a classic show that is still held to be one of the greatest to air on Nickelodeon. Although a continued version of the show being bought by Disney involving Doug going to high school and renaming it to “Disney’s Doug” later in the decade, the original on Nick will still be considered as the best.

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1. Rugrats

Original Run: 1991-1994 ; 1995-2004

So first thing’s first before you agree or disagree with Rugrats being number one. Forget about the later “Rugrats: All Growed Up” series and even the movies. This is focused more on the starting debut in 1991. It’s hard to argue a show such as Rugrats to not take the top spot. The clever episodes involving babies getting into mischief was fun for everyone. The brave Tommy Pickles, his scared and insecure friend Chuckie Finster, and twins Phil and Lil would have adventures normally lived in a pretend make believe land. Tommy’s bratty cousin Angelica would cause havoc for them as well, often telling on them and trying to get them in trouble. Many other classic characters were involved in the show such as the family dog Spike, Tommy’s grandpa and parents Stu and Didi. For a kid’s show it had great humor, writing and voice acting. Ask about anyone who watched Nickelodeon and they’ll probably say they watched Rugrats. To most when they think of the network, Rugrats pops into their head as the so called “mascot”. Thus it earns the top spot on this list quite nicely.

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There are so many other shows that were not able to be listed here. What do you think? Do you agree with this list? No doubt you probably have several shows that you may have enjoyed not included on this list. Feel free to comment below with your favorite show, and/or your personal top ten.

Which is the greatest 1990's Nickelodeon show?

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    • BeyondGS profile image
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      BeyondGS 2 years ago from Ohio

      Thanks for the read Chelsea!

      There are so many good shows, and I remember so many fondly. I think one of the reasons they're so good is like you mentioned in that when you're older you get new jokes. Thus why I have bought several series (Rocko's Modern Life included) and watch them over and over. I don't think cartoons or any Nickelodeon show can compare to the 90's. Conspiracy theories or not, they'll always be special.

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      Chelsea 2 years ago

      There are soo many good 90s programs :) For a while a few years ago Nickelodeon would have a segment called "The 90s are All That" or something and they would show some reruns…I made my little brother watch it and he loved it. And for a while, I dunno if it still exists, there was a channel called "Nickelodeon Network" or something that actually did play nothing but 90s. It seems like television was darker then…when I rewatch cartoons I grew up watching there is always something that went over my head when I was little! Mostly in Rocko's Modern Life I've noticed, but even in Rugrats there are references to things that aren't so kid friendly. On that note, have you ever stumbled upon conspiracy theories for old Nick shows? Crazy stuff…haha

    • BeyondGS profile image
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      BeyondGS 3 years ago from Ohio

      Thank you for the kind comment. I think every generation can enjoy these shows no matter the age. I grew up enjoying almost everything Nickelodeon, starting with Rugrats, Doug and Ren & Stimpy. I probably liked Ren & Stimpy best, but after the second season I didn't quite enjoy it nearly as much. Rugrats proved to be a consistent and fun show throughout the years. If they made a network that played nothing but these and other 1990s shows, I'd probably only watch them all the time.

    • Amanda108 profile image

      Amanda 3 years ago from Michigan, United States

      Rugrats is my absolute favorite. I totally agree it deserves the number one spot. In fact, I still love that show to this day and own a few seasons on DVD! I've even managed to introduce my little sister to it and she's now in love as well.

      Very fun list! I'm a big Nickelodeon fan and you brought up some good memories. :-)