25. Martin (1992-1997)
Created by and starring Martin Lawrence, Martin enjoyed a nice five-season run from 1992-97. As the lead, Lawrence played the role of Martin Payne — a Detroit-based DJ with a tendency to be abrasive to those closest to him. Martin was one of the highest-rated shows on Fox for the majority of its run, but the show ultimately came to an end on the heels of some serious drama within the cast. In 1997, Tisha Campbell — who played Martin’s girlfriend on the show — filed a lawsuit against Lawrence and some of the showrunners.
24. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
Chosen by fate to battle vampires and demons, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Buffy Summers has trouble coming to grips with her destiny — often wishing she could be a normal person and not a Vampire Slayer. As we’ve seen throughout film history, vampires are a popular topic. So, it wasn’t shocking to see Buffy the Vampire Slayer quickly become a fan-favorite. It would have been easy to dismiss it as a corny supernatural show, but strong storylines and powerful performances cemented Buffy‘s place in TV history. In total, Buffy ran for seven seasons between 1997-2003.
23. Rugrats (1991-2004)
Nickelodeon really revved up during the early ’90s. Among its heavyweight cartoons, Rugrats stole the scene as arguably its biggest juggernaut. There have been spin-off series, multiple movies, and an empire of merchandise emanating from the show centered around talking babies. The construction of the show was great for little kids. However, it also had enough adult humor that would fly over the heads of children, and keep the adults ‘forced’ to watch duly entertained.
22. Saved by the Bell (1989-1993)
Although Saved by the Bell was only on for four seasons (86 episodes), it sure seemed like its run on television was at least double that time. The show itself became firmly embedded into the fabric of the pop culture world. This was largely based on the chemistry of the cast — as well as the unique personality of Principal Belding (Dennis Haskins). Plus, the character Kelly Kapowski (played by Tiffani Thiessen) may have been everyone’s biggest crush during the early parts of the 90s. Mark-Paul Gosselaar and Mario Lopez both became known entities from their time on the show, which centered around the usual fun those would have in high school.
21. 3rd Rock from the Sun (1996-2001)
Not to be confused with Joe Diffie’s 1994 country album of the same name (different spelling), 3rd Rock from the Sun was a popular sitcom that aired on NBC from 1996-2001. Starring John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt, 3rd Rock is about four extra-terrestrials (Lithgow, Johnston, Gordon-Levitt, French Stewart) that are sent to Earth to observe humans. For a country obsessed with alien life and the mystery that is space, 3rd Rock provided a nice comedic element to the subject. The show and its actors were incredibly well-received — as the show and cast took home multiple Emmys and Golden Globes.
20. Monday Night Raw (1993-Present Day)
Currently the longest-running weekly episodic program on television, WWE’s Monday Night Raw was a juggernaut in the late 1990s. One half of the famed Monday Night Wars that took place between WWE and its chief rival WCW, Raw became must-watch television during the Attitude Era — an era full of high-impact wrestling, gorgeous women, immense profanity, and dirty jokes. With the emergence of superstars such as The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin, Raw became a global phenomenon.
19. Boy Meets World (1993-2000)
This sitcom technically started as a show geared towards children. Over the years, it morphed into one of ABC’s biggest family-centric programs. The life of Cory Matthews (Ben Savage) was on full display, as he navigated life with his best friend (Rider Strong), the love of his life (Topanga Lawrence), a wacky older brother (Will Friedle), and his next-door neighbor/high school teacher/mentor/guru Mr. Feeny (Bill Daniels). The life lessons Mr. Feeny bestowed to young Cory were some of the show’s most wonderful moments.
18. Full House (1987-1995)
Full House is about as wholesome a show as you will find. Bob Saget played a widower raising three daughters. Needing extra help, his brother-in-law (John Stamos) and best friend (Dave Coulier) came to the rescue. We saw this blended family grow on television, with many storylines tackling issues every family faces. It also marked the emergence of the Olsen Twins — who’ve since become quite successful in several fields. The show lasted eight seasons and a whopping 192 episodes. In 2016, the sequel series — Fuller House — debuted on Netflix (with virtually the entire cast returning sans the Olsen Twins). It lasted five seasons before being cancelled in 2020.
17. Oz (1997-2003)
An HBO Original, Oz was centered around the Oswald State Correctional Facility — a fictional maximum security prison. With a star-studded cast, Oz excelled throughout its six-season run. Set in an all-male prison, Oz can be difficult to watch at times due to its serious, disturbing events. But while some viewers were made uncomfortable viewing this prison epic, the performances — both on-screen and in terms of the writing and production — are undeniable.
16. Sex and the City (1998-2004)
Since its debut in 1998, Sex and the City has become one of the most discussed, debated, and quoted shows of the last 20 years. Following the antics of four single women — Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, Cynthia Nixon — living in New York City, Sex and the City became a fan favorite almost immediately upon its premier. The show used the four women to attack multiple social issues including sexuality, femininity and relationships. During its run, Sex garnered 50 Emmy nominations and seven wins. While the series came to an end in 2004, two films — Sex and the City, Sex and the City 2 — were released in 2008 and 2010.
15. Law & Order (1990-2010)
When a show has the lasting power to stick around for two decades, it must be good. When a show also has more than a handful of spin-offs emanating from it, it must really be good. Dick Wolf’s Law & Order debuted in 1990 and captivated everybody that owned a television. For 20 years, Dick Wolf produced a magnificent police procedural — one that has an iconic opening sequence accompanied by an unforgettable score. Also, who hasn’t recited these words 10-to-500 times?
“In the criminal justice system, the people are represented by two separate yet equally important groups: The police, who investigate crime, and the district attorneys, who prosecute the offenders. These are their stories.”
14. Daria (1997-2002)
Though the show only appeared for five seasons, it has a very strong cult following to it. In a sense, Daria was almost too clever for mainstream television. The titular character (voiced by Tracy Grandstaff) offered the angst of a snarky teenager with equal parts intelligence and satire. While it never was on the level of some other cartoons from a popularity standpoint we truly think Daria was ahead of its time — as well as simply ‘too’ smart for much of the mainstream to digest. Regardless, watching some of these older episodes in the present is quite fun.
13. Home Improvement (1991-1999)
Tim ‘The Tool Man’ Taylor (Tim Allen) represented the working man in this hilarious sitcom about a man and his normal yet quirky family. Loosely based on his life, Allen went from being a stand-up comedian to a sitcom star. Ultimately, the popularity of Home Improvement led to Allen transitioning into the world of film (it was the No. 1 rated show on television for multiple seasons). There were several wonderful characters in the cast — including sidekick Al (Richard Karn), wise next-door neighbor Wilson (the late Earl Hindman), loving wife Jill (Patricia Richardson), and son Randy (played by child star Jonathan Taylor Thomas). Interestingly enough, even Pamela Anderson got her acting start on the show. We’ll never forget Allen’s unique grunts and sounds when eliciting laughter from the audience.
12. The Simpsons (1989-Present Day)
A show that never needs an introduction, The Simpsons has been an American staple dating back to December 1989. Created by Matt Groening, this hilarious animated sitcom relies upon satire and parodying American life to capture the attention of its audience. And for over 30 years, the show has done just that. Who doesn’t love the Simpson family? Watching Bart disobey Homer will never get old. With 32 seasons and nearly 700 episodes to its name — not to mention a film and a ride at Universal Studios — The Simpsons has shown no signs of slowing down.
11. The X-Files (1993-2002, 2016-18)
Beginning in 1993, The X-Files’ original run spanned close to nine years. Starring the great David Duchovny (Mulder) and the incredibly talented Gillian Anderson (Scully) as FBI Agents, the show followed the duo as they investigated unsolved cases that involved paranormal activity. The dichotomy between Mulder’s belief in alien life and Scully’s more skeptical approach was impossible to dislike. The two stars possessed a great chemistry that only enhanced the program. It was fun and smart, and always kept you on the edge of your seat. After a 15-year hiatus, the show returned in 2016 for two additional seasons.
10. In Living Color (1990-1994)
For five seasons, In Living Color was one of the best television shows. Created, written by, and starring Keenan Ivory Wayans — brother of Damon Wayans — In Living Color was a sketch comedy show featuring a predominantly black cast. A slew of terrific comedians and actors appeared on the show including a then-unknown Jim Carrey, David Alan Grier, and Jamie Foxx. While the show didn’t last for many years, its impact has been felt for more than two decades.
9. The Wonder Years (1988-1993)
Ah, how could we forget Winnie Cooper and Kevin Arnold? The Wonder Years transports the audience back to the late ’60s/early ’70s, when life was much simpler. True Americana was highlighted here, where kids could run outside and play without the threat of video games or cell phones. The progression of Kevin (Fred Savage) from a young boy to teenager was quite enjoyable. Interestingly enough, his real-life younger brother, Ben, embarked on a similar journey during his run as Cory Matthews on Boy Meets World. The Wonder Years began in the ’80s — though really hit its stride during the ’90s.
8. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)
The Banks family was transformed overnight by the appearance of their eclectic yet wholesome family member Will. Never will we forget the iconic theme song of Fresh Prince — which told the story of a young man leaving danger behind in Philadelphia for a chance at living with relatives in the ritzy Los Angeles neighborhood of Bel-Air. This show essentially made Will Smith into one of Hollywood’s biggest stars. In the process, we saw the emergence of Alfonso Ribeiro as cousin Carlton and the magnanimous talent of ‘Uncle Phil’ James Avery. From a ‘re-watchability’ standpoint, Fresh Prince holds up as well as any show from this era. It had humor, heart, poignancy, and everything in between. Try not to get emotional when watching the heartbreaking scene where Will’s father (Ben Vereen) walks out on him. It was a masterclass of acting between Smith and Avery.
7. Friends (1994-2004)
Friends was immensely formulaic. It’s part of what made it both popular and easy to consume. The same jokes often were regurgitated in various packages. The storylines were easy to follow, and the audience generally knew where they were going. While the quality of the show may not have been exceptional, it certainly took the United States by storm as one of the premier sitcoms of the decade. By the show’s final seasons, there were reports that the six main actors from the show (Courteney Cox, David Schwimmer, Jennifer Aniston, Matt LeBlanc, Lisa Kudrow, Matthew Perry) were making $1 million an episode.
6. Frasier (1993-2004)
Beginning in 1993, Kelsey Grammer was a mainstay on NBC’s airwaves thanks to the hit-show Frasier. A spin-off of the legendary Cheers, Fraiser focused on Grammer’s Fraiser Cane — a psychiatrist who returns to Seattle to host The Dr. Fraiser Cane Show, a radio show focusing on psychiatry. Fraiser made its debut four months after Cheers’ final episode aired, and Grammer carried the show until 2004 — 11 seasons and 264 episodes in total.
5. Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)
Freaks and Geeks had a one-season run (18 episodes) in 1999. On the surface, there’s no way this sort of show should end up on a ‘best of any decade’ list. However, Freaks and Geeks truly holds the distinction as arguably the most underrated television show ever made. A period piece taking place in the early ’80s, we explore all types of high school stereotypes in a Michigan high school. The depth of these characters was quite impressive for a single-season run — as was the acting talent. The show included a plethora of future Hollywood stars (including Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Martin Starr, Alexandra Breckenridge, Shia LaBeouf, Jason Schwartzman, Rashida Jones, Busy Philipps, John Francis Daley, Ben Foster, and Lizzy Caplan). If there’s a show we want to see a revival of, this would be it.
4. Roseanne (1988-1997, 2018)
This was a no-frills show. Creator Roseanne Barr crafted a series that focused on a middle-class Midwest American family struggling to survive. Along the way, they found humor in their modest situation. This archetype resonated with millions across the country. Barr herself broke barriers as the main creator of a hit sitcom. Her storylines didn’t shy away from ‘controversial’ issues of the time — such as addressing domestic abuse as well as having openly gay characters. Additionally, the cast had tremendous timing when executing jokes. A lot of this had to do with Laurie Metcalf and John Goodman. These two functioned as the pillars of stability for this 10-season show.
3. South Park (1997-Present Day)
Two animated sitcoms rule them all — The Simpsons and South Park. Created by Trey Parker and Matt Stone, South Park utilizes dark, satirical humor and capitalizes on current events like no other show in television history. Revolving around four boys — Cartman, Kyle, Kenny and Stan — the show debuted in 1997 and quickly won over the audience with its deft humor and unique animated cutout look. Some may find South Park a bit too extreme, but it wouldn’t be the show it is if Parker and Stone weren’t willing to push the boundaries.
2. Twin Peaks (1990-1991, 2017)
Centered around the murder of a local homecoming queen, Twin Peaks has become widely-regarded as one of the greatest television shows of all-time. Laura Palmer, played by Sheryl Lee, is found dead in the town of Twin Peaks. Viewers are brought along as FBI Special Agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) and a local sheriff — Michael Ontkean’s Sheriff Harry S. Truman — investigate Palmer’s gruesome death. Arriving on the airwaves in 1990, Peaks only lasted two seasons before being canceled in 1991. Fortunately, the show’s growing legacy led to a revival in 2017.
1. Seinfeld (1989-1998)
The show about absolutely nothing is arguably the greatest single sitcom in the history of television. The braintrust of Larry David and Jerry Seinfeld crafted weekly episodes centering on idiosyncratic behavior, absurd attention to detail, tomfoolery, and nuanced comedic timing. When smashed together with the core group (Seinfeld, Jason Alexander, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Michael Richards), you’re left with an absolutely brilliant show. Though many have attempted to recreate this format, none have — or will ever come close to replicating the success Seinfeld enjoyed (and continues to enjoy through syndication).