The best ‘90s drama shows weighed heavily toward sci-fi premises, but gave equal time to angsty teen dramas and crime procedurals. In fact, we have the 1990s to thank for the exponential growth of the Law and Order franchise. Though some of the greatest TV dramas of the ‘90s might be comedy-drama hybrids rather than straight-up drama, the hour-long format allowed those shows to tackle more serious subjects than a sitcom.
Some of the ‘90s greatest dramas dominated what came to be known as water-cooler viewing, like The X-files, Twin Peaks, and The West Wing. Other shows didn’t quite dominate in the ratings, like Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and The Sopranos, yet they secured a spot in TV history as some of the best ever in the genre.
As the Internet grew in access and popularity, we saw some of the greatest ‘90s dramas draw from the new phenomenon. (Recall Ally McBeal’s use of the dancing baby meme.) Though DVR wasn’t introduced until 1999, VHS recording allowed for delayed viewing, necessitating the rise of the SPOILER ALERT.Finally, we have to thank a few of the best ‘90s drama shows for launching the careers of Jessica Biel (7th Heaven), Claire Danes (My So-Called Life), and James Van Der Beek (Dawson’s Creek), reviving the careers of James Spader (The Practice), Rob Lowe (The West Wing), and Robert Downey, Jr. (Ally McBeal). And, really, we have to thank Dick Wolf for filling the airwaves end to end with witty banter and weeping victims.
- Buffy Summers battles evil in the suburbs.
- A coming-of-age comedy follows Cory Matthews as he juggles school, friends and romance.
- Three sisterly witches battle the supernatural.
- FBI special agents probe cases involving phenomena that defy conventional explanations.
- Capt. Benson and her NYPD squad fight for justice in cases ripped straight from the headlines.
- Doctors labor to save lives in the emergency room of a Chicago hospital.
- Friends face triumphs and tragedies as young adults.
- A psychiatrist travels through time to alter people's futures for the better.
- Dawson Leery and his friends come of age.
- Detectives and prosecutors pursue justice in the New York City streets and courtrooms.
- A teen finds new friends and trouble in high school.
- A vampire with a conscience saves lost souls in Los Angeles.
- Tony Soprano tries to be a good family man and run the New Jersey mob.
- Lifeguards deal with life on and off the beach.
- Xena helps people free themselves against tyranny and injustice.
- The Rev. Eric and Annie Camden raise seven children.
- Party of Five (Fox, 1994) is an American television teen and family drama created by Christopher Keyser and Amy Lippman. After their parents' untimely death, five siblings (Matthew Fox, Scott Wolf, ...more
- A Ranger uses his instincts and experience to solve crimes.
- An FBI agent investigates murders in a Pacific Northwest town.
- A young attorney joins a prestigious law firm whose staff includes her ex-boyfriend.
- Eight adults live on their own for the first time in Los Angeles.
- A female doctor in the 1880s fights for acceptance in Colorado.
- A New Yorker adjusts to life in a rural town in Alaska.
- Dispatched from heaven, a group of angels helps those in need.
- New York City police officers deal with their professional and personal lives.