The Best Sitcoms Of The '90s
It’s hard to choose the best sitcoms of the ‘90s - so many quality theme songs, so many outlandish misunderstandings, and so many will-they-or-wont-they plot lines. Though Seinfeld dominated much of the era, the show actually began its run in the ‘80s, so for the purposes of this best-of list, we begin at the beginning: The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Home Improvement, and Beavis and Butt-head are just a few of the greatest sitcoms to start the ‘90s.
By the time Clinton was sworn into office, Blossom, Martin, and Mad About You were already must-see mainstays in '90s television. Building on the successes of ensemble comedies like Cheers and Night Court, other sitcoms of the '90s like Wings, Frasier, and The Drew Carey Show boasted a core group of characters getting equal airtime and intersecting storylines.
Then, there were the cultural phenomena. Friends took off like a pop-culture rocket, influencing music, fashion, hairstyles, and vernacular. The long-running South Park launched on Comedy Central and neither animation nor celebrity spoofing would ever be the same. Cable broke new programming ground with Sex and the City, among other shows, setting a course for the ‘00s and teens, where subscription cable dominates the zeitgeist and awards shows.
Some critics’ darlings, like NewsRadio, saw abbreviated runs, while worn-out premises, like The Nanny, exceeded expectations. Shows like Will & Grace, 3rd Rock from the Sun, Living Single, and Step by Step reflected how the culture was redefining the traditional family. The funniest shows of the ‘90s entertained but were also informed by the way we live today.
What are the best '90s sitcoms? Did the sitcoms you think are best make the list? Are they still as fresh today as they were 30 (yes 30!) years ago? Take a look and vote the best 1990s sitcoms to the top.
- Premiered: December 17, 1989
- Network: FOX
A groundbreaking and enduring animated sitcom, The Simpsons captured the hearts of both children and adults alike throughout the 1990s. With an impressive voice cast featuring Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, and Harry Shearer, the show introduced a colorful world inhabited by unforgettable characters like Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie Simpson. As America's favorite dysfunctional family unit living in the fictional town of Springfield. The Simpsons garnered numerous accolades including 34 Primetime Emmy Awards and a Peabody Award. Its impact on pop culture is enormous with catchphrases like "D'oh!" becoming part of everyday language.
- Premiered: September 30, 1982
- Network: NBC
Set within a cozy Boston bar aptly named Cheers, this beloved sitcom ran for eleven successful seasons from 1982 to 1993. Cheers was known for its witty humor and lovable ensemble cast that included Ted Danson as bartender Sam Malone alongside Rhea Perlman as sassy waitress Carla Tortelli. This critically-acclaimed show earned many awards during its run including 28 Primetime Emmy Awards out of an impressive 117 nominations. Its memorable theme song became synonymous with the idea of camaraderie and friendship - making Cheers an instrumental piece in defining '90s pop culture.
- Premiered: September 10, 1990
- Network: NBC
This iconic '90s sitcom launched Will Smith's acting career into superstardom as he played a fictionalized version of himself - a charming yet mischievous teenager from Philadelphia sent to live with his wealthy relatives in their Bel-Air mansion. With standout performances by James Avery as stern Uncle Phil and Alfonso Ribeiro as preppy cousin Carlton Banks, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air masterfully combined heartfelt moments with hilarious hijinks over six popular seasons. The show received multiple awards during its run while also leaving an indelible mark on fashion trends and pop culture with its catchy theme song and memorable dance moves.
- Premiered: September 17, 1991
- Network: ABC
Starring Tim Allen as an eccentric TV personality and family man, Home Improvement showcased the light-hearted misadventures of the Taylor family through eight successful seasons. With Patricia Richardson playing Jill Taylor, Tim's long-suffering wife, and a young Jonathan Taylor Thomas as their son Randy, the show struck a chord with audiences for its relatable family dynamics and clever humor. An undeniable hit during the '90s, Home Improvement cemented its place in sitcom history by winning multiple awards and setting the stage for many spin-offs and career opportunities for its cast members.
- Premiered: September 22, 1994
- Network: NBC
A cultural phenomenon that defined a generation, Friends followed six close-knit friends navigating life, love, and laughter in New York City. The ensemble cast featuring Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer became household names thanks to their hilarious performances as Rachel Green, Monica Geller-Bing, Phoebe Buffay-Hannigan, Joey Tribbiani, Chandler Bing, Ross Geller respectively. Over ten wildly popular seasons from 1994 to 2004, Friends garnered numerous accolades including multiple Emmy Awards while spawning catchphrases like "How you doin'?" that continue to resonate with fans today.
- Premiered: August 23, 1998
- Network: FOX
A period sitcom set in Wisconsin during the late 1970s, That '70s Show debuted in 1998 boasting a talented ensemble cast featuring Topher Grace, Laura Prepon, Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, Danny Masterson and Wilmer Valderrama who played teenagers Eric Forman, Donna Pinciotti, Jackie Burkhart Michael Kelso Steven Hyde Fez respectively. This nostalgia-driven series cleverly captured teenage life amidst shifting cultural attitudes of '70s era America earning positive reviews critical acclaim throughout its eight-season run. With memorable catchphrases like "Burn!" and iconic introductions of future A-list actors, That '70s Show remains a steadfast favorite among sitcom enthusiasts.