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12 Watchworthy TV Shows About Real Events From The 1990s

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Vote up the shows that turn '90s headlines into great TV.

From film to fashion to TV, 1990s nostalgia is back with a vengeance. Modern TV shows about the '90s retell, and sometimes reinterpret, real-life true court cases and popular cultural milestones that dominated the last decade of the 20th century. 

The O.J. Simpson trial and President Bill Clinton's impeachment are among the milestones that captivated TV audiences around the world, and still do today in the form of period-piece dramas. Call it a need for nostalgia, or perhaps just reconciling the past.  

Vote up the new shows about the '90s that you think turned headlines into great period-piece TV.

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  • 1
    74 VOTES

    'Derry Girls' Is A Darkly Funny Teen Series With The Bloody Backdrop Of The Northern Ireland Conflict 

    From 1968 to 1998, Northern Ireland was knee-deep in the period known as "the Troubles." A bloody civil war raged between Protestant unionists who wanted to remain in the UK and Roman Catholic nationalists who wanted to officially become part of Ireland. The sides reached a peace agreement in 1998. 

    The Channel 4 UK teen show Derry Girls takes place in Derry, North Ireland, in the turbulent 1990s. The fictional series focuses on the lives of five teenage Catholic school students who are dealing with their own coming-of-age woes against the backdrop of troubled times. The show's creator, Northern Irish playwright Lisa McGee, grew up in the late '90s during the end of the Troubles. She adeptly weaves fiction and her own real-life teen experiences into this black comedy. 

    Season 1 of the series received an impressive 100% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes and became one of the most-watched comedies in Ireland. 

    "The big appeal of this show is that these characters' self-centered concerns feel so real," wrote Noel Murray of the Verge. "There are bombs in the streets, but they're more upset when a nun confiscates a lipstick that's been discontinued."

    74 votes

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  • 2
    50 VOTES

    Taylor Kitsch Impresses As Branch Davidian Cult Leader David Koresh In 'Waco'

    In 1993, over the course of 51 days, the US government launched a siege on a compound outside of Waco, TX. Inside the compound were Branch Davidians, members of a religious group led by David Koresh. The siege became a media circus, and led to a standoff that resulted in the death of 76 people, including 26 children

    In 2018, Paramount Network premiered the six-part television miniseries Waco. The series focuses both on what was going on inside Koresh's cult compound and the rising tensions between the FBI and other government agencies surrounding the property. 

    The show received mixed reviews. Some critics faulted Waco for being one-sided and too sympathetic toward Koresh's Branch Davidians. Other critics lauded Taylor Kitsch's performance as Koresh, and a strong ensemble cast led by Michael Shannon and Rory Culkin.

    50 votes

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  • 'The Assassination of Gianni Versace' Juxtaposes Versace's Lavish Lifestyle With His Killer's Troubled Existence
    Photo: FX

    On July 15, 1997, Andrew Cunanan felled famous Italian fashion designer Gianni Versace in broad daylight outside of his Miami estate - Cunanan's fifth slaying over the span of a few months. Authorities embarked on a massive hunt to track down the disturbed 27-year-old. They found his deceased body on a Miami houseboat eight days later with a self-inflicted bullet to the head. 

    The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story premiered on FX in 2018, focusing on the twisted motives of the troubled Cunanan, his slaying spree, and its repercussions. The series also concentrates on widespread issues surrounding homophobia. 

    Ryan Murphy's nine-part series was a massive hit with critics and fans. It scored 18 Emmy nominations and won three trophies, for outstanding limited series, directing in a limited series, and lead actor in a limited series or movie for Darren Criss (who played Cunanan).

    Murphy's narrative expertly works backward, starting with Versace's slaying. Flashbacks between Versace's lavish life and Cunanan's troubled existence are then woven into the story. 

    46 votes

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  • 4
    45 VOTES

    'The People v. O.J. Simpson' Was Critically Praised For Its Accuracy And Performances

    'The People v. O.J. Simpson' Was Critically Praised For Its Accuracy And Performances
    Photo: FX

    In 1995, former NFL star, actor, and media personality Orenthal James Simpson went on trial for the slaying of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman. The trial allowed video cameras in the courtroom and became must-see TV. The 11-month media circus that ensued labeled the court proceedings as "the trial of the century." Simpson walked away a free man after being acquitted on both counts, despite the overwhelming evidence against him. 

    In 2016, FX debuted Ryan Murphy's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story as the premiere offering in FX's anthology series. 

    The show, critically praised for its accuracy, writing, directing, and stellar performances, was nominated for 22 Primetime Emmy Awards, and won five, including outstanding limited series. 

    “In the wrong hands, it could have been very tabloid-y,” said executive producer Ryan Murphy. “Everyone worked really hard to make it about something deeper, more serious, and more modern.”

    45 votes
  • 'Pam & Tommy' Takes A Deeper Look At A Story That Has Received Only Tabloid Treatment
    Photo: Hulu

    Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee met in December 1994. The Baywatch star and Mötley Crüe drummer went to Cancun together and decided to get married, even though they had only known each other for six weeks.

    In 1995, after Lee didn't pay electrician Rand Gauthier for work done on his mansion, Gauthier retaliated by taking Anderson and Lee's honeymoon sex tape, then selling dubbed VHS copies via mail order. The tape eventually became must-see viewing; pirated copies (and eventually the internet) spread the tape worldwide. 

    In 2022, Hulu released the eight-episode dramatic miniseries Pam & Tommy. The show focuses on the pair's love-at-first-sight quickie marriage, intense love story, and eventual fallout. The series reveals just how much the leaked tape strained their relationship and greatly affected Anderson's career. The actress was hoping to move past her Baywatch "dumb blond" bombshell image into more serious film work. Anderson's hopes were dashed, however, by the tape and the poor performance of her movie Barbwire

    Pam & Tommy might seem like fluff television, but the story turns out to be heartbreaking. Anderson was hurt by her personal life becoming risque viewing for millions of strangers worldwide. Also, the show's cinematography is highly stylized with its often moving camera. Episode 2 of the series features the male anatomy in a way never seen before on TV in a conversation that might be inspired by Tommy Lee's autobiography

    47 votes

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  • 'When They See Us' Tells The Harrowing Tale Of The Central Park Five With An Emmy-Winning Cast
    Photo: Netflix

    On April 19, 1989, a white female jogger was raped and assaulted in New York City's Central Park. Five black and Latino youths ages 14 to 16 were subsequently found guilty and sentenced to jail for six to 12 years. These five men became known as the Central Park Five. All five youths never changed their story and always asserted their innocence. 

    In 2002, the Central Park five had their sentences exonerated following the confession of a prison inmate. However, they had already lost years of their lives. 

    In 2019, Netflix released a four-part miniseries about the Central Park Five called When They See Us. Ava Du Vernay directed, created, and co-wrote the drama, which details the personal lives of the five falsely accused juveniles. 

    When They See Us is powerful dramatic television led by an excellent ensemble cast. The world finally got the opportunity to see the social injustices done to the five teens who were convicted only after coerced confessions and misleading media coverage. 

    The highly acclaimed prestige series received 16 Emmy nominations. Jharrel Jerome won the Emmy for outstanding lead actor in a limited series or movie, and the show won the Emmy for outstanding casting for a limited series, movie, or special.

    34 votes

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