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But What About “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place?”

The Top 40 shows of the ’90s


AOL’s TV blog chooses the top 40 shows of the ’90s; for those who don’t want to navigate the site, the choices are reprinted here.

TV Squad points out the oddity of leaving The West Wing off the list (particularly since they included Sports Night). I also agree that NewsRadio should be on any list of the great ’90s shows, though I’m not surprised that it wasn’t included. I would have put King of the Hill on any such list, and even though I don’t care for Family Guy, I’m surprised that it didn’t make the list.

Otherwise, it’s not a bad list; there are choices I don’t agree with, and other choices that I find odd even though I agree with them (I think Spin City belongs on a top 40 list; I just didn’t expect anyone else to think so). The ’90s had their good points and bad points like any TV decade, but in many ways it was one of the better eras for television. Normally the two tentpoles of television, comedy and drama, are of unequal health: one is strong while the other is weak. So comedy was strong in the ’70s, but drama was not in great shape; drama was very strong for most of this decade while comedy was very weak. But the ’90s were pretty strong in both areas, because the first part of the decade produced a comedy explosion (with the huge success and influence of Seinfeld, Friends, Larry Sanders and The Simpsons among others) and hour-long dramas, while they didn’t fully come into their own until near the end of the decade, were learning some of the lessons of the late ’80s and moving towards more continuing storylines and more character development than we used to expect.

A lot of this was riding on the ’90s bubble: economic giddiness, new networks popping up all over the place, expensive development deals for writers — and comedy, in particular, was strangled by the attempts to imitate the success of the early ’90s hits. But it was a pretty strong era for comedy and drama, which is unusual. (The early ’60s also were pretty strong in both areas, and the ’50s had big successes in both comedy and drama, mostly of the live-from-New-York kind.)

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But What About “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place?”

  1. I suspect the West Wing was not on the list as it aired in the fall of ’99 and so most of its seven season run was in the 21st century.

    That said, in its first three seasons (which were by far the best), the show was very much a show of the ’90s in its political outlook. 9/11 changed the whole outlook of the show as well as the way viewers saw the show and after that it was very much a 21st century program (and much less good).

  2. but in many ways it was one of the better eras for television.

    I don’t know. Adult television became decidedly more adolescent. Not that the comedies weren’t enjoyable because I consider their value to be mostly in social satire (and not social relevance). But the dramas increasingly stuck me as how adolescents imagine grown ups act. But, then again, maybe it was just art imitating life.

  3. Didn’t Family Guy debut in ’99? In any case, it was a marginal presence until it went off the air and was brought back.

    I’m surprised Buffy would be no.4 in anyone’s book but the most ardent fan’s. And I’m a little surprised Frasier is ranked so low.

  4. I’m a little surprised that the Simpsons is only number 3; I suspect it suffers from being pretty dismal for most of this decade.

  5. Not a bad list. A few “huh?” type choices, but that’s to be expected. Mad About You, in my humble opinion, was an awful, spiritless comedy most of the time. Seeing Friends so high was kind of depressing as well. It was certainly popular, but Frasier was vastly superior. So were a lot of other shows ranked below it.

    It was, however, very nice to see Homicide appear so highly on the list–even if they got the full title of the show wrong. If that program had come along a few years later and on cable it could have been even more amazing. On that note, thank God the Sopranos didn’t end up going to FOX.

  6. Ren & Stimpy, Reboot, Beast Wars and Batman: The Animated Series should have been on that last.