The 33 Best Forgotten Teen Shows Of The ’90s

Saved by the Bell nostalgia is everywhere, but where’s the love for Parker Lewis?!

33. Teen Angel

1997–1998, ABC. A brief part of ABC’s infallible “TGIF” lineup, Teen Angel followed the story of Marty, a high school boy who dies from eating a six-month-old hamburger on a dare and is then sent back to earth to be his friend Steve’s guardian angel. Yes, that was really the plot. Ron Glass (Book from Firefly) played the disembodied orange head who guided Marty through his afterlife adventures.

32. USA High

1997–1999, USA network. Peter Engel, the genius behind the Saved by the Bell franchise, created this show about six friends enrolled at the “American Academy” (cool name, Engel) boarding school in Paris, France. “Notable” guest stars included Shannon Elizabeth, Mario Lopez, and Kelly Packard. USA! USA! USA!

31. Brotherly Love

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1995–1997, NBC/The WB. A chance to showcase the three Lawrence brothers at a time when they were the perfect heartthrobs for three different age groups: Joey, for those of us who’d gone through puberty, Matthew, for those still seeking someone completely non-threatening, and Andrew, for the little ones trying to get in on their older sister’s Teen Beat shenanigans. It wasn’t really very good, but damnit they were cute.

30. Swan’s Crossing

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1992, syndication. A teen drama that ran for only 13 weeks but did the world a favor by introducing us to the future Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sarah Michelle Gellar, who played the wealthy daughter of the mayor of Swan’s Crossing, a seaside town chock with political intrigue and personal drama. Perhaps this was the forerunner to Laguna Beach?

29. Weird Science

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1994–1998, USA Network. This show was based on the 1985 film but was sliiiiiightly less successful/hilarious. However, the kid who played Wyatt was pretty cute. Just like in the movie, best friends Gary and Wyatt create a computer simulation of a perfect woman, the woman is brought to life, and the genie/robot/magical woman person helps them out with high school. Fun fact: The woman who played Lisa, Vanessa Angel, was one of the stars of IMDB’s worst-rated film ever, SuperBabies: Baby Geniuses 2.

28. Malibu Shores

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1996, NBC. An Aaron Spelling teen drama starring Keri “Felicity” Russell, Charisma “Cordelia” Carpenter, and Tony “the guy from The Mickey Mouse Club who went on The Voice and pissed off XTina for reasons no one really understood” Lucca. It also featured Tori’s brother Randy Spelling as a character named “Flipper Gage.” Malibu Shores was a classic townie vs. rich kids setup that seemed destined for years of cheesy Melrose-style goodness, but it was a flop and was sadly canceled after just 10 episodes.

27. City Guys

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1997–2001, NBC. Another Engel school-based comedy, City Guys was super-similar to Saved by the Bell but just in a slightly edgier/more urban setting (read: not so white). The show focused on Jamal and Chris, two frenemies-turned-best-friends. The theme song was slamming: “C-I-T-Y, you can see why / These guys, the new guys / Are smart and streetwise.”

26. Odd Man Out

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1999–2000, ABC. The last sitcom to debut on ABC’s classic “TGIF” block, Odd Man Out lasted only one season but starred Bop babe Erik von Detten, so it ruled. He played Andrew, the only male in a house where he is surrounded by females. LOL! ABC apparently knew that this show’s plot was a tad weak, because all the promos and commercials just played up the hunkiness of EVD. Which is really no problem…

25. Sweet Valley High

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1994–1997, syndication/UPN. Loosely based on the popular teen series of books by Francine Pascal about identical twin sisters Elizabeth (the nice one) and Jessica (the sociopathic bitch, although slightly less completely insane on the TV show as she was in the books), this series stuck around for four seasons of unbelievable high school drama. No really, it was totes unbelievable. But there was a lot of cool mid-’90s midriff action to make up for it.

24. Hang Time

1995–2000, NBC. This show, about a high school boys’ basketball team with one female player, was notorious for rotating cast members and shuffling characters pretty much every season, with only two actors remaining with the show for its entire run. Former NFL player Dick Butkus played Coach Mike Katowinski on seasons 4-6, and the show also featured guest appearances from a variety of NBA stars, including Gary Payton and Kobe Bryant.

23. Get Real

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1999–2000, Fox. Get Real was short-lived, but it featured early turns by three future stars-in-the-making as siblings: NCIS’s Eric Christian Olsen, The Social Network’s Jesse Eisenberg, and irrational dislike’s Anne Hathaway. The show was an hour-long “dramedy” that featured the realistic dysfunction of the Green family in San Francisco.

22. Ready or Not

1993–1997, Showtime/Disney Channel/GTV. Amanda and Busy were best friends from sixth grade through ninth grade, and loyal viewers of the series watched them grow up together, waiting for them to hook up… But no, dreams do not come true, and the show ended when Amanda has to move away, leaving Busy behind. Most. Depressing. Show. Ever.

21. Clueless

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1996–1999, ABC/UPN. A spin-off of the movie of the same name, this show’s Cher (Rachel Blanchard) was just no Alicia Silverstone. Also, they pretty much ignored the whole Cher-and-her-ex-stepbrother romantic plot that capped the movie — which, OK, they didn’t have Paul Rudd reprising his role as Josh but they DID have the crushworthy David Lascher in the same role, so why not? Was stepbrother love too risqué for TV? Anyway, the best things about the show were the things that did carry over from the film: Stacey Dash as Dionne and her boyfriend Murray, played by the hilarious and adorable Donald Faison.

20. Flash Forward

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1996–1997, ABC Disney Channel. The first original series created for the Disney Channel didn’t last long, but it did start the career of both Ben Foster (Russell on Six Feet Under, and his most recent role as William Burroughs in Kill Your Darlings) and Jewel Staite (Kaylee Frye on Firefly and Dr. Jennifer Keller on Stargate Atlantis). The two played best friends Tuck and Becca, neighbors since birth, navigating the complex waters of eighth grade. The show was canceled after just one 26-episode season, but everyone who watches it knows that they would have eventually ended up in love.

19. The Heights

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1992, Fox. Listen, this Spelling drama may have lasted for only 13 episodes, but that didn’t stop it from having a huge impact. Actually, no, that did. But you know what DID have a huge impact? The show’s theme/hit song, performed by the titular band The Heights aka Jamie Walters, “How Do You Talk To An Angel?” 1992 just wouldn’t have been 1992 without your Heights cassingle, and we are forever grateful for it. It’s like trying to catch a falling star.

18. Popular

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1999–2001, The WB. Ryan Murphy’s television debut explored the same themes he would later plow more successfully on Glee — showing the humanity of both the popular kids and the unpopular kids in high school, and forcing them to begin to understand each other. In Popular’s case, two girls on the opposite end of the popularity spectrum unexpectedly become stepsisters and have to deal with it by…wait for it…becoming friends. Sort of. But also fighting a lot. The show featured a bevy of pretty gals: Leslie Bibb, Carly Pope, Sara Rue, and Melissa Etheridge’s wife Tammy Lynn Michaels.

17. The Famous Jett Jackson

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1998–2001, Disney Channel. Jett Jackson is a child actor who’s a star on a spy-thriller show within the show called Silverstone. Unlike with child actors IRL, the entire production bows to his demands and he is able to get the production of his show moved from Los Angeles to a small town in North Carolina, so that he can live with his dad (the local sheriff). Fun guest stars such as Britney, Eartha Kitt, and Destiny’s Child were often written into the show. Check out Jett macking on Beyoncé…

16. Breaker High

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1997–1998, YTV/UPN. This Canadian show about a high school on a cruise ship (dreams do come true) starred a young Ryan Gosling (DREAMS DO COME TRUE), and those two things are probably the only things you need to know about it.

15. Camp Wilder

1992–1993, ABC. On this show, Ricky Wilder had a 6-year-old daughter named Sophie (played by Deb from Napoleon Dynamite) and is also the principal guardian of her teenage siblings Brody (Jerry O’Connell!) and Melissa. Since Ricky is incompetent as a parent and treats her siblings like, well, siblings, all of their friends hang out at their house all the time…”Camp Wilder!” LOL @ single parents. The show also starred Jay Mohr and Hilary Swank as the aformentioned friends and featured recurring guest star Jared Leto before Jordan Catalano was born.

14. Undressed

1999–2002, MTV. An early attempt to out-controversy the competition, this series followed the sex lives of high schoolers and young adults in Los Angeles, depicting them in a “realistic” (read: hyper-promiscuous) manner. The show also featured several gay and lesbian relationships, so that’s cool. Also cool is the guest appearance by Joan Harris aka Christina Hendricks aka a thousand sexual awakenings right here in this two-minute clip…

13. Moesha

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1996–2001, UPN. After being passed over by CBS, UPN picked up this show about a high school student in Los Angeles, and it went on to be one of the network’s biggest successes. Brandy played the titular Moesha, and the character’s large group of family and friends populated the “comedy” that often dealt with issues such as teen pregnancy, premarital sex, racism, and drug use. Brandy’s brother Ray J., of banging Kim Kardashian fame, joined the cast in the last two seasons. The show also featured an impressive array of ’90s hip-hop and R&B stars, including recurring love interest Usher, and cameos from Mary J. Blige, Boyz II Men, A Tribe Called Quest, Tyrese, DMX, Lil’ Kim, Mo’Nique, Doctor Dre, Ginuwine, and more.

12. Welcome Freshmen

1991–1996, Nickelodeon. Welcome Freshmen started off as a teenage sketch comedy show that could single-handedly provide all the fart jokes you’d need for life and then some. In later seasons, it morphed into a more traditional (if still pretty silly) situational comedy à la Saved by the Bell — but funnier, and with more Merv-u-mentary.

11. California Dreams

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1992-1996, NBC. The best Peter Engel production on the list was the next best thing when you had seen every episode of Saved By The Bell – it also featured hotties, zany adventures, and romantic drama. In this show’s case, the group of teens featured were in a rocking band, called, get this… California Dreams. Fun fact: OG California Dreams front man Matt (Brent Gore) went on to form the popular IRL L.A. band King Straggler. Jimmy Fallon reunited the cast a couple years ago and it was awesome. Miss you, California Dreams band.

10. Fifteen/Hillside

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1991–1993, YTV/Nickelodeon. Nick’s only teenage soap opera featured a large ensemble cast of teens attending Hillside High School. The show was known as Hillside in Canada, where it was produced, and aired as Fifteen in the states. Although obviously high school settings are super-common, this show stood out for dramatically taking on tougher and more serious issues such as alcohol abuse, divorce, bullying, and, obviously, youthful love and heartbreak. Most importantly: TEENAGE RYAN REYNOLDS.

9. So Weird

1999–2001, The Disney Channel. Another show, another excuse to showcase Erik von Detten’s, er, talents. So Weird was about Fiona, who was always on tour with Mackenzie Phillips, playing herself except not quite, and experiencing a bunch of “paranormal” weirdness along the way. There was talking to the dead, being possessed by spirits, time warping, and more. Despite the jovial-sounding title, this was actually a pretty dark show in which the main character spent most of her time trying to communicate with her father, who died when she was 3 years old.

8. Kenan & Kel

1996–2000, Nickelodeon. “Aww, here it goes!” After All That, stars and IRL best friends Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell went on to star in their own series. The show was about “Kenan Rockmore” and “Kel Kimble,” two best friends in Chicago. The theme song was performed by Coolio. Sadly, Kenan and Kel are no longer friends and a reunion will likely never happen. :(

7. Hey Dude

1989–1991, Nickelodeon. Nick’s second original live-action show was Hey Dude, a low-budget series set on the fictional “Bar None Dude Ranch” in Arizona. It was about the hijinks of the well-meaning but bumbling owner of Bar None, his son, his tough-as-nails ranch-hand lady, and their teenage summertime employees. This is one of those shows that might not hold up if you tried to rewatch it today, but in memories it remains perfect. The romantic tension between Ted (David “where would we be without you?” Lascher) and rich-girl Brad (played by an actress who has disappeared from the planet) was so hot, you could roast marshmallows on it, and the poor man’s Rick Moranis ranch owner was knee-slapping funny to a 10-year-old. Oh, and did I mention this show also featured Ben Stiller’s beautiful and hilarious wife Christine Taylor? Yep. Great show.

6. Sister, Sister

1994–1999, ABC/The WB. Oh, Tia and Tamera. The twins and fashion icons starred in Sister, Sister, a riff on The Parent Trap. The two identical twins are adopted and, in the pilot, are reunited at at the mall with their adoptive parents. Tia is the super-smart twin from inner-city Detroit, and Tamera is the shallow twin from the suburbs. Tia’s dad Ray allows Tia and her mom to move into his house so the girls can be together, and hilarious hijinks follow. But the show’s real star was the girls’ neighbor, Roger Evans, who’s in love with both of the gals. As it turns out, the actor who played Roger, Marques Houston, turned out SUPER FINE…

5. Roswell

1999–2002, The WB/UPN. An effort to ride the coattails of the success of The X-Files and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Roswell was about a bro named Max, his best pal Michael, and his sister Isabel (Katherine Heigl!), and their attempt to fit in at a Roswell, New Mexico, high school despite the fact that they are totally actual aliens. They befriend Maria, Liz, and Alex (Colin Hanks!), local non-aliens who provide a love interest for each of the aliens. Then Emilie de Ravin (playing another alien) shows up and screws with the perfect balance. Anyway, this show was part epic teen-romance drama, part science-fiction thriller, and all parts the best. The love/hate/fight/make out dynamic between hot troubled alien Michael and hot troubled human Maria was particularly compelling.

4. Salute Your Shorts

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1991–1992, Nickelodeon. Twenty-six perfect episodes were all that SYS needed to carve out a permanent home in the hearts of all Nickelodeon viewers. The show was set at Camp Anawanna, a summer camp for the rowdy teenage campers. Pinsky was played by Rilo Kiley’s Blake Sennet, and Michael Bower, who played the classic character Donkeylips, is a rapper and is on Twitter. This show was legit hilarious and still holds up today. SALUTE Salute Your Shorts.

A portrait of Salute Your Shorts’ Donkeylips by the incredible Robert Partridge, commissioned by Katie Notopoulos.

3. Party of Five

1994–2000, Fox. The highest-quality teen drama of the ’90s wasn’t 90210 or even the single season of My So-Called Life. It was Fox’s Party of Five, the tear-jerking story of a family of five orphaned siblings taking care of one another. PO5 launched the careers of Matthew Fox (Lost’s Jack Shephard), Lacey Charbet (Mean Girls’ Gretchen Wieners), Neve Campbell (of kissing Denise Richards in Wild Things), and Jennifer Love Hewitt (teen dream extraordinaire). The show also won a Golden Globe in ‘96, despite receiving fairly low ratings throughout its critically acclaimed run. The show also featured an absurdly charming title sequence scored by The BoDeans’ excellent song “Closer to Free.”

2. The Secret World of Alex Mack

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1994–1998, Nickelodeon. Alex Mack replaced the more frequently reminisced over Clarissa Explains It All on the “SNICK” lineup in 1994 and quickly took over the role of providing a cool-as-hell role model for tweenage girls who were more interested in adventures than boys. Alex Mack was about a seventh-grader who, after her first day of junior high, is nearly hit by a chemical plant’s truck and is coated in the top-secret chemical GC-161 in the process. After the incident, she develops magic powers: telekinesis, morphing, and the ability to transmit bolts of electricity through her fingertips. She can’t always control her newfound abilities and glows brightly when she’s nervous. In other words, she is everything. Larisa Oleynik — who later dated her 10 Things I Hate About You costar Joseph Gordon-Levitt from 1999–2002, and is currently married to Ken Cosgrove on Mad Men — played Alex to perfection, and her best friend Ray was the dude pal we all wanted. Love you, Alex Mack.

1. Parker Lewis Can’t Lose

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1990–1993, Fox. “Strongly influenced” by the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off is the nice way to put it, but Parker Lewis was somehow really, really good and funny, even though it was a total rip. It was about Corky Nemec aka Parker Lewis aka a total dreamboat; his two best friends, Jerry and Mikey; his girlfriend, Annie Sloan; and his annoying little sister, Shelly. The show celebrated weirdness and contained numerous pop-culture references and surreal humor. There were weird clothes, insane dream sequences, and total smashing of the fourth wall. Gentlemen, synchronize Swatches!

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