By Ben Holcomb
If you grew up in the Nineties like me, the nostalgia you feel for the things that entertained you is something that you carry with you at all times. Life has become such a fickle thing, it being 2012 and all. Children born in the last 12 years are spoiled, what with their iPhones and Third Iteration Game Consoles. They never got to experience the simplicity that was growing up in the last decade of the 20th Century. We had yo-yos, PlayStations, brite lites, and even Legos. It was a wonderful time to be a child, unless you were in the Persian Gulf.
Technology was on the precipice of absolutely exploding. We had the rumors of Internet, and even were exposed to the joys of dial-up Internet. One phenomenal barometer of nineties living would be one’s familiarity with the phrase, “GET OFF THE COMPUTER I NEED TO MAKE A PHONE CALL!”
Away messages on AIM and the innocence without text messaging were all things. But then Miley Cyrus came along and screwed everything up. Now dinners consist of families looking at their mobile devices, and life is lived in some sort of hyper-reality where ideal selves are perpetuated on sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. If you don’t believe me then please find a photo on Instagram of one of your friends crying. They don’t exist. Life is hard, but you’d never know it from the Internet.
What was the greatest show of the Nineties?
There are many reasons why the Nineties were light-years better than today’s world, but the greatest among these is television programming. There was never a better time to be an adolescent then the mid-to-late Nineties, as every network on TV was just pumping out phenomenal programming. Most young adults today, now in college or beyond, would not hesitate to sit down and re-watch entire episodes of shows like Boy Meets World and Saved By the Bell. They’re timeless, and can act as portals into a world some can just vaguely remember from time to time when certain sounds or smells reignite special moments from the past.
Though everyone can agree that the programming was top of the line at the time, hardly anyone can decide on the actual hierarchy of the shows flooding the airwaves. Within a single dorm floor at any university in the country, you’d be able to find Nickelodeon people, and Disney folks, and even Cartoon Network fans. Like really lame gangs focused on fellowship and community over illicit drug trafficking, these identifications are something we all carry with us into adulthood, just as we do with gender or hair color. It’s a fact of life. I’m a Disney guy.
Regardless of affiliation, there was still plenty of cross-pollination going on. You didn’t have to stick with one, even if you leaned towards a certain station. In light of this nostalgic fact of super fandom from probably every student in college today, Wine & Cheese recently set out to compile the top 68 shows on television at the time and put them all through an NCAA Tournament Simulation.
What was the greatest show of the Nineties?
It’s a question everyone’s thought about at one point or another, but nobody’s actually tightened up their shoestrings and got to work on the answer. Until now. The Wine & Cheese Crowd isn’t in to all that procrastination crap. It doesn’t fly in high society. So we’ve been hard at work preparing to unveil the ultimate tournament to decide the greatest program on TV in the nineties. But you can’t just go in all willy-nilly on a project like this. It demands care and effort. So we first sat down to establish the rules.
There would have to be four regions, of course. A debate ensued about what the four regions would be, specifically, but we finally settled for the Disney Region, the Nickelodeon Region, the Cartoon Network Region, and the Miscellaneous Region. The first three make sense, but we couldn’t pigeonhole the last region. There were just too many good shows to choose from; Walker Texas Ranger, Rescue 911!, Unsolved Mysteries, Saved by the Bell, and even Arthur. Throwing them into one final region was the most diplomatic decision we could make.
We’ll be unveiling the tournament one region at a time, with weekly votes on each round. You’ll be the ones deciding the outcome; we just put together the seedings. By commenting on the bottom of each post, tweeting us, or even through email, our readership will argue, and eventually, conclude which show will advance in several head-to-head matchups. After one region is finalized, we’ll move on to the next, until we have the Final Four of Nineties TV Shows. The final votes will be collected at this point, with viewers picking their favorite show of the four and explaining in detail why it deserves to be crowned champion.
We start with the Disney Region, arguably the strongest of the four regions. It took a long while to just cut the list down to 16 teams, let alone put them into pairings. Disney twelve years ago never had a better lineup than they did twelve years ago. The shows were great for kids, often full of virtuous messages, and even transcended age gaps with timeless humor. Today’s lineup of shows like Zach and Cody, or whatever the heck their names are, is a far cry from the powerhouse shows that stacked up on top of each other in the primetime slots of the nineties1.
The following is the finalized, 16-seed Disney Region. Take a look at the bracket to see what we’re dealing with, and then proceed to our game-by-game previews to refresh your memory on the shows, as well as prepare to compare the matchups. Your vote counts, so make sure to drop us a comment at the end of this post so we can simulate the bracket and find the answers everyone’s been looking for these last twelve or so years. Voting will take place for the round of 16 from Today until next Friday. We’ll advance the winning teams to the 2nd round and do it all again the next week.
In total, this massive project will take 21 weeks to complete. Buckle yourselves up, because it’s going to be a wild freaking ride. The bracket:
(1) Boy Meets World v. (16) That’s So Raven
Some may argue that Ravone Simone got a bad draw here at #16, but her show premiered in 2003, which means right off the bat we’re totally breaking the rules. It’s why we want to phase her out early with a tough first round matchup. The truth is That’s So Raven is symbolic as the barrier between the good scripted TV of yesteryear and the formulaic crap Disney’s producing now. So by proxy it makes the list. Of course Boy Meets World stands in its way, which is a true gem of a television dramedy that has withstood the test of time, and actually gotten better with age. Corey, Topanga, and Sean were all just trying to make it in this world, and it was a treat to grow up with them.
(2) Even Stevens v. (15) Kim Possible
Another heavyweight show pops up early here at #2 with Even Stevens, which acted as the launching pad for Shia Labeouf’s career2. This matchup is interesting depending on what your opinion of Christy Carlson Romano is; if you love the girl, then you may lean towards a massive upset by voting for her own vehicle Kim Possible, which was about a female superhero who… *falls asleep on keyboard*.
(3) Smart Guy v. (14) Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers
Smart Guy was the brainchild of Tia and Tamara Mowry’s younger brother Tahj, who interestingly enough has since attempted to pursue a career in R&B. And the word brainchild was aptly used, since it follows the life of a 5th grade genius as he goes to high school. It was one of the funnier shows on at the time, and a sleeper pick to slide through this entire region. Standing in its way in the first round, however, is no easy match-up. Chip & Dale Rescue Rangers may have been a higher seed, if not for the fact that they we’re a cartoon. The show brought a lot of action and humor each week with the escapades of everyone’s favorite chipmunks. They probably won’t survive round one, which is a shame since the show was quite entertaining.
(4) Famous Jett Jackson v. (13) Sister, Sister
A lot of people today are fans of a certain superhero who vows to never kill people. But Jett Jackson took it one step further in the Nineties and vowed to never use a weapon like a gun on his show. It was a groundbreaking episode that perhaps foreshadowed the onset of mass violence bursting up around America in the 21st Century3. Jett Jackson, and his alter ego Silverstone, were literally the two coolest things of my childhood. I wanted to be him so bad, that down-to-earth high school athlete who also happened to be a Hollywood Star on his spare time…sounded like the life. There was only one problem – I wasn’t black. Sister, Sister awaits here at #13, a deceiving underdog that could make some noise if the female vote comes out in their favor. It was a great show to be sure, but this is the Disney Region, and being great doesn’t always equate to moving on.
(5) Lizzie McGuire v. (12) The Jersey
Every tournament has a 12 upset a 5. If this isn’t the sexiest upset pick in our entire tournament, I don’t know what will be. It’s no secret that the majority of readers on this site are men, so odds are the Jersey will make a serious push to overtake Lizzie McGuire in week one and advance to the round of 8. But women love them so Lizzie McGuire, and her trips to Italy that led to love affairs with EuroPop Stars. Whatever the case may be, this is a classic Battle of the Sexes.
(6) Tailspin v. (11) Flash Forward
Tailspin is the more popular, well-established cartoon of the two featured thus far. It was an ordeal just trying to keep your heart-rate down through an episode of that, I’ll tell ya. The Canadian Sitcom “Flash Forward” comes in at #11, which might be a bit high but I won’t say anything since I helped do the seeding to begin with. But hey, the committee always makes some controversial calls somewhere along the way. This only survived one season on Disney, but it was interesting to watch two best friends, a boy and a girl, try to get through junior high alive, what with the puberty thing going on and all.
(7) Brotherly Love v. (10) Babysitter’s Club
Either you’re a Lawrence Brothers guy, or you’re not. Anyone that saw him on Dancing with the Stars may not remember Joey popped up in the Nineties on a Disney Sitcom about three brothers in Philadelphia trying to make it in life as mechanics. Sound absurd? Well… it kind of was, but it was also endearing. They’re going up against the Babysitter’s Club, which was a show I remember I always saw as a buffer between two shows I actually liked, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t enjoy those thirty minute buffer episodes. It was engrossing for some reason, maybe because there were cute girls abound to me at the time, or maybe because I was effeminate as an 8 year old. Either way, this is the snooze-fest matchup of the first round to be certain.
(8) Darkwing Duck v. (9) Duck Tales
I am an outspoken fan of Darkwing Duck; my money is on it to run the table like Butler did a couple years ago and make some noise in the Final Four. I think it tackled some serious issue s about life, while cloaking the subject matter in the seemingly silly disguise of a duck that was a superhero. It touched on themes like different dimensions, Picasso, and more. It had it all. But it was a cartoon so people tend to overlook it. They shouldn’t. It’s going up against Duck Tales here in the 8/9 matchup, with I think is the most intriguing grouping of our first region. If you hate Ducks than you’re out of luck with this grouping, since one of them has to advance. But it really will come down to how you like your Ducks, so to speak. Superhero, or Citizen Kane-esque Money-Loving Psychotic Uncle? The choice is yours, but one thing’s for sure; Boy Meets World will have its hands full in the 2nd round, assuming it survives the wrath of Raven.
That’s the Disney Region. It’s jammed pack full of fantastic shows. We definitely didn’t make your first round of votes easy, but this is as much of a character building exercise as a tool for figuring out a two decade old question, so put your big boy pants on and get to work. Voting opens now and will end at Midnight on next Friday, the 27th.
We’re excited to roll this tournament out. There will be a lot of nostalgia along the way. Hopefully it gets us through the rest of this miserable year, or at least up until the end of the world in December.
I’ll be awaiting the Apocalypse with my DVD box set of Darkwing Duck in hand.
After school from 4-7p. ↩
And, unfortunately, not really much of a launching pad for Beans. ↩
A reach? Of course, but let me have my moment. ↩