By Danielle del Pico
With the return of classic 90’s Nicktoons presumably coming to Nickelodeon later this year, we thought it would be smart to take a look back at some of the best shows from that era in our lives.
So here’s our top 10 best Nickelodeon 90’s shows. Tell us in the comments if you agree or not:
10. Ren and Stimpy
With its crude humor, animation style, off the wall situations and chaotic relationships, Ren and Stimpy was the most controversial show on Nickelodeon for its time. It was that cartoon show that you watched while your parents looked on behind you in absolute disgust. Mission accomplished. This was one of the original three Nickelodeon shows and changed the playing field for cartoons to follow since its release in 1991. Unlike many of the shows on this list, it didn’t provide any moral ground for the characters. It was just good fun. Isn’t that what we need sometimes?
9. AAAHH!!! Real Monsters
This show is high up on the list simply for the animation style, a style that is just quintessential nineties. That “dirty animation” has influenced cartoons for future decades to follow. This show taught that the monsters you’re afraid of are actually not so different from us. It was set around monsters in training, adolescents in a monster school trying to figure out their place in the underground and pass class. The show features characters Oblina, Ickis and Krumm set against the backdrop of New York City.
8. Rocko’s Modern Life
This makes the list because of its nuanced adult humor. A second watching of this and you may pick up some things you missed when it first debuted in 1993. Today, there are instances of censorship of the beloved Wallaby. Most of the characters are rather eccentric and play into Rocko’s displacement as an Australian in his new home, O-Town. The show played into the mundane ins and outs of daily life and showed the humor and excitement that can happen in those “in betweens”.
7. Rocket Power
Probably not the most popular show on this list, but definitely worth a mention simply for the female character of Regina alone. She totally deconstructs feminine stereotypes and is an equal amongst her male counterparts. This show revolved around four diverse friends residing in a California town that love to participate in extreme sports and getting themselves into different oftentimes sticky situations. It originally aired in 1999 and ran for four seasons.
6. Clarissa Explains it All
Melissa Joan Hart was the 90’s sitcom princess, also starring in the title role of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, part of the TGIF lineup. This show aired from 1991-1994, and was also presented in a narrative style, much like Doug. This time, Clarissa helped explained all the tough, typical dilemmas teens have to face set against the backdrop of a video game narration style. It was supremely edgy for its time. Sort of the ‘Sex and the City’ for teenagers. Without the sex.
5. Kenan and Kel
Who loves Orange Soda? Kel love Orange Soda! Now comedian Kenan Thompson continues to entertain audiences on Saturday Night Live. This creation of Kim Bass (Sister, Sister) was wildly popular with teenagers, even spawning a cult classic movie. The show followed the dynamic duo and the different shenanigans they would get themselves into. Special nod to the awesome theme song by Coolio ‘Aw, here it goes!’
4. The Wild Thornberrys
Who doesn’t want to travel all around the world with their family as they film their own nature show? Eliza Thornberry is the original Cady Heron from Mean Girls, except she can talk to animals and doesn’t have to deal with Regina George, just her moody sister Debbie (who doesn’t remember the episode where Debbie tried to make her own shampoo? Talk about being organic before it was a thing!) Eliza Thornberry, (voiced by actress Lacey Chabert, who played Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls…these cannot just be coincidences) may not conventionally be your typical heroine but in the same vein, she is the best heroine. Here is a girl who stands up for what’s right and moreover, will do anything for her friends. Fun fact: their little brother Donnie (found in the wild and raised as their own) is voiced by Flea, bassist for Red Hot Chili Peppers. Tim Curry voices the father, Nigel Thornberry. Can Nickelodeon get any cooler?
When Doug first debuted on the air in 1991, it wasn’t just kids that were talking about it, teenagers quickly identified with Doug’s confidence issues and finding his place in his new hometown of Bluffington. This show featured a wide cast of characters, and took on a narrative style of storytelling. Think ‘The Outsiders’ meets ‘The Wonder Years’. Much like other shows on this list, Doug never talked down to its audience and connected well with the struggles that adolescents face every day.Jim Jenkins, the creator of Doug, based the cartoon on his story growing up. This show focused on much of Doug’s experiences with bully Roger Klotz, his love for Patty Mayonnaise and his friendship with Skeeter Valentine.
2. Hey Arnold!
Like many Nickelodeon shows, the characters of P.S. 118 and other residents of Hillwood never talked down to a young audience. The subject matters could range from social class to parent/child relationships. Running for five seasons, many episodes of Hey Arnold! centered on the hierarchy of public school and the microcosm of adolescent experiences. Many episodes focused on finding the good in people, doing the right thing and using caution with harsh judgments. Arnold oftentimes found himself in a position of leadership and never faltered with his good character. He always tried to be a friend to everyone, earnestly, This example is somewhat lost in mainstream cartoon shows, relying mostly on sarcastic comebacks to illustrate what “cool” is. Arnold’s individuality amidst all the other students of P.S. 118 showed you never have to conform, it’s okay to be who you are. Lastly, Helga is hilarious and made unibrows a safe conversation topic.
Who doesn’t remember running from the next room when the theme song started? Not only did it run for nine seasons (with a reboot in serious whispers) and spawned two spin off TV shows, All Grown Up! And Rugrats Pre-School Daze and three movies, The Rugrats Movie, Rugrats in Paris and Rugrats Gone Wild (featuring the Wild Thornberrys), Rugrats also spawned various merchandising, like video games, confectionary items, and even a live stage show. Rugrats is an empire. This TV show takes the number one spot because these cartoon babies were far more entertaining than most adult TV shows on at the time, let’s be honest. Rugrats instilled in audiences an understanding that parents and children will not see things in the same perspective, but at the end of the day they still love you, albeit in their own wacky way. It also emphasized friendship, loyalty and caring for one another set against the imaginative world of a child. Who didn’t want a friendship like Tommy and Chuckie? This show is also number one for its eccentric cast of memorable characters such as the devious Angelica, sweet Grandpa and the rebellious twins Phil and Lil. This style of animation is now considered iconic, and is often emulated but never duplicated.
Cover Photo Credit: Carolina Alves/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)