We’re living in a second Golden Age of television. It’s been said ad nauseum because, well, it’s true. Television right now is the best it’s ever been, and with so much content to sift through there’s almost too much great TV. But just because television is going through a stellar stage doesn’t mean what came before is bad. In fact, some of the television of the 90s served as direct precedents to the groundbreaking era we’re living in now. Sitcoms enjoyed a peak run, dramatic storytelling was working within very specific parameters but churning out engaging, unforgettable arcs, and most importantly, it was the era of the episode.
Throughout the 90s, the episode was king. This current wave of binge-able television and the serialized short-story approach weren’t yet popular. Instead, without the benefit of DVRs or TiVO, television shows lived and died by week to week viewing. As a result, we got some truly outstanding standalone hours and half hours of television. There’s a reason titles for episodes of Friends began with “The One with…”
And so, given the importance and quality of 90s TV, and the fact that it gets a bit swept under the rug in this current second Golden Age, we here at Collider felt it prudent to take a look back at the best of the best. We’ve previously singled out the best animated television that the 90s had to offer, so now we present the best live-action TV shows of the 90s.
Note: In terms of eligibility, a show had to have aired at least one entire season between 1990 and 1999, thus series like The West Wing and The Sopranos—which began in Fall 1999—were deemed ineligible for this list despite their supremely high quality.