Even in the digital era, television retains a big chunk of our lives. Whether through traditional cable, Netflix or some other online streaming service, most people spend at least a few hours a week sitting in front of their TVs. And while it’s easy to recall your favorites of the shows you’ve watched recently, you might struggle to remember what was popular when you were a toddler – or even when you were a young kid. While not all of these are still on television, each has carved out its unique place in pop culture history. It might surprise you to discover which TV shows share your birthday – read on to find out which ones do.
The concept here is simple: Four New York women gossip about their dating lives and navigate womanhood in the ‘90s. The leader of the pack is Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, who just so happens to be a sex columnist in the show.
Generally light-hearted and humorous, the show has its serious moments too, though critics argue a lack of substance. As The Hollywood Reporter put it, it’s a show with an “awkward script.” Nevertheless, the show has developed a cult fan base over the years and its immense popularity speaks for itself. Sex and the City has even spawned two feature films and a prequel television series called The Carrie Diaries.
Younger generations that fell in love with Jon Stewart’s news satire during the Bush and Obama years might not realize that The Daily Show got its start in the ‘90s, and without Stewart. The show premiered on Comedy Central in 1996 with well-known co-anchor Craig Kilborn as its host.
He was replaced two years later by Stewart, who quickly became a household name and star in his own right. The Daily Show quickly developed into one of the leading news satire programs of its time, offering cutting edge but humorous commentary about the news of the day. The show, which describes itself as a fake news program, is today hosted by the talented Trevor Noah.
Xena the Warrior Princess was the Wonder Woman before Wonder Woman. Okay, that’s not entirely true – Wonder Woman was definitely a thing in the ‘90s, but Xena was pretty badass too. In the show, the princess journeys the ancient world with her sidekick, Gabrielle, to redeem herself and overcome her dark past.
She and Gabrielle, a small town bard, fight evil warlords and gods along the way. Viewers everywhere fell in love with the girl-power duo and Xena quickly became a cult favorite. No one should be too surprised if some kind of remake or film adaptation comes out at some point.
Over the years, Friends has become one of those sitcoms that embodies the essence of what it means to be a sitcom. The show follows the personal and professional (but mostly personal) lives of six 20-to-30-somethings living together in Manhattan. Yet somehow they mostly manage to remain platonic.
The NBC show that ran for 10 seasons has become a staple of the ‘90s and the broader American culture. Those who watch an episode of the sitcom on Netflix are fated to not stop at one – the show is just that addictive. It’s no wonder it has the reputation it does!
A hilarious look behind the scenes of a fictional late night talk show, The Larry Sanders Show brilliantly portrays celebrities playing exaggerated versions of themselves. The HBO series stars big shots like Garry Shandling (who plays the host Larry), Rip Torn (who plays the show’s producer), and Jeffrey Tambor (who plays his sidekick).
By season 5, Jon Stewart becomes a frequent guest, threatening to replace Larry on his own talk show. Sean Penn appears on the last episode, too. The show business satire was stunningly cutting-edge and mixed fact with fiction and paved the way for the comedy of the 21st century and beyond.
The show that made Will Smith famous, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air has by now become an inseparable and iconic aspect of American pop culture. At the time of its release, though, it wasn’t so clear what viewers would make of it.
Consider the risk: The situation comedy was totally out of the box and leaned on association with hip hop, a musical genre that wasn’t as mainstream then as it is today. To top it all off, as The New York Times wrote, the show “stars a 21-year-old who never acted before.” It turned out the risk paid off – big time.
The “show about nothing” follows the misadventures of comedian Jerry Seinfeld, who plays himself, and has proven to be truly timeless. Along with his neurotic New York friends, George Costanza, Elaine Benes and Cosmo Kramer, Jerry’s everyday happenings frequently turn disastrous – in the most hilarious way possible.
Seinfeld is iconic for its ability to turn the commonalities of everyday life into comedy gold, all the while drawing on New York’s diversity and the spirit of the ‘90s to strengthen its humor. From Kramer duping a college student into becoming his “intern,” to George putting a bed under his work desk so he can secretly snooze in the office all day, Seinfeld will forever remain a staple of American pop culture.
One of the most popular shows in its time, A Different World follows the lives of a group of students at a historically Black university as they navigate the world around them. A spinoff of The Cosby Show, the sitcom tackled social issues the latter ignored, and it did so masterfully.
The original premise made the main character a white girl in a majority black college with a black friend, but the roles reversed in production. Indeed, the show initially was criticized for not accurately representing student life at historically black colleges and universities, but that changed as the show progressed.
Between 1984 and 1996, CBS aired 12 seasons with 264 episodes of the crime drama starring Angela Lansbury, who played mystery writer and amateur sleuth Jessica Fletcher. Murder, She Wrote was immensely popular precisely because it didn’t follow the typical car-chase-packed formula on which so many mystery shows have come to rely.
Fletcher is portrayed as a down-to-earth investigator with a no-nonsense approach to every challenge she is presented with. The show was followed by four TV films, a videogame for PC, a sequel in 2012 and a spin-off book series. You can say it was quite a big deal.
This show’s plot summary on IMDb is enough to make anyone check whether it’s on Netflix. “Four Vietnam vets, framed for a crime they didn’t commit, help the innocent while on the run from the military,” it reads. That kind of a plot sounds way ahead of its time, and it many would say it was.
The A-Team was a hit among children and teens – especially males – and it was expected to be from the beginning. Critics argued the show was a little overly violent, but when compared with shows these days, most would probably agree such critique no longer applies.
This incredibly successful action comedy revolves around Luke and Bo Duke, and their cousin Daisy, as they ride around the fictional Hazzard County, Georgia, in their decked-out 1969 Dodge Charger, fittingly dubbed “The General Lee.” The boys, along with their cousin Daisy, spend their time thwarting the plans of the corrupt county commissioner.
Now, while some of the show’s aspects wouldn’t necessarily fly in today’s world, at the time it was a huge success. As Entertainment Weekly put it, the series “had the brain-dead temerity to insist that these plastic hicks were true-blue ‘rebels,'” and that was part of its appeal.
A spinoff of Happy Days, this sitcom starred the late Robin Williams as Mork, an alien that comes to earth from the fictional planet Ork in a tiny, egg-shaped spaceship. Williams was still and unknown actor and comedian at the time, and the show really put him in the spotlight.
Pam Dawber co-starred as Mindy McConnell, his Mork’s human pal and roommate. As the plot develops, the two eventually marry and have a child together. Originally a character introduced to an episode of Happy Days, Mork the alien was an attempt to capitalize on the success of Star Wars at the time. Thanks to Williams’ brilliant acting, it more than worked.
If you’ve ever seen All in the Family, you might recall Archie and Edith Bunker’s African American neighbors, George and Louise Jefferson. The Jeffersons is the wildly popular spinoff of that show, revolving around Bunker’s neighbors. At 11 seasons and 253 episodes, the sitcom is among America’s longest running sitcoms.
As a sitcom, the show is packed with very basic humor and, in many ways, not entirely realistic. (Limited sets, recurring themes, no one seems to have much to do – you know the drill). But The Jeffersons also did reference the social issues of the time, especially in the earlier seasons.
The Young and the Restless stands in stark contrast from other shows on this list in that it is a soap opera – more than just a soap opera, but THE soap opera. The show has been around for 46 years and counting, and boasts a whopping 11,000 episodes as of 2016.
The show, which has won nine Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Drama Series, started out by following two families: the wealthy Brooks family and the working class Foster family. Of course, the plot has evolved quite a bit since, tackling themes surrounding business and love, how the two intertwine, and everything in-between.
One of the most popular television shows of all time, M*A*S*H ran for a whopping 11 seasons after coming out in 1972, tackling themes other shoes wouldn’t dare even tip-toe around at the time. The show’s central theme revolves around what life was like for American soldiers during the Korean War.
As serious as the subject matter is, the CBS series is packed with humor and even incorporates a laugh track throughout, an aspect the actors at the time weren’t very keen on. Characters like Captain Tuttle and Hawkeye Pierce captivated audiences everywhere with their antics, and the show will forever remain an integral part of the American DNA.
It’s not every day that a sitcom about a working class bigot makes it onto CBS – and for nine seasons at that. Produced by Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin, the show follows Archie Bunker and his family squabble about anything and everything, including the social issues of the day.
Modeled after the British sitcom Till Death do us Part, which aired on BBC, some critics took issue with the show’s crudeness. “The majority of television viewers will find this show tasteless, crude, and very unfunny,” The Hollywood Reporter wrote at the time. Clearly, those critics were wrong, as the show became arguably one of television’s most influential comedy shows.
Today, The Brady Bunch has become an instantly recognizable brand with which households all across America are familiar. But the show, considered one of the last of the famed old-style family sitcoms, wasn’t a huge hit when it first came out, rather aging like a fine wine later on.
The show follows the misadventures of a large family united when a widowed man marries a divorced woman, and very much embodies the culture of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Popular among children and teens, The Brady Bunch spawned several films and spin-off series, and is today widely lionized in American pop culture.
Widely popular in the late sixties and early seventies, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In was as IMDb describes it, “the original rapid fire sketch comedy show.” Aired on NBC, the show was filmed in downtown Burbank, Los Angeles, and hosted by Dan Rowan and Dick Martin.
And “you bet your sweet bippy” the show was as revolutionary as the times (that’s one of the phrases the show made famous) in that it was mostly anti-Vietnam War and paid tribute to the prevalence of social liberalism and hippie-ism. Indeed, the show was widely applauded for its ability to be contemporary and hilarious, hosting big-name guests like Goldie Hawn and Harry Dempster.
Another comedy variety show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was an enormous success when it premiered on CBS. That was especially true considering it was scheduled against the wildly popular NBC series Bonanza, which was already well-established and presented the comedy show with stiff competition.
When the show came out in ’67, it was meant to be a slightly more cutting-edge version of the typical comedy shows of the time – but only slightly. It wasn’t meant to be revolutionary. As the program progressed, though, it started pushing the boundaries of what was accepted in TV satire. Perhaps that’s why it became so popular!
The original Star Trek from the 1960s achieved icon status and spawned “Trekkies” as far as they eye can see, but it didn’t inspire a second series for the franchise until 18 years later. Star Trek: The Next Generation is set almost 100 years after the start date of Captain Kirk’s five-year mission in the original.
Starfleet has grown quite a bit by then, and as such, the sequel series introduces a number of characters to the franchise. The sequel did a great job of keeping intact the components of the original show that made it great, while expanding the franchise into new and exciting areas.
In addition to its commercial success, fantasy sitcom I Dream of Jeannie deserves credit for its originality. This is a show about a 2,000-year-old genie who becomes beholden to an astronaut, with whom she also eventually falls in love and marries.
It’s not exactly a generic plot for sitcom, but it worked. The show ran on NBC for five seasons, producing 139 episodes in total. Starring Barbara Eden as the genie and Larry Hagman as the astronaut, I Dream of Jeanie joined Bewitched as one of the supernatural-housewife shows that were famous in the sixties. It might sound strange today, but it was a genre that fans loved at the time.
While everyone knows The Addams Family television show from the sixties, not everyone knows the characters on the show were actually based on characters from a series of cartoons in The New Yorker by a man named Charles Addams. The unorthodox approach to a sitcom ended in the creation of a television masterpiece.
The show revolves around a tight-knit extended family with supernatural abilities. The wealthy and enthusiastic family patriarch, Gomez Addams, is madly in love with his wife, Morticia. Along with their kids, Uncle Fester and Grandmama, they reside in a gloomy mansion attended by their servants. With a setting like that, the plot practically writes itself.
A sci-fi/fantasy anthology series created by Rod Sterling, The Twilight Zone aired on CBS for five seasons between 1959 and 1964 and remains syndicated to this day. Similar to today’s Black Mirror, each episode tells its own separate story. In fact, The Twilight Zone is also similar to Black Mirror in that its episodes often present morality plays.
People are placed in in extraordinary situations and forced to adapt, thereby entering a “fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man,” known as the “twilight zone.” The show’s narrator continues, “It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man’s fears and the summit of his knowledge.”
Preceding The Brady Bunch and The Addams Family, Leave it to Beaver is one of the original old-style family sitcoms and will forever be a symbol of American pop culture. The fifties black-and-white centers on a curious but often naïve boy, Theodore “The Beaver” Cleaver.
Beaver’s adventures in school and at home make up the plot of the show, as well as his interactions with his parents and his brother, Wally. In addition to its adorable and often hilarious storyline, Leave it to Beaver has attained iconic status in the U.S., with the Cleavers embodying the idealized suburban family of era.
It’s one of the classics. I Love Lucy starred Lucille Ball and her real-life husband Desi Arnaz, along with Vivian Vance and William Frawley. Sharing the screen with your husband for 180 half-hour episodes seems intense, but Ball did it brilliantly and Arnaz played the role too.
The sitcom followed the life of Lucy Ricardo (Ball), a New York City middle-class housewife who wanted more in life. Her hilarious schemes to attempt to infiltrate show business and escape the mundane normality of being a housewife made for hilarious television and earned this I Love Lucy a place in American pop culture forever.
Sources: The New York Times, Vulture, Insider