The Most Underrated '90s TV Shows

 Underrated 90s shows la femme nikita.
Underrated 90s shows la femme nikita.
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The '90s were a spectacular time for television, from Friends and Sex and the City to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and The Nanny to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The surplus of great, classic TV shows meant that some incredible series were left behind in their wake and didn't get the love they deserved at the time, or were even canceled too soon. Whether you're a fan of sitcoms, science-fiction series, or even enjoy revisiting excellent kids' entertainment, you are spoiled for choice when you're feeling nostalgic and want to check out more of this decade of TV.

So, if hits from the '90s are your go-to comfort watch, consider this list of lesser-known '90s shows your new watch list. Below, find the most underrated '90s TV shows of all time.

'The Amanda Show' (1999–2002)

amanda bynes when the amanda show was released
amanda bynes when the amanda show was released

This Nickelodeon favorite barely sneaks onto this list (it debuted in October 1999), but we'd be remiss not to include it. The Amanda Show is documented proof that Amanda Bynes is one of the most talented physical comedy stars ever. The show was a sketch comedy/variety show hybrid, and although it lasted only three seasons, we can still hear its classic phrases like "Amanda please!" ringing in our ears.

WATCH IT

'Angel' (1999–2004)

buffy the vampire spinoff angel
buffy the vampire spinoff angel

This Buffy the Vampire spinoff aired during the original series' run, debuting in late '99. It's probably the best example—besides Frasier—of a show taking a beloved character and giving them their own vehicle. Recovered vampire Angel is a private detective!

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'Are You Afraid of the Dark?' (1990–1996; 1999–2000)

are you afraid of the dark 90s cast
are you afraid of the dark 90s cast

If you liked Goosebumps, this anthology series was just as good, with stories even a bit more eerie. The whole thing is deeply '90s—so the special effects aren't the greatest and it's a bit silly—but as The Twilight Zone for kids, it measures up.

WATCH IT

'The Ben Stiller Show' (1990; 1992–1995)

ben stiller show still
ben stiller show still

Before you knew him from beloved comedy blockbusters, Ben Stiller (very briefly) performed in a hilarious series. With writers including Judd Apatow and Bob Odenkirk, it was highly satirical and well-reviewed, but simply ahead of its time. It's worth seeking out.

WATCH IT

'Brimstone' (1998–1990)

peter horton in brimstone
peter horton in brimstone

You can file this one under a great idea for a TV show: A dead police officer (Peter Horton) is tasked, by the devil, to collect 113 souls that have escaped Hell. It aired a partial season before cancellation, but it had an incredible, expansive world other sci-fi shows have drawn inspiration from.

'Clarissa Explains It All' (1991–1994)

melissa joan hart in Clarissa explains it all
melissa joan hart in Clarissa explains it all

While Melissa Joan Hart is probably more known for her most popular '90s series—Sabrina the Teenage Witch—her previous series on Nickelodeon was a show that was just as special. From the quirky fashion to how her BFF Sam (Sean O'Neal) climbed a ladder to her bedroom window, it was a sweet tween show all about goofy fun.

WATCH IT

'The Critic' (1994–2001)

90s shows The critic
90s shows The critic

No surprise, this series was created by two The Simpsons writers. It features Jon Lovitz as the titular critic and tapped into our collective fascination with movie criticism in the vein of Roger Ebert. It only ran for two seasons, but its ratings improved and it's since become much beloved.

WATCH IT

'The Dana Carvey Show' (1996)

dana carvey in the dana carvey show
dana carvey in the dana carvey show

This took the concept of a sketch show to the absolute limit, with the creators fully admitting in the years since that they were just throwing things at the wall. The avant-garde show only aired a few episodes but had a who's who cast, including Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, and many others.

WATCH IT

'Doug' (1991–1994; 1996–1999)

doug tv show doug and sally
doug tv show doug and sally

This is one of those you-had-to-grow-up-with-it types of shows, but Doug—the pre-teen with a wild imagination, endearing crush on a girl, and other relatable issues—was a must-watch for many. These days, it's a sweet throwback and a reminder that things do get better.

WATCH IT

'Eerie, Indiana' (1991–1993)

90s shows Eerie Indiana
90s shows Eerie Indiana

The '90s was a rich time for horror and sci-fi, which might be why this show didn't get as much love as it probably should have had. (It only ran for a single season and rightfully developed a cult following a few years after it went off the air.) In the titular town of Eerie, there was always a "mystery of the week," which was a smart, effective format for the series.

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'Freaks and Geeks' (1999)

Freaks and Geeks cast
Freaks and Geeks cast

This one probably isn't as underrated as it used to be. Freaks and Geeks is one of those "appreciated in hindsight" shows, with its single season featuring a bunch of then-up-and-comers and executive produced by Judd Apatow. It's essentially the definition of a cult classic.

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'Ghostwriter' (1992–1995)

ghostwriter 90s tv show
ghostwriter 90s tv show

It's a little tough to explain the concept here: Brooklyn teens solve crimes with the help of a ghost who can only communicate by writing words down on the wall. But the mysteries are quite inventive—and even educational. The original and the brief reboot were fan favorites.

'Hangin' With Mr. Cooper' (1992–1997)

90s shows Hangin with mr Cooper
90s shows Hangin with mr Cooper

If you've never watched this show, it's a sweet sitcom worth checking out. The story of an NBA player who becomes a teacher and high school coach is lovely. It may hit many of the teen sitcom cliches, but its world is well built out, there's run romance, and Mark Curry is exceptional as the lovable Mr. Cooper.

WATCH IT

'Hey Arnold!' (1996–2004)

hey arnold helga arnold
hey arnold helga arnold

It's not that this show was underrated at the time—on the contrary, lots of kids loved it and it led to a movie and reboot—it's just that it's still under-appreciated for how resonant it was. Whether you see yourself in the snarky Helga or Football Head himself, it's a very watchable animated series about coming of age and growing up in the city.

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'It's Garry Shandling's Show' (1986–1990)

it's garry shandling's show
it's garry shandling's show

The late Garry Shandling's comedy has become much more appreciated and widely recognized, but it's still not quite seen enough. In It's Garry Shandling's Show, he plays himself in a sitcom where he's aware he's a sitcom character. It's a genius premise and helped lead to his more popular The Larry Sanders Show.

WATCH IT

'Just Shoot Me!' (1997–2003)

90s shows Just shoot me
90s shows Just shoot me

Fit with a striking title, Just Shoot Me! centered around the staff working for the fictional magazine Blush. (It was pretty well established that it was meant to be Vogue). Like many sitcoms, it had a cast of over-the-top characters—including a young David Spade!

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'Kenan and Kel' (1996–2001)

90s shows Kenan and kel
90s shows Kenan and kel

The original Nickelodeon show only lasted four seasons, but it gave us two of the most delightful, long-lasting characters in all of teen history. It's no wonder both actors went on to have long comedy careers.

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'La Femme Nikita' (1997–2001)

peta wilson in La femme Nikita
peta wilson in La femme Nikita

Based on the 1990 French film of the same name, this series started as a Canadian show that crossed over (to great success) in the US. Peta Wilson stars in the title role as an untraceable assassin whose moral compass—and romantic inclinations—contrast strongly with her ruthless organization.

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'Living Single' (1993–1998)

the cast of Living single
the cast of Living single

Living Single is the other show about six friends living in New York City and sharing a brownstone. If you like Friends but still haven't seen it—despite being considered one of the best series of the decade—it's about time you tuned in. The ensemble features a young Queen Latifah, and the fashion is incredible.

WATCH IT

'MADtv' (1995–2009)

susan sarandon on madtv
susan sarandon on madtv

MADtv, the sketch comedy series that was a direct competitor to Saturday Night Live, had some very edgy content (particularly for its time) and featured some future greats like Ike Barinholtz, Bobby Lee, Keegan-Michael Key, and Jordan Peele. (It's where the latter two met and formed the duo Key and Peele!)

WATCH IT

'My So-Called Life' (1994–1995)

claire danes in my so called life
claire danes in my so called life

A single season was enough to make us fall in love with Claire Danes' Angela, whose 15-year-old life included some pretty heavy issues. The show was more relevant than parents wanted to believe because it was one of the first to depict high school for what it was: stressful.

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'NewsRadio' (1995–1999)

Newsradio cast
Newsradio cast

NewsRadio is widely regarded as not just one of the most underrated shows of the '90s but of all time. It centers around the staff at radio station WNYX—and "eccentric" would probably be the word to describe them all. If you're a fan of other workplace comedies, this is the best one you haven't seen yet.

WATCH IT

'Northern Exposure' (1990–1995)

90s shows Northern exposure
90s shows Northern exposure

Small-town life in Alaska was never as fun or dramatic as in this sweet show. If you're unfamiliar, Northern Exposure was quite beloved during its day, but a change in executive producers following a lawsuit meant the show declined in quality and was ultimately canceled. Those early, seasons, though, are worth seeking out.

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'The Secret World of Alex Mack' (1994–1998)

Larisa Oleynik in The secret world of Alex Mack
Larisa Oleynik in The secret world of Alex Mack

Of all the '90s Nickelodeon shows, The Secret World of Alex Mack has one of the coolest premises. Alex Mack (Larisa Oleynik) is a normal teen who gets a chemical accidentally dumped all over her and develops superhuman powers. It's a middle schooler's dream come true.

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'Sliders' (1995–2000)

90s shows Sliders
90s shows Sliders

This deeply cool (and pretty classic sci-fi series) follows a group of travelers who "slide" between parallel universes as they search for the coordinates to their home universe. The show explores a handful of exciting alternative timelines—like what if dinosaurs never went extinct—to make for a very watchable series.

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'Spin City' (1996–2002)

michael j fox in spin city
michael j fox in spin city

Granted, this show was quite popular at the time (and it gave us a brilliant Michael J. Fox performance before he quit acting full-time due to Parkinson's Disease). But it's still underrated. As we follow the Deputy Mayor of New York (Fox), it presents fictionalized government bureaucracy chaos with arch perfection.

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'Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place' (1998–2001)

traylor howard in Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place
traylor howard in Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place

Later titled Two Guys and a Girl, this four-season show (which lost ratings and was canceled after it moved from mid-week to Fridays) is an early opportunity to witness how funny a young Ryan Reynolds is. Plus: There are plenty of classic sitcom romantic shenanigans!

'The Wayans Bros.' (1995–1999)

90s shows the wayans bros
90s shows the wayans bros

Shawn and Marlon Williams, playing fictionalized versions of themselves, bantered and worked together for five seasons before they went on to impressive careers. The fact that the series was unexpectedly canceled is something they reference in Scary Movie!

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'Xena: Warrior Princess' (1995–2001)

90s show Xena
90s show Xena

Xena: Warrior Princess was huge for LGBTQ+ audiences in the '90s, given its queer undertones. Xena (Lucy Lawless) and her "best friend" Gabrielle (Renée O'Connor) had the most palpable sexual tension that '90s television had ever seen. It's a fan fave for people who used to be closeted!

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'Wings' (1990–1997)

cast of the 90s show wings
cast of the 90s show wings

Those who watched Wings in the '90s loved it with a deep, abiding passion. The sitcom shares a universe with Cheers and Frasier and centers around the goings-on (and romantical entanglements) of a small Nantucket airport.

WATCH IT

'Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?' (1991–1995)

90s shows
90s shows

This one was another "popular for its time" show but is not to be confused with the animated series. This educational game show for kids was something many middle and high schoolers dreamed about going on. Based on the popular video game, it was all about testing your geography skills.

'Wishbone' (1995–1998)

wishbone dog
wishbone dog

If you didn't learn about Pride and Prejudice and Joan of Arc thanks to a teeny tiny talking dog, then you weren't really a '90s kid. Wishbone dreams himself into many classic tales and books—and warms your heart along the way.