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Best Television Shows of the 90’s

A recent 90’s trivia night took me back to the decade that shaped me (and explained all the major issues I still have today) and recall the best television shows from that time in my own personal rankings.

There was no Netflix, TV on DVD, or amazing cable dramas for us to obsess over and build entire conventions and reddit pages around. In the 90’s, the major networks still largely cornered the market for top television and we had to watch the night it was on or set the VCR if he wanted to keep up with our favorite shows.

Now, I don’t have any set criteria for this list. It’s entirely my subjective opinions, so I’m sure many will want to argue and debate the choices I made. But I did not exclusively make this list of shows I watched at the time. I tried to think which shows were popular then and have had the most cultural impact since in determining how all the shows were slotted.

So, without further ado, here’s my list of the top TV shows from the 90’s.

 

10. Boy Meets World

Boy Meets World

The legendary status of Cory Matthews and crew seems to grow by the year as 90’s kids everywhere reminisce. And Cory’s misadventures with Shawn, his pursuit of star-crossed lover Topanga, and the many lessons the ganglearned from the iconic Mr. Feeny, should have a required place on all best of 90’s TV recollections.

And what about Cory’s cool brother Eric? What, you don’t remember him? Me either. I prefer the goofy version he morphed into that breathed new life into the show in later seasons.

9. Saved By the Bell

Saved by the Bell

Another nod to our adolescent/preteen nostalgia, “Saved by the Bell” is the only Saturday morning show to make the list. And it’s crazy to look back and recall how much we adored this show when you consider the time period it was on.

Saved by the Bell was basically after school special running smack dab in the middle of the angst filled early nineties. How crazy is it that so many whose formative years were 1989-1993 would tune into “Saved by the Bell” in the morning, then pop in the “Chronic” CD and listen to “Smells Like Teen Spirit afterwards.

Zach and the gang deserve their spot on this list just for finding their foothold in that environment.

8. NYPD Blue

NYPD Blue

I never watched the influential detective drama. But it clearly had its audience. And if you like the random placement of bare bottoms on cable/network TV, be sure to thank NYPD Blue for knocking down that barrier.

7. Beverly Hills 90210

Beverly Hills 90210

90210 was another show I did not watch. But every decade needs its angst filled teen drama. And 90210 fit the bill with its tension-filled relationships and handling of 90’s social issues.

90210 was also one of Fox’s (then a new network) first big hits. And while summer seasons are common place for many hit shows across various network and cable channels now, it was a rare summer run in 1991 that propelled 90210 hit status.

6. Home Improvement

Home Improvement

Comedian Tim Allen became a star with “Home Improvement,” the top family comedy of the 90’s.

Playing Tim “The Toolman” Taylor, Allen was the best of the many goofball dads of the decade, always finding himself injured or breaking a major household appliance while trying to make a repair or give it “more power.”

5. Roseanne

Roseanne Cast (TV) 1988 1st Season Credit: ABC/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection

Before Roseanne, sitcom families were mostly affluent, living charmed lives in pristine homes. Roseanne, however, represented how far more American families lived than had been previously represented on network television.

Also, Roseanne became a pipeline for many of the stars/recurring stars that would appear on “The Big Bang Theory,” a top comedy from the modern era of television.

4. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

Fresh Prince

Mega star Will Smith was born Monday nights on NBC in the hit comedy “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.”

But Smith’s presence wasn’t all the made this hit comedy last. There was “the Carlton” (cue “It’s Not Unusual” by Tom Jones), Jazz getting thrown out of the house by Uncle Phil, and that unforgettable theme song that’s been in your head since you started reading this entry.

3. ER

ER

The fast paced medical drama that introduced the world to George Clooney was the best drama of the 90’s, winning 23 Primetime Emmy Awards. But it wasn’t just the high stakes patient story lines and drama surrounding the everyday lives of the staff at County General Hospital in Chicago that kept us interested. ER was one of those shows that wasn’t afraid to kill off departing characters at a time before Game of Thrones made it cool.

2. Friends

Friends

My wife will hate this choice, but I have to go with shows that were popular and had impact. And no show in the nineties (well other than the two shows still remaining on the countdown) had both of those like “Friends.”

For popularity, just look at the ratings, where “Friends” was top 10 show for its entire 10 season run. As far as impact, “Friends” was an early example of a show that broke the conventional family sitcom model. Shows like “The Big Bang Theory” and “How I Met Your Mother” can thank “Friends” for the “friends are your family” model of sitcom that is commonplace in today’s TV landscape.

1b. The Simpsons

The Simpsons

Anybody out there have a primetime animated show they just love? “Family Guy?” “Bob’s Burgers?”  “South Park?” Well, it was “The Simpsons” who cleared the path for the primetime animated show that appeals to an older audience.

And congratulations to “The Simpsons” for being the only show on this list still on the air. 4LN’s own Bill Clark is still a huge fan of Springfield’s most famous family. In fact, the show may very well still be on the air as a way just to keep Bill off the streets on Sunday nights.

1a. Seinfeld

seinfeld

Cultural impact can be measured in many ways. And one of the best ways to measure it in a TV show is through quotes. “No soup for you,” “I was in the pool,” “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” “Yada, yada, yada,” “Double dipping,” “There real, and their spectacular,” and “Regifter” are all popular phrases and quotes that Seinfeld either originated or revived in American language.

I also consider Seinfeld to be one of the first shows (though “All in the Family” could be considered strongly for this as well) that revolved itself around really unlikable people. We currently live in the age of the antihero. But “Seinfeld” takes that a step further, asking us to follow people who aren’t heroes at all. They’re just inconsiderate jerks who obsessed over the small things in life. But yet, we laughed anyway (and felt a little guilty at times knowing we’d complained about many of those same things).

How is your list different from mine for the 90’s best shows? Who did I leave off that should be? Who did I include that has no business there? Let me know in the comments.

How to Build a Fun, Casual, Magic Deck

 (Todays article is brought to you by the 4LN Magic contributor, Jason Hill. Please enjoy.)

The holidays are over and a new year has begun. Along with the new year, comes a new deck to build. With thousands of different cards to choose from, how do you narrow it down to a mere 60 card deck? Should you limit it to only 60? The rules say you can have more if you want. Do you need spend a ton of money on new cards? Are older cards better than the newer ones? How much land should this fun deck have? Is it possible to make a deck that doesn’t suck while at the same time doesn’t make your friends hate you? The answers are: yes, no, maybe, the square root of seven, and the holodeck aboard the S.S. Enterprise. Wait, what were we talking about? … Ah, yes!

First, a disclaimer: This isn’t an article on how to make a deck that will beat all other decks. There are enough of those floating around the internet without my input needing to be added. This article is about making a deck that is fun, not only for you, but your friends as well. Unless, of course, you want to be the kind of person who doesn’t want your friends to have fun. If that’s the case, then stop being a jerk! Nobody likes the person you try to be, no matter what your mother says.

Back to the matter at hand. How to build a fun deck.

Step 1: Figure out what you like. There is a card for almost anything you can imagine. Do you like elves? Knights? Giants? Jellyfish? Unicorns? Ducks? Well too bad! Wizards of the Coast hasn’t made any ducks yet. (Come on, Wizards, what are you waiting for?) If this isn’t helping you figure out what you want, think about your play style. Do you enjoy drawing cards? Do you want to do damage that your opponent can’t block? Do you like to make your opponent discard cards? Maybe not letting your opponent do as they please is your thing. Whatever it is …

Jace, Memory Adept

This card will make your friends really hate you.

Step 2: Pick two or three of these things and start building a deck with them. So you want to have a giants and jellyfish deck that makes your opponent discard cards? Sounds like a fun deck to me. Maybe a cat and elephant deck that has a lot of artifacts in it could be interesting. Just don’t go overboard. A zombie, wizard, ninja, shark, and warrior deck that lets you draw cards, gains you life, counters opponent’s spells, and destroys artifacts might be a bit much. A deck that tries to do too much usually ends up doing nothing at all.

Step 3: Try to narrow your selection down to two or three colors. If you need to go into four colors, don’t fret, but try to stay away from going into all five colors. (tasting the rainbow can be a bit spicy) Five color decks are feasible, but difficult to pull off. The more colors you have, the more types of land you have to include into your deck, resulting in a more difficult time getting the mana required to play your spells.

Step 4: Land ho! Put some land in that deck. Land, being the main mana producer, is incredibly important to balance. It ought to be about a third of your library, meaning anywhere between 18 and 24 cards of your deck. A recommended ratio of spells to land is usually 36 spells : 24 land in a 60 card deck. While this is an excellent mark to build most decks by, each deck is different and that ratio might not suit your selection of spells.

Color_wheel

Here is a good representation of what each mana type will do, and how they can work together.

I usually use between 20 and 22 land in most of mine. There are 2 exceptions for me, one for more and one for less. When I use more, (24 – 26) the spells I’m using usually rely on having land as basis for the rules of that particular spell. Example: “Gain 1 life for each land under your control” or “… deals 1 damage for each Mountain you control.” When I use less, (18 or 19) it’s because most of the spells in my library cost less than 3 in their converted mana cost, and I’m able to fit more spells in.

How much of each color is going to depend on the spells you have chosen. If you have kept your spells to one color, then it’s pretty much a no brainer. Just add the number of land you need and start playing. If you have more than one color, a little more work is involved. First separate out your spells by color. If you have 2 colors, try to split your land evenly unless you have mostly 1 color and only a few of the other. If that is the case, use mostly the land of your prominent color with 2 – 5 of the lesser color and maybe one or two multicolor land that share both colors. If you have 3 colors, again try to split the land evenly, but use common sense, and definitely put in a couple of multicolored land or an artifact that can give mana.

If you have more than 3 colors you should rely on multicolored lands fairly heavily along with mana giving artifacts and creatures. This should help keep you from getting the wrong colored mana when trying to cast spells. It sucks having nothing but plains and islands out with a hand full of forest cards. A word of warning though, most multicolored land have to come into the battlefield tapped, so you aren’t able to use them that turn.

Step 5: Keep your deck as close to 60 cards as possible. Yes, I know, the rules say you can have as many as you like over the 60 card minimum, but they advise that you stay as close to the minimum as possible for a reason. The reason is the more cards you have in your deck, the less likely you will come across them in a game. Now if your deck consists of 61, 62, or even 65 cards, no one will come and force you to go to magic kindergarten or exile you and put you in a dungeon in the land you were exiled to. You may relax and have a whimsical time with the deck you have made. If you have something in the realm of 75 or more, then you might want to start making some cuts. If you don’t, it might be real difficult to get out that awesome minotaur you built your deck around.

Step 6: Play with friends. Time to test out your final creation. See which cards you enjoy drawing, and which cards you aren’t so excited to see. Switch out what works with what doesn’t, and remember, this deck is about having fun, not about always winning. Anecdote time!

francis

Don’t get so competitive that no one wants to play with you.

I remember this one specific moment where my friends and I were having a 4 on 4 free-for-all battle. I was using an earlier incarnation of my Angel deck. I don’t remember what decks they were using, but I do remember that they kept killing my angels. Angels, for the most part, are expensive. So I was only able to get one out per turn, and each time I did, someone else would get rid of it. After my third angel was Doom Bladed, I was frustrated and fed up.

I tapped 4 mana and slapped down the last card in my hand. I said, “Fine! If that’s how it is, then destroy all your creatures!” It was Day of Judgment and the text on the card literally says “Destroy all creatures.” Everyone was flabbergasted. None of them had seen the card before and didn’t realize that all creatures could be destroyed at once like that. The room filled with exclamations of “What the …?!” and “No way!” The card was read by each one in turn and they put all their creatures in their graveyards. I didn’t win that game, but I will always remember the look on their faces.

Now to settle the dispute of which is better, old cards or new cards. The answer is both. New cards are awesome, but don’t dismiss the older cards thinking that they are outdated. The possibilities with combining the old with the new are endless and can have awesome, weird, or just down right hilarious results. Also, good decks don’t have to cost millions, they don’t have to be filled with mythic rares, they just simply need to reflect you and how you define fun.

My goal in building decks is to build a deck that can win, but isn’t one that is to be feared. When I have a deck that is feared, I either find myself the target of everyone playing me (I usually play in group free-for-alls) or not being played against at all. My philosophy is “It’s not whether you win or lose, it’s the memories you make playing.” So play on, and have fun!

(While Jason Hill excels in building fun, casual decks, he fails spectacularly at building fun, casual card houses.)