A historic decade for television, the 1990s was even more influential than its current reputation would suggest. Nearly everything that critics and audiences herald in modern TV was either introduced or fine-tuned in this decade, hence the enduring relevance of certain shows.
It was a time in which the medium itself still played second fiddle to theatrical films, but nevertheless blazed its own singular trail of pop culture iconography. One might call it TV’s quintessential water-cooler decade, during which last night’s home entertainment was the next day’s collective experience. (There would also have been plenty of next-day talk, of course, around the most successful movies of the ‘90s.)
To determine the best TV episodes of the 1990s, 24/7 Tempo reviewed audience ratings from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon. Television episodes that aired between 1990 and 1999 were ranked based on IMDb user ratings as of February 2023. Only TV episodes with at least 2,500 user ratings were considered. In the case of a tie, the episode with the greater number of user votes was ranked higher.
To list out all the best shows and episodes of the era is to touch down across a slew of important milestones and game-changing paradigms. Sitcoms such as “Seinfeld” redefined comedy while serialized dramas like “Twin Peaks” and “The Sopranos” helped pave the way for the modern era of television. The sci-fi classic “The X-Files” remains popular enough for the occasional reboot while animated hits such as “South Park” and “The Simpsons” are still running to this day. (These are the best animated sitcoms of all time.)
Thanks to streaming, many of these shows are available to watch at the click of a button. And unlike so many contemporary programs, most of these don’t require the viewer to start from the very beginning in order to reap the most rewarding experience. That said, it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
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