12 Things I Don’t Understand Because I Didn’t Watch TV in the ‘90s

Full House CastI wasn’t really exposed to pop culture until the year 2001. Some things slipped through the cracks before then, sure, and some things stayed above the cracks after then also, but by and large, that date is pretty set in stone. That’s the year I started high school and could start making my own choices, but up until that point, I was subject to the wishes and whims of my parents. And since I was raised in Portland, Oregon, those wishes were usually more along the lines of, “Get outside and climb something while I make you an organic meal out of our garden” than, “Here, sit in front of this glowing box of entertainment while I put something in the microwave.”

It’s the kind of stuff I’m super grateful for now that I’m an adult human and see how wretched kids become when they’re raised in front of a TV, but jesusmariechrist did it suck the most when it was the 1990s and I was trying not to be the least popular kid that had ever walked the face of the earth. (Spoiler alert: I failed. Which is how I came to have this lovely sense of humor in lieu of any friends from high school.)

Pretty much if you drop a ’90s reference and watch my face, you’ll be treated to a politely glazed look during which I hope that someone else will jump on said reference, buying me enough time to gain enough information from context clues not to completely embarrass myself. But if the focus stays on me, I eventually have to come clean and admit that, yes, I was essentially blacked out before the year 2001, and if you were my REAL FRIEND, you’d already know that. (If you’re reading this and you didn’t know that, I’m sorry. I guess our friendship just wasn’t quite what you thought it was. I’ve been trying to think of the best way to tell you, and apparently I decided this was it. Get outta here.)

Most people are fascinated by this lost decade in my brain, particularly because I now write celebrity news for a living — Jenni brings it up pretty much every week during our editorial meetings, and other people like to quiz me exhaustively to find the depths of my ignorance. But that could take days, if not weeks (cause let’s be honest, it was ten years), so just to save everyone some time, here are 12 things I don’t nderstand because I didn’t watch television in the ’90s. Please enjoy the ensuing feelings of superiority, you smug bitches.

Home Improvement Cast

(Photo: IMDb)

1. Home Improvement

It turns out that sometimes when people say, “What time is it?”, they don’t want you to look at your Swatch and respond with the actual time. Sometimes they just want to shout, “TOOL TIME!” in your face and leave you wondering why you’re such a tool. Also lost in the shuffle — the fact that I was supposed to have a crush on Jonathan Taylor Thomas. I feel like that would’ve really helped my middle school street cred.

Saved By The Bell Cast(Photo: IMBd)

2. Saved By The Bell

It would be really great if I knew something about this show other than what Dustin Diamond‘s penis looked like. Curse you, ’90s star sex tapes. Curse you and Screech you rode in on.

Freaks and Geeks Cast(Photo: IMDb)

3. Freaks And Geeks

I don’t understand the hype. It was a cult classic that was cancelled too soon and every guest star is famous? I mean, I’ve seen Arrested Development, can’t I just watch that instead? I don’t like talking about this show because it’s the only thing I feel like I may have genuinely missed out on instead of just missed.

TLC Waterfalls

 (via)

4. Music videos

Did you guys know that there are moving pictures that artists make to correspond with their popular songs? I did not know that until halfway through high school, so to this day I’ve not seen a single TLC video, although I hear great things about ‘Waterfalls’.

Quail Man Doug(via)

5. Doug

I’m pretty sure somebody has a football head, and people I know are impressed when other people I know dress up as something called ‘Quail Man’ for Halloween. Also there’s a character named Patti Mayonnaise who was voiced by one of the characters on Orange Is The New Black. Don’t ask me anything else, you’ll give me angina.

6. The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air

Ooh ooh I know this one! Will Smith between his rapping career and his saying-weird-stuff-in-the-media-about-his-family career! Also the theme song starts out, “West Philadelphia born and raised…something something something something most of my days”, which is usually far enough into the song to satisfy the drunk people at a bar shouting it at me.

Lizzie McGuire

(via)

7. The rising stars of Disney and Nickelodeon

Did you know there was such a thing as a Hilary Duff before she had her baby and such a thing as an Amanda Bynes before She’s The Man? I missed out on so much bonding with those two, and since I never got my shot on The Mickey Mouse Club, Ryan Gosling and I passed through our childhoods like two ships in the night instead of meeting as the Great Lord Of Pop Culture In The Sky intended. I shake my fist at you, parents.

Family Matters Urkel

(Photo: IMDb)

8. Family Matters
I’m sure this show had appeal, but I barely even recognize the name of it. My entire knowledge of it is Urkel saying “Did I do that?” and “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.” Oh and sometimes he would go into a magic box that made him a cool kid and from the sound of it why didn’t he just live in there all the time?

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Cast

(Photo: IMDb)

9. Power Rangers
Girl I do not even know the colors. Luckily I could pretty much get away with this one because I knew the theme song, A., and B. whenever anyone asked me which my favorite was, I’d just say pink, because I knew that was the only girl. Way to be adaptable, Kid Alexis.

Boy Meets World Cast

(Photo: IMDb)

10. TGIF


This would’ve been a really clutch thing to let me in on, parental units. In one fell swoop I could’ve been up-to-date on Boy Meets World, Sabrina The Teenage Witch, and like ten thousand other shows that all my peers were talking about. Couldn’t I just have watched that two-hour block once a week so I’d have known more than the name ‘Topanga’ and the character of ‘talking cat’ named…Merlin or Wizard, or something? (Just Wikipedia-ed it. It’s ‘Salem’.) But instead, I got all the way to 2013 (yup, this year) without knowing that TGIF was anything other than the battle cry of douchey businessmen headed to happy hour.

Full House Cast(Photo: IMDb)

11. Full House

Baby Olsens, the last name ‘Tanner’, and a girl with a meth addiction. Oh, and the guy that Alanis Morissette wrote that song about! Did I do a good job?

Saturday Night Live Logo

(Photo: Wikipedia)

12. Saturday Night Live
Did you know that SNL was on before 2005 or so? You should learn that, and memorize the people who were on it, if you don’t want to sound like a complete moron trying to talk about it. Trust me.

So there it is, guys. Now you know my secret weakness. Although you’d be amazed how little knowledge and effort it takes to conceal. Just memorize some catchphrases and dribble them through your daily conversations, and you’ll be made in the shade, just like all those ninja turtles who lived under the ground and ate pizzas. DONATELLO IS MY FAVORITE HE IS THE PURPLE ONE. (See?!?)

Yeah, I know. I’m the worst. Blame my parents, okay?

(Lead Photo: IMDb)

Share This Post:
    • Kole

      Actually in the US version of Power Rangers, the Yellow Ranger was a girl also. Her name was Trini played by Thuy Trang. :)

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        Noooo I’ve embarrassed myself in front of all of my friends!

      • Kole

        Don’t worry. I do that often and in public.

      • Nancy

        And the football head was Hey Arnold! not Doug! lol I loved this post!

    • Katy Hearne

      I read this article like two hours ago and the Fresh Prince theme song is still stuck in my head. I had to rush back to tell you that at least you don’t have to live in fear of this everytime you hear “west Philadelphia” or “smell you later”. Though I do apologize i you missed out on doing the Carelton at middle school dances.

      • Alexis Rhiannon

        What is ‘smell you later’???

      • Katy Hearne

        In the words of Gob Bluth… C’MON! It’s what the Fresh Prince yells to his Taxi.

    • CB

      I think you’re golden on your pretending to understand strategies :)

      Also, when I saw the heading of this, I tensed up a little, because I thought this might be a story of escaping a super insular, borderline/actually abusive conservative Christian family such as is often discussed on Love, Joy, Feminism and related blogs. I’m really happy for you that it was instead the story of an awkward Oregon teen raised by people who just cared about nature a lot. Phew!

    • Katshia

      :o I’ve found someone with parents like mine! I was raised with no TV and the like growing up, and all missed out on pretty much any refference to the 90′s. I don’t regret it for a second, I actually want to raise my future kiddos without TV because I spent SO much time outside, reading, or making up games and things to do with my siblings. Love that I’m not the only person that has a blank stare on their face when everyone else is cracking up over some reference to the 90′s :)

    • Aurora01

      I was born in 1982 and I think the ’90s sucked. You didn’t miss out on much.

    • Nerdy Lucy

      You’ve mostly got it all down, except football head was “Hey Arnold” and not Doug.

    • Reese

      This makes me so, so sad. :( You missed the best part of life!

    • Reese

      In the word of Regina George
      “I love her. She’s like a martian!”
      At least you know Mean Girls.

    • MCR

      I’m in the same boat. I’ve heard of Power Rangers only because my little grandson occasionally claims to be one, just before he starts kicking the coffee table. I don’t feel I missed much, especially since I watched SNL until Belushi died and almost never since. All we 90s-TV-deficient people need are a list of the key catchphrases of the era, with their approximate significance and possible uses in day to day conversation, and we can forget the whole, ugly business ever happened.

    • Em

      But no. No one on Doug had a football head. There was a green guy named Skeeter, though.
      Football head = Arnold on Hey Arnold!
      You poor, poor thing

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    • StephC12

      I’m not sure if you are serious or not… and if you are I’m sorry, because 90s TV was the best (I was born in 89).

    • Maria

      Ok I’m only 14 and I’ve seen all those shows I didn’t even grow up in the 90s I was born in 99 and you forgot the best of them all >>> FRIENDS!

    • Jen

      “It’s the kind of stuff I’m super grateful for now that I’m an adult
      human and see how wretched kids become when they’re raised in front of a
      TV”

      Well I got to watch tv and climb trees… it’s all about balance and I feel sad for anyone who had to live without either.

      • Jenni

        I grew up with lots of TV and we both ended up at the exact same place. So the moral of the story is that there’s no need to feel sad!

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    • ChiChi

      I remember watching SNL!

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