The '90s Sitcoms That Nobody Ever Talks About Sarah Heyward

It’s no secret that ’90s nostalgia is huge right now, from flannel shirts and Doc Martens to Lisa Frank and Clarissa Explains It All reruns. But what about the shows nobody seems to remember? The sitcoms that, once flourishing, now seem to have vanished into a pop culture black hole along with Hypercolor and Nosy Bears (anyone? Nosy Bears?). Here are a few that could use a little modern day love:

Phenom

Given my love of child stars and talented wunderkind everywhere, this show really appealed to me. Our main gal was a 15-year old tennis prodigy trying to find the balance between a normal childhood and the life of a sports star. Her mother, played by the inimitable Judith Light, had been left by her husband for a younger woman, and endeavored to raise her children (including Growing Pain‘s Ashley Johnson!) alone. With help from her daughter’s  obsessive tennis coach, of course. This show only lasted one season and nobody ever includes it in lists of the best shows of the 90s, but they’re just wrong.

Empty Nest

Famous for not just beginning as a spin-off (of Golden Girls) but also resulting in a spin-off (Nurses), Empty Nest was about a recently widowed pediatrician whose two adult daughters move back home in the wake of his wife’s death. There’s also a dog involved. And the girls still call their Dad “Daddy” (pet peeve alert, but whatever). It’s funny to me that I was so into this show given that when it first aired, I was only 4 years old, but hey, it worked. The oldest daughter was uptight and neurotic, the middle daughter was a tough-as-nails undercover police officer, and the neighbor was a sleazy, womanizing, cruise ship employee who regularly made sexist comments as only a 90s sitcom neighbor can. Also, the woman who played Daddy’s nurse at work was named Park Overall. That’s reason enough to watch.

Just the Ten of Us

This show was yet another spin-off – of Growing Pains - although I’m not sure I knew that at the time that it aired. Featuring stand-up comedian Bill Kirchenbauer as a father of eight (!), the show mostly chronicled the family’s money troubles and the ups and downs of being part of such a large and vibrant family. Eventually, the show focused more on the older daughters and their teenage trials and tribulations, which of course was just fine by me. Fun fact: both Matthew Perry and Matt LeBlanc appear on the show, but unfortunately in different episodes.

Parker Lewis Can’t Lose

Heavily influenced by Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (which also spawned a TV show, by the way), this teen-friendly show featured our title character, a high school student for whom coolness is the ultimate goal. Nothing is too tricky for him to weasel his way out of, and he has adventures and gets in and out of scrapes with the help of his friends and girlfriend. Parker also narrates the show, much like Ferris does the movie, breaking the 4th wall and addressing the audience directly. There are many surreal elements and an almost cartoon-ish quality to the world Parker and his friends occupy, making this show a cut above the average teen comedy of the 80s or 90s. Also, his wildly garish shirts are a time capsule in and of themselves.

My Two Dads

Featuring both a pre-Mad About You Paul Reiser and a pre-Step by Step Staci Keanan, My Two Dads was about a 12-year old girl whose mother dies, leaving her to the two men who have long competed for her (the mother’s) affection. Neither of them knows for sure which one is the father, so they raise the girl together, despite the fact that the two men can’t stand each other. Super realistic, right? I actually don’t remember if the show had a lot of awful gay jokes but it seems like it must have, although kudos to them for demonstrating ahead of their time that an unconventional family is still a family.

Maybe I’ve watched too many Full House reruns and as a result am starting to get sick of the Tanner girls (blasphemy, I know). Or maybe because nobody ever mentions these particular shows, they’ve taken on that forgotten-dream quality I’m always talking about. But whatever the reason, there’s something so comforting and nostalgic about this group of 90s sitcoms. So let’s petition for them to start airing Phenom three times an afternoon, okay?

Images via imremembering.com, wikipedia.com, legendsrevealed.com, timstvshowcase.com, fourthgradenothing.com

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  1. “Par ker Lewis ne perd jamais”* ;)

  2. Parker Lewis was famous in Belgium, I think. I watched the show when I was young “Parker Lewis ne meurt jamais” :) Good memories

  3. Yes, Flash Forward too!!

  4. I remember all those shows! I loved Just the 10 of Us and My Two Dads. Among my faves of the era. Plus, the theme songs. I’m a sucker for a good theme song.

  5. i remember my 2 dads, i was so envious because i didn’t have one, then i got mad because the dads had to live in seperate places because everyone thought they were gay and they acted like a divorced couple with visitation rights, that was the worse part of the show.

  6. MUSCLE was a great sitcom. One of Nestor Carbonell’s earlier shows, I believe. He had a role as a senior-citizen-oriented gigolo. Adam West appeared frequently in flashbacks, although his character died in the first episode.

  7. Not entirely true, as far as I know, we were exposed to Parker Lewis and Just the ten of us. PArker Lewis was an awsome show back then, so new, so fresh, not to mention that every teenage girl was in lover of either Parker (of course) or Mickey and even Paul Johansson (before the diet coke commercial?) …

  8. I had the popcorn Nosy Bear and my sister had the ice cream sundae one. I still have mine in my attic!

  9. Great article! Does anyone else remember “Herman’s Head”? I loved that show but I haven’t met ANYONE else who has ever seen it!

    • I remember Herman’s Head because it had a lot of the Simpson’s cast on the show. It was good, maybe a little too good. Like ahead of it’s time.

  10. Parker Lewis Can’t lose was the best I still synchronize watches with my bff who shares my love for Parker =) mental note: that show was awesome!

  11. I STILL have my Nosey Bear, one of VERY few childhood toys I’ve kept.

  12. Absolutely LOVED Just the Ten of Us, as well as Empty Nest and My 2 Dads! I was also only 4 when Empty Nest premiered but watched it every week! I always had TV tastes far more mature than my actual age. :)

  13. You guys, I totally loved the Torkelsons too – but I already wrote about them! Here: http://hellogiggles.com/3-more-tv-shows-that-i-maybe-made-up-inside-my-head

    Sarah Heyward | 8/01/2012 11:08 am
    • Remember a Young Brittany Murphy in that show? For years when she would show up in movies, she would still be just The Girl from The Torkelsons to me!

  14. Parker Lewis Can’t Lose!!!!! I loved that show – one time there was an episode called “Parker Lewis Can’t Win” that was awesome…. Also who ever mentioned the Torkelsons, thank you! I also loved that show. And Perfect Strangers, awesome! Balki and Corsin Larry :o)

    Not sure if anyone has mentioned this yet but my absolute favorite show was “Out of This World” (okay, it was actually late 80′s and only lasted a few years into the early 90′s – but what wasn’t to love? Who didn’t want to have the ability to stop time by putting their pointer fingers together?)

  15. I used to love The Torkelsons. Dorothy Jane and her late night talks with the man in the moon…and Minkus!

  16. Just gonna go ahead and throw The Torkelsons out there…. because yes.

  17. All excellent programming! I also loved The Torkelsons. :)

  18. YES! All of these are marvelous! Also, Teen Angel.

    • I love Teen Angel! I was going through the comments to see if someone would mention it. Remember the episode when God let them go back in time to try and destroy The Burger but consequently other people kept eating it and dying? The whole show was so hilarious.

  19. phenom,yes! loved that show.also just the ten of us was awesome. small wonder was also a fave but that ended in 89.there needs to be a channel that airs all of these great shows!

  20. I loved all these shows- especially Just the 10 of us and my 2 dads! Whenever I try to talk about Just the 10 of us, people don’t seem to know what I’m talking about and I’m really glad to see you give it a shout out!

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