An ode to my ’90s TV boyfriends
The ’90s were a strange yet intense time in my life. The first time I remember liking a boy was in 1990, when I was five years old. That boy was Roger Rabbit. I wish I was lying. To my kindergarten self’s credit, though, I think seeing him with the human Jessica Rabbit confused me.
But luckily I matured, and by the time I turned seven or eight I was into non-animated, human dudes. Granted, most of them were still fictional aside from a random roguish prank-pulling classmate (I had a type), because no eight-year-old boy is thinking about girls in that way yet.
But as per usual, TV had my back. There were plenty of fast-talking bad boys with a heart of gold for me to swoon over, with the occasional traditional “nerd/good-guy” type to ground me back to reality. The following are just my favorites. Sorry in advance to anyone who was cut in the making of this list.
Pacey Witter, Dawson’s Creek
I could write about Pacey literally every day of my life and not run out of positive things to say. In fact, I think I will hit my limit eventually, but I just can’t help myself. From his witty comebacks to his willingness to fight tooth and nail for love and friendship, to his complete refusal of becoming what society wanted him to be, Pacey was the ultimate TV boyfriend. Who else could be like, “Let’s go sailing on a boat for the entire summer” and actually get someone as Type A as Joey Potter to do it?
Shawn Hunter, Boy Meets World
Shawn was the guy I wanted to date as a teenager but probably not marry, since he wasn’t – and, if his return on Girl Meets World is any indication, still isn’t – exactly the commitment type. But he was sweet and sensitive and deep underneath that hard exterior, and I wanted to be the girl who succeeded in breaking down his walls – that is, if Angela ever let him go (which, sadly, she did. I’m still crying). Shawn might not have had as much ambition as the next guy, but he’d be a great make-out partner and person to drink all night with while sharing our deepest thoughts until he showed me some of his secret poetry.
Randy Taylor, Home Improvement
I’m going to go ahead and admit that I didn’t watch this show much, and I only did once in a while for Jonathan Taylor Thomas; I was much more into his movies like Tom and Huck (JTT’s Tom + Rachael Leigh Cook’s Becky Thatcher is still one of my all-time favorite OTPs), Man of the House, and Wild America. But middle child Randy Taylor always had the best lines, and pulled the greatest pranks. Those things combined with his boyish smile and natural charm made pulling my eyes away almost impossible. Randy Taylor would be the high-school boyfriend I’d cut class with a few times but probably outgrow by age 21.
Zack Morris, Saved by the Bell
Zack was another bad boy I probably wouldn’t have married, but more power to Kelly Kapowski for doing so because he was a pretty great catch. Among his accomplishments were being part of literally every sports team, somehow scoring a 1502 on the SATs despite never studying, and being the only kid at Bayside High School to own a cell phone. OH, and let’s not forget his ability to freeze time. If those traits along with that perfect hair and dazzling smile don’t say “Perfect Male Specimen,” I don’t know what does. Though I sympathize with Kelly’s Professor Lasky phase in the college years, because dang.
Stefan Urquelle, Family Matters
The first time I saw Steve Urkel’s alter-ego, Stefan, I did a double-take. As a very Laura Winslow-esque girl, I felt justified in doing so because the usually poised and composed Laura was also a little beside herself. Stefan was everything the annoyingly persistent Steve wasn’t: charming, suave, sophisticated, and well-dressed with a devil-may-care attitude, non-nasally voice, and the uncanny ability to stand upright. Luckily, Laura wisens up and realizes her attraction to Stefan is totally on the surface while her feelings of real love are actually for Steve (who isn’t that bad, at the end of the day, I guess). But unlike Laura, I never quite got to that point because it’s TV and I can be shallow.
Rich Halke, Step by Step
This is where I can turn in my shallow card because Rich was totally obnoxious. The best friend of J.T. Lambert who frequented the Foster/Lambert household a la Steve Hale in Full House and Roger in Sister, Sister, Rich didn’t have much going on in the brains department. However, he was extremely funny, witty, and a loyal friend – and he found love with one of the greatest feminist TV characters of the 1990s, J.T.’s stepsister Dana Foster. If you haven’t seen the episode where Rich and Dana get together, “Crazy Love,” I suggest you find and watch it ASAP. And then this, because it’s adorable. AND THEN THIS FAN-MADE VIDEO MASHUP BECAUSE WHY NOT. Television chemistry has never been so good.
Arnold; Hey, Arnold!
Confession: I never quite grew out of my animated-guy-love phase. I still kiiind of have a crush on guys like Dimitri from Anastasia and Aladdin, I won’t even lie. Also, Pocahontas was on TV last week and I may have forgotten how cute John Smith was. But as far as TV guys go, Arnold was totally crush-worthy. He had THE coolest bedroom, and not even one person disliked him because he was the sweetest guy ever. He was also super humble, really smart, and always thought of others before himself. Granted he could’ve done something about his fashion choices but hey, no one’s perfect. All I’m saying is I totally get where Helga was coming from with the whole closet-shrine thing.
(Images courtesy of ABC, CBS, The CW, NBC, and Nickelodeon, via here, here, here, here, here, here, and here)
Classic TV besties every ’90s kid obsessed over