Nicole Valdes
May 14, 2015 11:34 am

The ’90s and the early aughts were great time for TV, but there are some shows get all the love:Lizzie McGuire, Hey Arnold and the like, on down to The Adventures of Pete and Pete or Degrassi. Great shows. All of them. But there were some other really under-appreciated TV gems that don’t get mentioned as often.It’s time to get nostalgic, really nostalgic, and go back to the shows you’ve definitely forgotten all about.

American Dreams

Before there was Pitch Perfect, and before there was Parenthood, our girls, Britney Snow and Sarah Ramos got their big break on the NBC family drama, American Dreams. The show followed the Pryor family as they made their way through the early sixties. Think Mad Men except with much less alcohol, and way more PG teen drama.

This show was awesome for plenty of different reasons. First, the Pryor family had four kids and three of them were already teenagers by season one, so it was like watching four vastly different coming of age stories, along with the sub-plots of their friends, boyfriends—you get it. The show also rocked because Meg Pryor (Snow), the show’s main character, danced on American Bandstand. Big names like Usher and Hilary Duff came on to play pop stars of the time. Finally, it dealt with all social and political issues of the time. The pilot episode alone depicted the family’s reaction to the JFK assassination. I also vaguely remember an appearance by everyone’s favorite bad boy, Milo Ventimiglia. Unfortunately, American Dreams only lasted 3 seasons, which may explain why my memories of it are a little fuzzy, but if you remember this show, please tell me I’m not alone in loving it.

State Of Grace

Way back in the day, when ABC Family was FOX Family, you would have spotted me in front of the TV watching Mae Whitman and Alia Shawkat BFF-ing it up on the short lived but excellent show State of Grace. This PRIME comedy was about Hannah, an introverted Jewish girl, who meets her extroverted equivalent, Grace, when her family moves to a new town and sends to her to an all-girls Catholic school. Narrated by the wonderful and fabulous (and did I mention wonderful?) Frances McDormand, this show had all the makings for greatness. Like American Dreams, it was set in the ’60s, but with a lot more comedy, honest commentary, and two female leads. Alas, State of Grace only lasted two seasons, although every time I hear The Lovin Spoonful’s Do You Believe In Magic it takes me right back.

Pepper Ann

Pepper Ann was a cartoon that lasted through the late ’90s. It was about an awkward red-headed teen who had to deal with all the growing pains that come with middle school, tween-hood, and having an awesome-but-sometimes-embarrassing feminist mother and aunt duo raise you. Pepper Ann had two best friends that included Milo, who was their middle school’s resident wise dude and artist, and Nicky a soft-spoken violinist.

The creators of the cartoon wanted it to be a different kind of TV show with strong female characters, who were smart, funny, and one of a kind. Pepper Ann also happened to be voiced by Kathleen Wilhoite of Gilmore Girls fame (yes, Jess’s mom, and Luke’s sister). This show spoke to you if you were the type of girl who was way too cool for seventh grade and one in a million, just like Pepper Ann.

Instant Star

Degrassi is the anchor show that’s talked about when it comes to discussing Canadian television in the States. Some of you who watched it from the beginning might remember some of the other TV shows on The N (Teen Nick used to be called The N and it was amazing. They only played Canadian teen dramas. Think of 4E from the UK mixed with Nickelodeon of today). When American Idol was first making it’s way onto our TVs, so was Instant Star. It was a show about Jude, a teenager who writes a hit song that wins her a record deal.

She grapples with fame, a love triangle (team Jamie!), and coming into her own as an artist. You might remember this show because of the original music. Alexz Johnson, who played Jude, had a beautiful singing voice (still does! Since Instant Star’s demise, she’s continued on with a prolific music career) and the songs she sang on the show were always good. You might also remember it because her dorky, best friend, Jamie, played an important role in your coming of age. Either way, Instant Star was some quality teen drama.

So Weird

 So Weird was filmed in Canada and premiered on the Disney Channel in 1999. The first two seasons featured Fiona “Fi” Phillips who ran a website where she wrote about all the freaky paranormal stuff that she encountered while touring with her mom (played by McKenzie Phillips). Fi, along with her brother and some friends, which included early aughts teen heartthrob Erik von Detten, came across some pretty intense stuff that covered much more than just ghouls and goblins. So Weird was different from any Disney Channel show to date, often being compared to The X-Files, with some seriously dark subject matter. By season 3, Fi couldn’t hack all the weirdness and was sent to away to live with her aunt. Annie, played by Instant Star’s Alexz Johnson, took her supernatural place. By the third season, the show took on a lighter tone that audiences, despite being a bunch of Disney Channel watching kids, did not like. So Weird was cancelled soon after (and may it rest in all its weirdness).

The Weekenders

I present you another totally awesome Disney TV show that ended way too soon. The Weekenders featured Bahia Bay, California BFFs, Tino, Lor, Carver, and Tish (does the always-changing pizza place count as a character? No? Okay). This cool cartoon made its mark on kids TV history because most of the character’s problems occurred outside of school and on the weekend, hence the name. Also, the characters were the absolute best. Tino was known for being very sensitive and for his Zack Morris-like breaking of the fourth wall. Lor was known for being a cool girl who never knew how many brothers she had, Tish for her super big brain, and Carver for his terrible penmanship. These kids were also pretty smart and insightful for only being twelve years old. Unfortunately, we only got to see these wise-beyond-their-years weekenders for four seasons. Why? No one knows, so in the words of Tino, later days!


 At thirteen, Sharon Spitz seemed to have it all. She had a pair of cool best friends, Alden Jones as her date to the dance, and a set of radioactive braces that caused a host of problems in her life. This cartoon comedy of errors aired on ABC Family and is one that I still miss today. You might recall Braceface for it’s memorable theme song, (which is going off in my head right now… Braceface/My life is complicated…). You might remember it for Alicia Silverstone who was the show’s producer and who voiced the Braceface herself, Sharon Spitz. Or you might remember Braceface for all the cringe-worthy shenanigans that Sharon somehow got involved. Braceface only lasted three seasons, but boy, was there plenty of awkwardness to go around.

Caitlin’s Way

If you were a bitter, angry teenage photographer, then this show was for you. Caitlin was an orphaned teenager who unafraid of anything, including green highlights and baggy pants. She gets sent away from the big city to move to the middle of nowhere with her cousin, a veterinarian from Montana who has a nerdy, yet outdoorsy, teenage son, and a helicopter cop of a husband. Being a rough around the edges sassy teen Caitlin wasn’t exactly welcomed to the community right away and was instantly branded as a misfit. The quippy comebacks were great, the plot line was great, and Caitlin’s best friend/horse, Bandit, was great. Also, can we talk about the theme song? Caitlin’s Way lasted a total of three seasons on Nickelodeon and the world has never been the same since.

(Photos via, via, via, via, via,)