I originally titled this “5 Shows That Defined My Childhood” but then realized I wasn’t exactly a child when I watched Friends. I was a pre-teen when I started watching—and some of the sex jokes went right over my head—and a “young adult” by the time the show ended. I can’t leave Friends out, though, because it was majorly life-defining for me. Dilemma! I decided to go with “5 Shows That Defined My Young Life,” but if we’re including the entire spectrum of my childhood through my teenage years, then this list probably only scratches the surface.
1. Boy Meets World
How it defined me: Aside from still harboring a secret love of floppy ’90s hair thanks in part to this show, Boy Meets World also gave me a deeply embedded love for well-developed TV romances. Cory and Topanga were my first OTP. For me, they were the precursor to Jim and Pam, Ross and Rachel, and Ben and Leslie. Cory+Topanga is the subconscious standard by which I measure all relationships, including my own.
How it defined me: Just as Boy Meets World is the standard by which I judge relationships, Friends is the standard by which I judge friendships. If you can’t eat a cheesecake on the floor with someone, then you’re not really friends in my book.
My sister and I were obsessed with this show for practically half our lives. My parents bought us every season on DVD as joint Christmas presents, and when we both moved out and had to decide who got the entire collection, it was heartbreaking. If only my parents had known the mental anguish they were going to cause, they surely would’ve bought us each our own copies. (Ultimately, my sister got Friends and I got our special edition Lord of the Rings box set. I think this means I’m the bigger nerd.)
I’ve seen most episodes more than I can count. I’m constantly being reminded of something that happened in Friends and can usually pinpoint the episode. Upon reflection, it might get a teensy bit annoying to the people around me, but I can’t help it! Friends occupies a very large chunk of my brain!
3. Batman: The Animated Series and Pokémon
How they defined me: I’m lumping these together because they influenced me in the same way, which is to say that they both reinforced my nerd cred. When I was a kid, I would come home from school, throw my backpack in my room, grab a snack, and then watch these shows, every day without fail. They were part of my routine, and I still get nostalgic whenever I see Harley Quinn or Pikachu. Most of what I know about Batman and Pokémon comes from their respective animated series. Mark Hamil’s Joker and Team Rocket will always be my favorites.
4. Sabrina the Teenage Witch
How it defined me: Basically, I still want to a be a witch. Looking back now, I’ve realized Sabrina was my childhood feminist hero. Not only was she a strong female lead, but she also had two female mentors with complete agency over their lives. The men on the show, including Sabrina’s boyfriend Harvey, were all secondary characters whose plotlines were subject to the witches’ stories. Plus, it was nice to see a show featuring a mostly female cast and not-so-“conventional” family airing in the family-oriented TGIF timeslot.
5. Various Other Assorted Cartoons
All those shown above, along with Pepper Ann, Recess, The Weekenders, Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, Gargoyles, Bobby’s World, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Garfield and Friends, AND EVEN MORE.
How they defined me: These shows collectively helped define me as a perpetually nostalgic ’90s kid-at-heart. We Millennials were nurtured by a unique period of history when technology was rapidly advancing before our eyes. We embraced it in the form of Game Boys and clunky PCs while still holding tight to our skateboards and bicycles and treehouses. And we all still want to be kids, because the ’90s were the heyday of kid-dom, the best time in history to be young and carefree.
Bonus! 3 TV Shows I Wish Had Defined My Childhood But That I Didn’t Watch Until I Was an Adult:
- The Simpsons – I’m sad I missed out on so many opportunities to annoy the crap out of people by telling them to “eat my shorts.”
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Buffy would have easily been Childhood Feminist Hero #2.
- Xena: Warrior Princess – Childhood Feminist Hero #3. Actually, I did watch this as a kid and distinctly remember being fascinated, but I only caught a few episodes. I remember it airing during the afternoon on Sundays, and since that was the weekend and it was still light outside, I was usually off pretending to be a heroine instead of watching one on TV. I didn’t watch the entire series until I was in my early twenties and binged it on Netflix, and now Xena is Adult Feminist Hero #1.
What are some of your favorite childhood shows? Let’s be nostalgic together!