television

5 Shows that Defined My Young Life

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

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.

2. Friends

Friends

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

Batman: The Animated Series

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

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

Nickelodeon '90s

All those shown above, along with Pepper Ann, Recess, The Weekenders, Animaniacs, Tiny Toons, Darkwing Duck, TaleSpin, GargoylesBobby’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:

  1. 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.”
  2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Buffy would have easily been Childhood Feminist Hero #2.
  3. 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!

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A Bit More About My TV Addiction

Back in May, at the beginning of summer, I set some television-related goals for myself. For a hopeless TV addict like me, summer is the perfect time to catch up on all the shows I’ve missed or am behind on. I mean, yeah, the sunshine and flip-flops and lemonade and watermelon are all nice, but catching up on TV is the real reason I love summer.

So here’s where I come clean: I failed to watch most of the shows on my list. It was a tad bit ambitious. I did, however, manage to watch a few of them, along with some other unexpected shows that weren’t on my list at all. I allowed myself to go with the spirit of the season and be laid-back about my TV consumption, just watching whatever I felt like whenever I felt like it.

The hierarchy of new shows that I’m eagerly anticipating this fall has changed somewhat too, now that I’ve seen some upfronts and learned more about all the shows debuting this season. And by the way, can you believe it’s already September?! This is my absolute favorite time of year—fall is beginning, TV shows are premiering, and October and Halloween are just around the corner. Get excited, people!

Shows I Watched Over the Summer:

1. Bob’s Burgers — This was one of the few I managed to cross off my actual list and oh man, did I become obsessed with this show. I didn’t expect to love it as much as I do, but now I want my own pair of pink bunny ears. Bob’s Burgers invokes the early seasons of The Simpsons, back when The Simpsons was more focused on a dysfunctional family living in a working-class world than straight-up satire. The three Belcher kids are some of the best characters on TV right now: the inimitable, explosive Louise, voiced to perfection by Kristen Schaal; middle child Gene, a megaphone-wielding, keyboard-playing, often gender-confused boy who readily complies with his sisters’ many whims; and Tina, a nerdy preteen struggling with her burgeoning sexuality and all the weird ways it manifests, including a dream sequence involving two zombies making out. Comedy gold.

2. Fringe — I only have the last 13 episodes of the fifth and final season to go, and I am SO SAD. I don’t want this show to end! The best way I can think of to describe it is X-Files lite, but with parallel universes and the space-time continuum instead of aliens. I’m really going to miss the characters, who have become a family, and the slow buildup filled with twists and turns culminating in pure, unadulterated science fiction in all its glory.

3. Orange Is the New Black


I wasn’t going to watch this, but I somehow found myself watching the first episode on a lazy summer day when I had nothing else to do. Then I found myself finished a week later, wondering how I had ever planned to miss out on this brilliant show that doubles as one of the best social commentaries floating around in the pop culture universe. I could write a long dissection of the ways in which it deftly deals with race, class, and gender issues, but since I try to keep this blog on the lighter side, I’ll just point you to Ashley’s awesome writeup about it instead. She does it more eloquently than I ever could anyway.

4. Arrested Development — The Bluths are back! I tried to space these episodes out, but the downside—or maybe the upside? I haven’t yet decided—of Netflix original series are that you end up binge-watching TV for two days straight, which is exactly what I did with this show. It was a little hard to get used to the new format, in which each episode focuses on a different member of the Bluth family, but it picked up about a third of the way through and suddenly got very interesting. Each of the characters’ stories started to intersect and come together, culminating in the finale, when everything was wrapped up into a neat little package, only for it to be blown apart again in preparation for the upcoming movie. I miss those lovable goofballs again already.

5. Bunheads — I mentioned back in May that I really hoped this show didn’t get canceled, and then it got canceled. I wanted to cry. This show had so much potential, and I’m sad that the network couldn’t see that. It also made me fall in love with both Sutton Foster and ballet. I’m tempted to watch Breaking Pointe now, but I’m not much of a reality TV viewer unless it involves Gordon Ramsay, and I just don’t know if it’s worth it.

6. Whose Line Is It Anyway? — It’s back and it’s…not better than ever. I miss the audience participation, and Aisha Tyler hasn’t quite settled into her role as the host yet, but it’s still worth watching. I’m hoping Aisha’s chemistry with the rest of the cast will improve as time goes on. The cast themselves—Colin, Ryan, and Wayne—are just as hilarious and fun to watch as always. This new iteration of Whose Line may not entirely live up to its glory days, but the simple fact that it’s back in any shape at all is more than I could have asked for.

7. Warehouse 13 — I started watching this on a whim, kind of like Orange Is the New Black, and fell in love. I have a tendency to devour every sci-fi offering I can get my hands on, and this is the latest in that vein. It’s very much a feel-good, warm fuzzies show being lighthearted and humorous more often than not, and the interactions between the core group of characters are playful and easygoing. I’m only on season 2, so I don’t know how things are going to develop, but I love it. I plan on watching its sister show, Eureka, next.

Those are the major players. I’ve also been binge-watching old Saturday Night Live episodes on Netflix and catching up with Drunk History on Comedy Central, which is just as amazing as you’d expect. Until next time, happy TV premiere season and happy friggin’ fall!