8 Once Popular Shows That Are Only Good The First Time Around
With the advent of digital streaming, many TV fans have “discovered” TV shows from the past since they’re now able to binge-watch every episode in order instead of checking out a random episode here or there in syndicated re-runs. Some old shows really hold up; Friends has been off the air for eleven years, but it’s still funny and endearing, with its dated haircuts and large cordless phones adding charm. But where Friends is a classic, other shows of its era feel impossibly dated in their dialogue, humor, social attitudes and stylistic choices. How does this happen? Here are eight shows that just haven’t been able to stand the test of time — see if you agree:
8. Full House
Okay, so Full House was probably pretty terrible to begin with (sorry you had to sit through that, mom!), but many of us loved the show as kids. In fact, nostalgia for the family with bizarre living arrangements (why in the world did Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky live in the attic when they could clearly afford a place of their own?) is so strong that Netflix is rebooting the show and will release episodes next year. But if you sit down and watch the episodes, you’ll realize how bad it is. It’s not just cheesy and unrealistic; the family sitcom has a very real mean streak. Why do the adults in the show outright bully next-door neighbor Kimmy Gibbler? Sure, she’s weird, but the show seems to glorify and support adults making fun of a child. The presence of DJ, Stephanie and Michelle’s dead mom is also treated in a creepy way, with Danny always mentioning her to manipulate his kids and make them feel guilty. How warm and fuzzy!
7. Ally McBeal
Many people were excited when the entire series of Ally McBeal was added to Netflix for streaming. But the hour-long dramedy, which aired five seasons from 1997 to 2002, is a little awkward to watch. It feels dated in a way that Friends (which aired from 1994 to 2004) somehow doesn’t. Calista Flockhart is lovely, but her character Ally is a career woman who is rendered fairly helpless by the men around her. In fact, she’s so boy crazy that she finds herself being launched into dream sequences and fantasies all the time. Some people enjoyed the goofy style, which involved weird sound effects and bordered on magical realism, but now it just feels dated and cheesy. Maybe if it had been a half-hour comedy that was upfront about being about romance (and not sort of about a woman’s career), it would make more sense now (especially that single-camera comedies have gotten so zany) — but as an hour-long show, Ally McBeal just feels off. Oh, and the music. It’s SO 90s, in a way that’s more awkward than the silly jazz riffs of Sex and the City!
6. Dawson’s Creek
I might get some flack for this one, because I know a lot of people carry a strong nostalgic love for “those Dawson’s River kids,” as the dad in 10 Things I Hate About You erroneously called them. But the show sounds absolutely ridiculous to us now. As a high-schooler, I enjoyed going to the dictionary (yes, an actual physical book — oh how things have changed) to look up the words that Joey and Dawson would use. But now, the dialogue on Dawson’s Creek sounds unrealistic and tries way, way too hard. I appreciate that young adult books and shows are more dramatic and earnestly emotional than things for adults, but I just can’t get over the dialogue. The show was also rather judgmental and slut-shamey about Jen (Michelle Williams). 1998 wasn’t exactly the 1950s — could we stop with the suppression of female sexuality? Finally, remember how Dawson was an aspiring film director who idolized Steven Spielberg? No offense to Spielberg, but have you ever met a film school nerd? Seriously.
Going back a little farther, MacGyver was a beloved classic that aired a whopping seven seasons from 1985 to 1992. I guess people really didn’t get sick of Richard Dean Anderson’s ability to dismantle a bomb with nothing but duct tape and dental floss…and any lady can admit that MacGyver is a handsome dude, made even more attractive by his confident problem-solving abilities. But if you take another look at the series, you might groan at how boring the action plots were, especially compared with action movies of the time. The show also had cheesy voice-over narration, uninspired stock bad guys, and cliched sexual tension between MacGuyver and all the women he came in contact with. Seven seasons, people? We know you didn’t have Netflix or Hulu, but how bored were you?
4. Walker, Texas Ranger
Similar to MacGuyver, Walker, Texas Ranger had an impressively long run: it aired 196 episodes over ten seasons stretching from 1993 to 2001. You might still enjoy the over-the-top, goofy masculinity of the show, which followed a martial artist and his partner as they fought crime around the state of Texas — the Chuck Norris meme became a meme for a reason, right? But did people watching the show as it aired watch it with a heavy sense of irony? I doubt it — and that’s kind of hard to imagine, given how the show is filled with silly, under-developed villains and cheap-looking fight scenes. Perhaps “campy and patriotic” was simply in style in the 1990s? One might argue that we’ve now gone too far in the other direction, favoring extremely dark shows with overly troubled antiheroes, but I’ll take Justified over Walker, Texas Ranger any day.
3. The Nanny
Remember The Nanny? The half-hour sitcom about a cosmetics saleswoman with a…unique… voice who becomes a nanny for a rich British dude (and the two end up falling in love, of course) aired from 1993 to 1999. That’s what seems so insane: at the same time that Seinfeld, Roseanne, Frasier, Friends (and for the last two years, Will & Grace) were on the air, people liked The Nanny enough to keep it on the air for six seasons. New Daily Show host Trevor Noah, who hails from South Africa, even mentioned the show as something that taught him about American culture in his recent appearance on Jerry Seinfeld’s web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Instead of breaking new ground in style or character, the show got its laughs from broad, silly stereotypes. Seriously, six seasons?
2. Gilligan’s Island
The most shocking thing about the half-hour comedy Gilligan’s Island is that it was only on the air for three seasons, from 1964 to 1967. Why do we still remember it, when it’s hard to name another show from this era? Syndication, of course — but why is THIS show a show that got to live on in repeats when others didn’t? Telling the story of a group of strangers stranded on an island, the comedy boldly features a premise that doesn’t take place in a living room, and pits together strangers instead of a family (decades before workplace comedies became the norm). Although it took some bold swings and offered a heightened, zany tone, Gilligan’s Island let its characters be simple, under-developed people. It’s oddly boring.
1. Hey, Dude
To be fair, Hey Dude was for kids — but we’ve got to include it on our list of shows that haven’t aged well, with an honorable mention to fellow Nickelodeon shows Salute Your Shorts and Are You Afraid of the Dark? If you want to continue remembering these shows with love, don’t watch them as an adult! Airing for five seasons between 1989 and 1991 (that probably means two shorter seasons a year), Hey Dude was a half-hour show followed teens working a Dude Ranch called Bar None. Like Full House, Hey Dude tried to tackle serious issues like alcoholism when it probably should have stuck to the silly antics of its peppy ranch owner, Mr. Ernst. But even its jokes seem rather groan-worthy now. Not all Nick shows look this way to us now: Clarissa Explains it All is still charming and wacky, and The Adventures of Pete and Pete is quirky and weird in the best way. But if you enjoyed Hey Dude as a kid, you might want keep it only as a memory.