Influence of Classic Television on Pop Culture of the 1990s


The 1990s is considered the last decade of the classic television era. It was one decade where things were quite mixed which created a major impact on pop culture as well. In the beginning of the 1990s, pop culture was more towards the classic side. Towards the end of the 1990s, the influence of technology started to become apparent in pop culture. Here is an overview of how classic television made an impact on pop culture during the 1990s.

How Television Impacted Pop Culture During the 1990s?


The term multiculturalism refers to the adaptability towards different types of cultures. With respect to television, the awareness regarding multiple cultures was spread through different types of tv shows. This decade showed that there is a persistent rise towards cultures that were not generally having acceptability in society. “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” was a show released in 1997 and was considered among the first shows ever to feature a lesbian couple. 

Many cultures, by the 1990s, were not addressing issues being faced by the teenagers rather they were more focused on the issues being faced by adults while the teenagers were supposed to “adjust and compromise”. However, during the 1990s, there were shows like “My So-Called Life” which were focused particularly on teenage problems. It seriously considered the worries and problems being faced by a teenager. 

Teenage problems were given a focus on television shows during the 1990s.

Other such multicultural aspects of life such as working women and how they go about in their lives were also not being highlighted in the earlier times. During the 1990s, shows like Roseanne were successful and were based on the life of a working woman. We can interpret that television had major implications towards the pop culture of the 1990s because there were different types of stereotypes that were broken while newer culture was being induced among the people. What we see in the post-2000 era, the base of it was already being developed with such tv serials during the 1990s. 

Sexual Harassment Visualized

Besides the typical shows which have love stories, romance, and emotions, there was this one show called Felicity which was just way beyond the basic love and romance rather it showed up a critical aspect of the sexual aspect. Although the viewers initially thought of it as just another college show, the story had various twists and challenges which not only made it interesting, it received several Emmy Awards. 

Time Magazine has rated the show among the list of 100 best shows of All-times. The main reason for this is that the story clearly showed up a case of sexual assault which was considered as a breakthrough as rape was being shown over television. The series starred Keri Russell, Scott Speedman, Amy Jo Johnson, and Tangi Miller as well. Following this show, there were several others too that presented sexual harassment as an important topic.

Logo of Felicity.

Read more about fashion trends of the 90s here – Most Popular Fashion Trends by the Decade (1900s – 1990s)

The Arrival of Medical Dramas

Medicine was not considered a field that could be used for making great serials and shows. However, it was the decade of the 1990s which proved things to become quite different. As a matter of fact, due to the arrival of medical dramas in the 1990s, people became more conscious about their health as well as it gave awareness on various health aspects too. Some people also believe that this is one way in which the students got their motivation for pursuing the field of medicine as a full-time career. 

While some of these shows got really popular such as ER which was aired between 1994 and 2009. There were others as well that didn’t get the same response and viewership, such as Chicago Hope, which was aired between 1994 and 2000. Due to the medical dramas, there was a major impact on pop culture as it was a relatively newer thing being shown on television. Therefore, many people were interested in watching it. 

Simultaneously, it created a new audience for people who were particularly interested in watching medical shows. This is one reason why the popular culture of the 2000s and 2010s was also directed towards airing medical shows. 

Chicago Hope was a medical drama that aired between 1994 and 2004.

The Simpsons

One of the main ways through which classic television impacted the pop culture of the 1990s was the show called The Simpsons. Although it started in 1989, it got awareness and popularity during the 1990s and became one of the top shows of all time. The Simpsons was a show for adults and was based on the comedy genre. It was created by Matt Groening and was a show with animated characters. 

It provided a hilarious concept of how Americans go by with their everyday life as well as the cultural perspectives, society, and television as well. The Simpsons was one of the biggest impacts on pop culture because there were several video games, comic books, films, shows, and musical albums which were based on The Simpsons. This made The Simpsons million-dollar merchandise. A total of 750 episodes of the show aired in 28 seasons and the show continues as well. 

But this isn’t it. The Simpsons negatively impacted pop culture too. Either a coincidence or a planned conspiracy, The Simpsons has been known as one show which predicted what was about to happen in the future. From the 9/11 terrorist attacks to the Presidency of Donald Trump, The Simpsons seemed to have known it all from a while back as they showed these elements in their shows for a long time. 

The Simpsons family has been one of the most-watched shows globally.

The Era of Reality Television

For the first time, reality television started to get attention. It was the decade of the 1990s when many reality tv shows were on-air. Many experts believe that reality tv became a genre of its own during the 1990s when the show The Real World was on air between 1992 and 2017. The show was based on 7 – 8 adults who were supposed to live temporarily in a new city in one residence and would be filmed non-stop. 

It became a major influence on pop culture as it attracted the audience right away. It wasn’t quite a straightforward show rather it showed how contestants were fighting, involving in issues, as well as topics related to sex, religion, abortion, illness, politics, drugs, and substance abuse were highlighted. Although this wasn’t a good thing for the show as it got a reputation for immaturity, it was still quite famous. 

Since the 1990s was an era of reality television and people were quite attracted to it, there were two other reality shows as well which got started in this decade. This includes Road Rules which started in 1995 and lasted 14 seasons as well as “The Challenge” which started in 1998 and is still on-air. 

Suggested Reading – Hairstyles That Trended in the 1990s

Logo of the reality show, The Real World. 

Friends TV Show

One of the best things of the 1990s was when the famous TV sitcom named Friends started. Friends has been such a popular show that it has been famous even 30 years after its first episode. The show was aired between 1994 and 2004 with ten seasons and starred Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, and Mathew Perry as well. The show belonged to the comedy genre and got famous for several reasons. 

Friends was famous because it revolved around the lives of six friends aged 20s and 30s. This was the era when people aged 20s and 30s were finally being involved in television shows. As a result, massive viewership was seen for the show. Presenting the everyday life situations with comedy as well as some serious aspects, the show really did well globally. Even after two decades, the show’s popularity had still been high which is why the stars got back on HBO Max on 7th May 2021 for a reunion special episode. 

You may also read our post about the top television stars of the 90s.

Friends Cast from Season 1. 


The 1990s has been one decade that set a pathway for the 2000s and post-2000 era. The multicultural aspect, which was introduced in the 1990s, was highly popular in the 21st century. Similarly, other aspects such as dark topics also got popular in the 21st century. It can be rightfully said that television in the 1990s did not only impact the pop culture of this decade but also influenced the upcoming decades with regards to television. 

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