Sitcoms are making a long overdue resurgence these days, a throwback to 1996, when shows like Seinfeld, Friends, Home Improvement, Grace Under Fire and Drew Carey ruled the airwaves.
Seinfeld was having a banner year in which we saw Jerry dating a woman with “man hands,” George becoming the boss’s (George Steinbrenner) pet after sharing an eggplant calzone with him, and Elaine befriending a new group of guys in the “Bizarro Jerry” episode of the series.
Friends saw on-again/off-again couple Ross and Rachel going through a rough patch after Ross slept with the girl from the copy shop.  Ross, if you’re listening, I’m with you….you were on a break!
What always baffled me about Home Improvement was the fact that the neighbor, Wilson, was supposed to be an enigma simply because his mouth was obscured.  If I can still pick the guy out of a lineup, it’s not that big of a mystery.
Despite its comedy megahits Seinfeld, Friends and Frasier, NBC truly stretched the believability of its “Must See TV” moniker with its other filler comedies.  The Single Guy was stumbling through its three-year run, and Caroline in the City was blandly showcasing the hilarity of the greeting card world.  Suddenly Susan made its debut in 1996, and while I’ve always liked Brooke Shields, this show was snooze-worthy for me.  While I’m a big fan of hers now, I absolutely detested Kathy Griffin on it.  I much preferred fellow redhead Vicki Lewis over on Newsradio, a hilarious but underappreciated sendup of fictional NY radio station WNYX starring Dave Foley, Maura Tierney, and the late, great Phil Hartman.
Before her tenure on Wisteria Lane, Marcia Cross was blowing things up (literally) on Melrose PlaceDr. Kimberly Shaw remains one of my favorite characters ever on television, and 1996 found her displaying multiple personalities, among other things.  Only Marcia Cross could believably portray Betsy, an uptight, Tupperware-toting housewife and Rita, a fast-talking biker in the span of a few minutes.
Already onto its college years, the gang on Beverly Hills, 90210 was still going strong in 1996.  In one of the show’s more memorable moments, Donna’s boyfriend Ray (Jamie Walters) famously “pushed” her down the stairs.  In case you missed it or want to relive, here’s that clip:

Over on Party of Five, the Salingers were dealing with the aftermath of Charlie (Matthew Fox) leaving lovable nanny Kirsten (Paula Devicq) at the altar.  Fun fact: despite playing Fox’s love interest in the show, actress Devicq was actually dating and living with co-star Scott Wolf for some time during the show.  (The couple eventually split.)
In the cable world, I spent many a Saturday night enjoying the “SNICK” lineup on Nickelodeon.  The Secret World of Alex Mack had us wrapped up in the mystery behind an ordinary girl who suddenly has supernatural powers after a near-collision with a truck from her local power plant.  Long before he was trying (and failing) to make audiences laugh on Saturday Night Live, Kenan Thompson was one of the stars of All That, a very funny sketch comedy series.  Good Burger, the Loud Librarian, Everyday Information…..all classic sketches that make me smile just thinking of them.
Thanks for the memories, 1996.  Happy Flashback Friday, all!


Josh Kossack is a writer based in Los Angeles, California. When he isn't cruising around with his convertible top down or reading to the blind, he can be found putting Sriracha on pretty much everything under the sun.

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