These ’90s Sitcoms Were Actually Better Than ‘Friends’

It seems the 1990s now have as much nostalgia to them as America once gave the 1950s back in the 1970s and ’80s. This makes sense considering the ’90s seemed to be the last golden era for a lot of things. Some might suggest TV had a last gilded age, at least for the sitcom. While we’ve seen exceptions since, many great sitcoms were going in this era before the genre seemed to fall flat.

The general consensus seems to say Friends was the greatest sitcom of the ’90s. We beg to differ if you look back at what was available then. Here’s a look at sitcoms with often equal or better writing than Friends.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air’

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air | NBC

The influence of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-1997) is still being felt today, 22 years after leaving first-run. This show may represent the 1990s better than any other, though also ahead of its time in how it inspired memes in the social media era.

You can’t be on Twitter without seeing Alfonso Rebeiro’s Carlton Banks dance gif attached to something. Also, a lot of catchphrases from the show still permeate in those same social circles.

Thanks to the charisma of Will Smith and a cast of characters that had pitch-perfect repartee, it’s a little overdue for a deep-dive comedy analysis. It managed to co-exist with Friends for a time without being tossed aside in the ratings.

There isn’t any chance for a revival based on the feelings of most of the cast members. Yet, the reruns still hold up, and Netflix is even bringing them back without the expensive price tag Friends had.

‘Mad About You’

Far too many of us forgot how funny and observant Mad About You was during its 1992-1999 run. Starring Paul Reiser, Helen Hunt, it had more to say about relationships than Friends could muster. Regardless, it seems most people turn to the quote grab bag of Friends when searching out sitcoms dealing with relationship problems.

Reiser and Hunt became so popular on the show that they commanded $1 million per episode in the late ’90s. Talk has certainly gone around about a revival, and it may still happen later this year.

Hopefully the perfect chemistry between Reiser and Hunt will pick up where it left off if the reboot goes forward. Oddly, this often resumes well with other rebooted shows.

‘Frasier’

Those of you who liked more frothy and sophisticated dialogue to your sitcoms likely found Frasier a classier counterpart to Friends. They co-existed almost simultaneously on NBC for close to a decade. Writing on Frasier was also leagues ahead of what Friends could accomplish, though it was all in the eye of the beholder (or, uh, demographic).

Just go back and watch one episode of Frasier in syndication or through a streaming service and not think to yourself how crisp and stage-worthy the dialogue was. There wasn’t any sitcom like it and even bested its original offshoot, Cheers. No wonder it won multiple dozens of Emmys.

Talk of a reboot is ongoing. Still, it seems impossible without the late John Mahoney.

‘Wings’

Maybe it’s too easy to include 1990s-era Murphy Brown at the end of this list since we know how great of an ensemble they were (with a successful recent reboot as well). Instead, we included Wings, mainly because it’s been somewhat forgotten in how smart of a group of comedic actors it had.

You could have called it Friends at a Nantucket airport, outside of Wings starting four years before the former began.

Relationships were a big part of this well, not including examining how people get along when working in one small environment for years. In that regard, it gave a head-start to sitcoms like The Office.

Steven Weber, Tim Daly, Crystal Bernard, Tony Shalhoub, and Thomas Haden Church were continually hilarious in their interactions. There probably isn’t any chance of a reboot, but it showed some of the best sitcoms of the ’90s were direct offshoots from Cheers as this (more or less) was.

Now we’ll have to wait and see if we look back at 2000s/2010s sitcoms in the same nostalgic light. When we do, it may be all about The Big Bang Theory marathons on cable or streaming.