As a kid who wasn’t allowed to watch television during the week, I have very vivid memories of the time before Netflix took over the world.
Every Friday afternoon, my mom would pick my sister and me up from school and beeline for the nearest Blockbuster (RIP), where each of us would get to pick out two forms of entertainment. The best was when we could rent an entire season of a show on DVD: We’d wake up at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning, park our little pajama’ed butts on the couch, and sit there until we’d watched the entire thing. Obviously, we were early adopters to the binge watching phenomenon.
Of course, the fact that I wasn’t allowed to watch TV during the week meant that I missed out on a lot of formative television-watching. Teen dramas that explored sex, drug use, and general bad behavior were definitely boycotted by my mother, meaning I had to sneak over to a friend’s house to catch an episode or simply hear the recap at school the next day.
So when I discovered Netflix had some of my favorite “wish-I-could-watch-that” TV shows available, I knew I had to catch up on everything I’d missed almost 15 years ago. Don’t worry, I did the heavy lifting for you. Keep scrolling to see which old school TV shows are worth revisiting—and which ones you should definitely keep in your mind as nostalgia.
My first stop on the teen drama train. Felicity was the star vehicle for Keri Russell (you now probably watch her on The Americans) and was actually created by J.J. Abrahams. Yeah, the guy who directed Lost and Star Trek got his start on a show about a shy teenage girl who moves to New York for college to follow her high school crush.
With fresh, adult-ish eyes, Felicity’s behavior is legit crazy—she turns down going to Stanford to follow a guy who has no idea she exists all the way across the country for college. COLLEGE! That’s four years of your life! Felicity also doesn’t keep a diary—too basic, I guess—and instead sends audio recording tapes to her friend Sally, who’s quite a bit older and is supposed to be wiser. Details like this really age the show (lol, tapes.), and Felicity definitely has some questionable moments in the series, but all in all it’s only four seasons and totally worth your time to see young Keri Russell, Scott Foley, Scott Speedman, and Greg Grunberg in action.
One thing I learned by watching all of these shows? You can get away with having a totally implausible premise as long as you’ve got some serious drama every episode. Party of Five is an excellent example of a show that has multiple, “WTF?” moments during every single episode. We’re introduced to the five Salinger siblings a month after their parents’ tragic hit-and-run deaths. The siblings’ ages range from 24-years-old to one-year-old, and the older kids decide to become legal guardians for the younger children, while they all live in the same house. Drama obviously ensues, including but not limited to crazy boyfriend and girlfriend relationships, substance abuse issues, money problems, a kitchen fire, TWO canceled weddings, a few surprise pregnancies, and one divorce.
Honestly, it’s totally binge-worthy and you’ll love it. Watch ASAP.
Have you ever had the experience where you run into someone from high school who you used to think was so freaking cool, and when you actually talk to them you realize they’re kind of lame? One Tree Hill is the equivalent of that former cool kid.
Chad Michael Murray—who was the heartthrob of the early aughts—legit looks like a child. And the outfits that “hotties” Peyton and Brooke wear are sooooo cringe-worthy it’s actually funny. Sadly, the writing doesn’t age too well, either. That being said, it’s kind of entertaining to have on in the background while you’re doing housework … otherwise, skip it.
Gilmore Girls can do no wrong. Re-watching this series will honestly make you love it even more … so much so that you might feel personally offended by the recent Netflix re-boot. Don’t let the new Gilmore Girls dampen your love—the old show is still transcendent.
For most of us, Twin Peaks wasn’t something we could experience untill it was released on Netflix. Yes, it’s pretty weird. But I’d say it’s worth your time to watch. Created in 1990, it’s way ahead of its time on many levels.
Gossip Girl is the opposite of One Tree Hill—it was cool when it was on the air, but now it’s next-level. Yes, the outfits are a little excessive in their matchy, preppiness. But you still totally want to be best friends with Serena, date Dan, and gossip with Blair.
Honestly, Freaks and Geeks is just quality television. Sure, you’ll get a glimpse of early Busy Phillips, Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Jason Segel, and Seth Rogen in action, but the 18-episode single season about high school in the 1980s is painfully on-point.
Back where Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher’s love story first started! That 70’s Show isn’t hard to find in syndication—at one point, it was running every night—but there’s something fulfilling about watching the entire series chronologically. Is it totally mindless? Yes. Is it still super hilarious? Absolutely.
Another one of those shows that seems to always be on TNT mid-morning, Charmed was one of the first mainstream sci-fi shows to make it big. Upon re-watching, you’ll realize just how weird the plot of Charmed could be … but it seems like people were willing to buy into anything as long as three hot girls kept showing up on camera. Watch the first season, then call it quits.
It almost hurts to watch The West Wing these days. Focused around the grounded, intelligent, compassionate President Bartlett and his staff of advisors, this Aaron Sorkin drama has actually aged incredibly well. Worth the watch, for sure.
*Not listed: Buffy The Vampire Slayer and Dawson’s Creek. Sadly, both have been removed from Netflix … but if you get the chance to experience them, it’s SO worth it.