12 Cancelled 90s TV Shows That Need A Netflix Revival

10 minute read

By Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)

Unless you’ve been living under a rock without a Wi-Fi signal for the past few years, you’ve probably noticed that it’s nearly impossible to escape some form of 90s nostalgia on the internet. The decade of grunge, slap bracelets and Nintendo 64 is now long enough in the past to hit your average 30-year-old with a pang of nostalgia anytime you say the phrase “Only 90s Kids Will Remember …” Of course, TV producers have picked up on this and have started reviving series from the 90s and 2000s left and right. Netflix has been a leading force in the revival game for some time, with series such as Arrested Development, Gilmore Girls, and Full(er) House all getting second shots at life from the streaming giant and this trend looks like it isn’t going away anytime soon. Whether because they were canceled too soon or the time just feels right to bring them back, we’d support the idea of Netflix giving any of the following 90s TV shows a new lease on life.

12. Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000)

It’s difficult to say whether or not a Freaks and Geeks revival would even be a good idea at this point. On the one hand, Paul Feig and Judd Apatow’s beloved high school drama was taken off the air much too soon, with only 18 episodes produced during its first and only season, which ran from 1999-2000; three of which never even aired on NBC (fans had to wait until the following fall season to see those episodes on the Fox Family network). But as painful as it was to see the plug pulled on such a fantastic series, the season we did get was pretty much perfect and a revival could very well tarnish the legacy of Freaks and Geeks. The only way we’d want to see this happen is if Netflix could round up the entire principal cast – Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Seth Rogen et al — and find a way to tell new stories with these characters that feel essential, rather than just trying to cash in on one of the most beloved cult TV shows ever made.

Source: Screenshot via NBC

11. My So-Called Life (1994-1995)

One of the most fondly remembered cult series of the 90s, My So-Called Life only lasted one season but managed to make a major impact on the television landscape by being one of the most authentic teen dramas to ever make it to air. Following Angela Chase (Claire Danes) and her circle of friends as they navigate the trials and tribulations of high school, My So-Called Life captured the angst and uncertainty of teen lives in ways very few high school-set shows had even attempted. This is definitely one of those cases in which we’re 99% sure a revival would never happen, given how much time has passed since the show aired and how much Danes and co-star Jared Leto’s careers have taken off in the ensuing years, but finding out where Angela, Jordan Catalano, and the rest of the Liberty High gang ended up in adulthood would surely be a Netflix binge for the ages.

Source: Screenshot via ABC

10. 3rd Rock From The Sun (1996-2001)

Arguably one of the funniest comedies of the 90s, 3rd Rock from the Sun had both a great premise – a group of friendly aliens disguise themselves as aliens in order to study the earth and its inhabitants – and a fantastic ensemble in John Lithgow, Kristen Johnston, French Stewart, and a young Joseph Gordon-Levitt. We could definitely imagine a scenario in which the cast reunited for even for just a one-off special and it would be worth watching. The only real hurdle is the fact that John Lithgow’s career has only gotten more diverse in the decades since 3rd Rock wrapped and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s has skyrocketed since his child actor days. While both actors seem like the type who would be totally game for a revival, it’s unclear if they would have any time in their busy schedules for such an occasion. Still, if the stars align and an attempt is made, we’d certainly tune in to see what the Soloman “family” has learned about earth since the show went off the air in the early 2000s.

Source: Screenshot via NBC

9. Northern Exposure (1990-95)

A comedy-drama series that ran for six seasons on CBS from 1990 to 1995, Northern Exposure follows a young New York City physician (Rob Morrow) who unexpectedly finds himself reassigned to Cicely, Alaska and deals with his fish out of water experience as he tries to adjust to small-town life. Even today, there have been few medical shows quite like Northern Exposure, which won multiple Emmy awards over the course of its run on the back of its honest approach to Alaskan life, well-written characters, and balancing of its dramatic and comedic elements.

Unlike a fair number of shows on this list, a Northern Exposure revival is a distinct possibility. Various members of the cast have voiced interest in coming back and Darren Burrows, who played Ed Chigliak on the show, went as far as holding a crowdfunding campaign in 2016 and subsequently hired Northern Exposure writer David Assael to write the revival. Last we heard, a 10-episode season was being shopped around to various networks, so hopefully, Netflix is the one to pick it up.

8. Spin City (1996-2002)

A sitcom following the hilarious hijinks of the Deputy Mayor of New York’s office, Spin City essentially had two iterations over the course of its six-season run (1996-2002). Michael J. Fox was the original star, but departed in 2000 due to his on-going battle with Parkinson’s disease and Charlie Sheen was brought in to lead the series for two more seasons before its cancellation in 2002. In some ways, Spin City was a precursor to some of the best-lighthearted office comedies to come out of the 2000s, such as Parks and Recreation and, well, The Office, and its non-cynical tone could be a refreshing change of pace from the dark political shows that have blown up in recent years.

It’s hard to see Sheen being brought back, but Fox seems to have his symptoms better managed these days, as evidenced by his brief stint on the Michael J. Fox Show in 2013. Unfortunately, it’s hard to say how much interest there’d really be in reviving Spin City, but we’d love to see its all-star ensemble (featuring the likes of Carla Gugino, Connie Britton, and Alan Ruck) together again for even just a short run of new episodes on Netflix.

Source: Screenshot via ABC

7. Are You Afraid of the Dark?

Technically, Are You Afraid of the Dark? has already been revived once but considering it happened less than three years after the original run, we’d say it’s time for a proper new version of this classic Nickelodeon horror series. Including both the original series and the revival, Are You Afraid of the Dark? spanned the entire decade and featured some surprisingly good scares for ostensibly being a children’s television show. The great thing about this series is that outside of the Midnight Society – the group of teenagers who sit around a campfire and tell scary stories to each other – there was never a recurring cast for Are You Afraid of the Dark? meaning that it could be revived with relative ease. Just give us a new Midnight’s Society, a collection of fun stories, and watch those Netflix viewers roll in.

Source: Screenshot via YTV

6. Married… with Children (1987-97)

Married… with Children ran for a decade on Fox before wrapping up in 1997 and while it proved to be the network’s longest-lasting live-action sitcom, it’s true that certain elements of the show have not aged well at all. Following the dysfunctional Bundy family, Married … with Children began life as a satirical jab at the perfect families depicted in older sitcoms but ended up becoming a lowest common denominator comedy that mined laughs out of Al Bundy’s (Ed O’Neill) misogynistic attitudes towards women, with series star Katey Segal even criticizing the show in 2017, arguing that “the women were portrayed [as] completely exploited.”

That being said, a revival could still work, as it would present the opportunity to change the narrative around Married … with Children, modernizing the subject matter while also engaging with the show’s past and showing us what the Bundy clan would be up to two decades later. Plus, it would just be great to see such a talented cast, which also included Christina Applegate, together again. Perhaps Netflix will come along and finally give the green light to that spin-off centering around Bud Bundy (David Faustino) that’s been part of the rumor mill for years now.

Source: Screenshot via Fox

5. The Outer Limits (1995-2002)

Often thought of as a more science fiction-focused alternative to The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits originally ran from 1963-65 and was later rebooted by Showtime in 1995. Like The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits is an anthology series that follows new stories in each episode, but there is an underlying arc about mysterious alien forces that ties everything together. While it was reported in 2014 that Doctor Strange director Scott Derrickson was developing a feature film based on the series, nothing has yet materialized. As cool as it would be to see an Outer Limits movie, an all-new series would be much preferable and with the success, Netflix has had with similar fare like Black Mirror, the streaming service seems like the perfect home for such a reboot to happen.

Source: Screenshot via MGM

4. Ally McBeal (1997-2002)

This female-driven legal drama starred Calista Flockhart in the title role as a lawyer working at a Boston law firm and received critical praise for its eccentric mix of comedy and drama. Ally McBeal ran for five seasons on Fox before calling it quits in 2002 and was one of the first shows of its kind to heavily focus on women in the workplace (even though it also received criticism from some feminist circles for its title character’s depiction as a bad female role model who is both annoying and not very good at her job). Fortunately, these problems became less of a concern as the series progressed and with female-driven dramas being more relevant than ever – Ally McBeal creator David E. Kelley’s most recent work is the very female-focused HBO drama Big Little Lies, after all –  a new season exploring what work life is like for women in their 50s feels like something that the current television landscape needs.

It might be tough getting Robert Downey Jr. to come back though.

Source: Screenshot via Fox

3. Daria (1997-2002)

A spin-off of creator Mike Judge’s Beavis and Butt-Head, Daria ran for five seasons on MTV before coming to an end in 2002. Titular heroine Daria Morgendorffer’s deadpan sense of humor and general lack of enthusiasm for anyone and anything offered a refreshing change of pace in an era dominated by bright pop music and sugary teen dramas. Even though the series is more than 20 years old at this point, Daria herself is still as relevant as she always was, as the disaffected intellectual never truly goes out of fashion. The best part is that, as an animated series that doesn’t have to deal with issues like aging actors, Daria is perfect fodder for a reboot and indeed, its parent series Beavis and Butt-Head already received a revival back in 2011. Plus, female-driven television is more viable than ever, so it’s actually surprising that no one has attempted to bring it back yet. Let’s hope that Netflix takes a stab at it.

Source: Screenshot via MTV

2. Quantum Leap (1989-93)

Despite its reputation as a cult series for science fiction fans, Quantum Leap enjoyed quite a bit of mainstream success during its early 90s run and only really came to an abrupt ending because its timeslot kept getting switched around. Starring Scott Bakula as a physicist who jumps through time and temporarily takes the place of other people in order to correct historical mistakes, Quantum Leap holds up surprisingly well both as engaging sci-fi and its progressive concept. The show tackled some pretty heady material when it came to marginalized members of society, as Bakula’s Dr. Sam Beckett regularly found himself inhabiting the bodies of people much different from himself, be they people of color or a homosexual man or woman. Plus, the original series ended in such a way that would make it well-suited for a revival, as Sam chooses to continue leaping through time without a way to return home. A revival could focus on a new character (Sam’s daughter perhaps?) as they step into the doctor’s accelerator and go looking for him.

Source: Screenshot via NBC

1. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990-1996)

At this point, the possibility of a Fresh Prince reboot feels totally up in the air. While it was initially reported back in 2015 that Overlook Entertainment was bringing the show back, with star Will Smith serving as producer, Smith’s comments in 2016 that Fresh Prince would be back “pretty close to when Hell freezes over,” would suggest that this thing probably isn’t going to see the light of day. Still, we’d be remiss if we didn’t admit that even the remote possibility of a Fresh Prince revival excites us if only to hear that iconic theme song just one more time. At the same time, we can kind of see where Smith is coming from, as the original series had six successful seasons and wrapped up the majority of its storylines, so there would seemingly be little point in bringing back beyond nostalgia. However, the show’s ending left room for further stories and it’s hard not to wonder what Will, Carlton, and the rest of the Banks clan (with the exception of the late James Avery, RIP) would be up to now.

Source: Screenshot via NBC

Nick Steinberg (@Nick_Steinberg)