Recently I started watching Sliders, a show from the 90’s that involves sliding into parallel universes, modified cell phones called Timers, and Jerry O’Connell with that hair-do all the boys had back then.
This show is amazing, it is so ridiculous and entertaining. I just can’t quit watching it. But then I usually find 90’s shows highly entertaining, and have watched several. Chris too loves shows from the 90’s. Granted he mostly does it to make fun of them, and be amazed at the ridiculousness that can happen. But isn’t that mostly why we watch other people live completely outside the norm lives? The ridiculousness of the Winchester brothers hunting down dead ghost heiresses, makes our lives a little less boring, and a little less ridiculous feeling.
After a run of watching 90’s television shows we came up with a list of 7 things to expect from a 90’s TV show.
1. Exaggerated Fist Fights Where the MC Takes Down Combative Trained Military
Quinn Mallory, the star of Sliders, is a really smart nerdy type who finds a way to open portals and slide to parallel universes. Whenever those universes turn out to be places with military types, like the time they slid into San Francisco and it was a huge penitentiary, or the time they slid into a world run like the Hunger Games, or the time etc etc, he ALWAYS overpowers the military with his bad (just bad, not badass) fist fighting. It is such fun to watch. I never have to be anxious that he will win over the bad guys (even if they are better trained at fighting) because he will always win.
Similarly, in the X-Files, Mulder always wins his fights with his fists even though he carries a gun. It is truly bizarre if you take the time to review the early episodes how many times Mulder looses his gun. Only every single episode. Even the show lampshades how many times he looses it. In the episode, Nisei, he once again has his gun knocked out of his hand. But wait! He has a back up piece in an ankle holster. “I get tired of losing my gun.” He explains.
No matter their non-combative background or their military trained opponent, a 90’s television MC will always win, and usually by fist fighting.
2. Cars that Spontaneously Explode
Every show from the X-Files to Walker Texas Ranger has massive car explosions. 90’s action television shows are obsessed with car explosions, a hold over from television in the 80’s. Often a car will tip over and then suddenly explode, seemingly for no reason that can be explained with any kind of real laws of physics.
3. Unrequited Love
You can’t have a 90’s show without unrequited love. While some of those ‘ships may eventually hook up, it is usually for a moment and doesn’t normally last. Or if it does go for a season, it is only because there have been a billion episodes where nothing except sidelong glances happens.
In Sliders it is obvious that Wade has a thing for Quinn, but he is not as much into her. Well, then again maybe he is. In fact, in one parallel world they are an item. A dysfunctional item, but an item nonetheless.
Buffy and Angel. Need I say more?
Or how about John and Aeryn on Farscape? They finally, finally get together, and then….. atomic bomb.
You can’t have a 90’s TV show without unrequited love.
4. Primitive CG
I mean this is kind of a Homer “Doh” moment, because of course the CG is primitive, it was in the primitive stages of being used. But in watching them now, it is really apparent how early in the game CG was at the time.
Take for example when the Mayor becomes a supernatural creature at Buffy’s graduation. It doesn’t even look like the creature is really there. Just imposed on top of the scene.
But primitive CG is never more apparent then when being used to create primitive creatures.
5. Dramatic Camera Shots of Chins
6. Floppy Disks in the Future
I find it fascinating how people thought technology would develop verses how it actually developed. The internet was just starting to be a thing. While Wade and Quinn do have some hacking abilities, as they are both the nerdy type, the concept of using the cloud to store information rather than floppy disks, or really tiny CDs, was not even a thought.
Of course the argument can be made that they do not slide into future worlds, but rather parallel universes and so technology doesn’t develop similarly to our own. And I get it, yes, that’s the answer that lets you suspend your disbelief, but if it looks futuristic and acts futuristic, it is still jarring that the technology used does not conform to future technology.
Plus floppy disks? Who has those anyway? …. Oh wait. I actually have a few stashed right here. ::coughcough:: Why do I have these?
7. Lack of Internal Continuity
In the X-Files, Scully never, never, remembers what happened before. She does not remember all the weird and wonderful things she and Mulder have come across. Every episode she comes back as a die hard skeptic. How does this make sense? She is a smart woman yet one who doesn’t learn from the past to inform her future. This doesn’t even make sense. The lack of internal continuity is baffling.
In Sliders, supposedly the Timer opens a certain size portal that can only transport a certain number of people. So, even though they may want to they can’t take people from other universes with them into the next. Yet, in the very next episode they offer to take someone with them through the portal. What? And a few episodes later they do! This. Just. What?
The lack of internal continuity bugs me the most about 90’s television. But I will keep watching 90’s TV, because the concepts, the characters, and the stories are more than the tropes. Aeryn, Scully, and Maggie are some of the best female badasses ever. They can handle guns, aren’t afraid of confrontation (unless it is about their feelings), and written to be more than a female trope characters. 90’s television has a place because of the lessons it teaches us, about ourselves and the world around us.
Plus, it is highly amusing to make fun of them.
Bonus Trope: Mark A Sheppard will make a guest appearance at some point
Sometimes he will have bleeding eyes and purple hair
Sometimes he will have psychokinetic abilities
Sometimes he will have ridges on his head
Those a just a few 90’s tropes that we’ve noted in our TV watching. What other 90s tropes can you think of?