The Handbook
The Handbook

The nineties and noughties were simpler times when it came to TV – we were all completely happy to wait a week for a new episode of our favourite series to drop. Then came box sets (we’re talking physical ones you had to buy from HMV) and bang! the world had changed and the binge sesh was born.

Today it seems impossible to watch just one episode of anything let alone wait a week for the next one, and no less so than during a national lockdown. If you’ve completed Netflix and exhausted everything good on Prime, delve deep into the back catalogue with our pick of the best TV shows from our youth, we’re talking 90s and 00s cult classics.

From the sitcom that changed everything to the sci-fi hit that seems hilarious now and the teen drama that launched the careers of many an A-lister, here are some shows to get stuck into that will transport you back to your youth.

Disclaimer: if you’re under 25, you might struggle with this one.

Dawson’s Creek

At the time we didn’t bat an eyelid at a bunch of 15-year-olds talking like they were doing a philosophy PHD with monologues longer than James Van der Beek’s forehead.

I’m pretty sure we didn’t have a scooby what they were all on about, but religiously tuned in to see the Pacey-Joey-Dawson love triangle and pensive moments looking into the middle distance. Don’t even get us started on that theme tune – brings back all the teenage feels.

The American teen classic launched the careers of Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams, Joshua Jackson and James Van der Beek and had teenagers all over the globe dressing like a collective Gap ad.

Watch now on All4.com

The O.C.

“Welcome to the O.C., bitch!” the phrase coined by the cult early noughties show leaves us feeling all  kinds of nostalgia. The O.C. was a breath of fresh air when it hit screens back in 2003 – it was a masterclass in how to do teen drama, showing sophisticated, cool teens who we all wanted to be. There was Marissa, the beautiful but tortured little rich girl, Summer her sassy friend who ended up falling for the geek, Seth, aforementioned geek who turned the idea of leading man on its head and Ryan, the new boy in town trying to adapt to integrate into a class sector he didn’t feel right in.

The wider cast were brilliant too, from Sandy Cohen (the dad everyone had a secret crush on) to Marissa’s mum, Julie Cooper (Queen of Resting Bitch Face).

The series went a bit downhill after season four when Marissa tragically died (sorry, spoiler alert!) but the first few seasons are well worth a revisit.

Watch now on Prime Video.

Gossip Girl

Like Sex and the City for teens, the show that kicked off Blake Lively’s career was set around a spoilt set of Upper East Side adolescents whose wardrobes were just as important as the story lines.

From Blair’s bejewelled headbands to Serena’s bodycon minis and Jenny’s rock chick evolution, every teen girl wanted to be one of them and chances are tried to emulate their wardrobe on a far more frugal budget.

Plus, a wardrobe department that called in the likes of Chanel, Burberry and Ellie Saab and interiors that made looking like a grown-up the coolest thing ever (that loft apartment!), they just don’t make them like this anymore.

XOXO

Watch now on Netflix

Friends

Friends needs no introduction, it’s probably the most successful sitcom of all time.

It’s influence knew no boundaries since it first hit TV screens in 1994, from the most requested ‘Rachel’ haircut to a generation of giant coffee drinkers – it even had an affect on the way we spoke – could it BE any more influential?

Whether you thought you were a Joey, Chandler, Ross, Monica, Phoebe or Rachel, we all waited patiently for Friday night to roll around for a mere one episode per week.

Now, thankfully, you can binge all 10 seasons on Netflix – that’s almost 90 hours’ worth of the stuff.

Watch now on Netflix.

The X Files

Way before Gillian Anderson was Otis’s impossibly chic sex therapist of a mum in Sex Education, she was solving unexplained paranormal actives with fellow FBI agent Fox Mulder, played by David Duchovny.

At the time the special FX seemed mind-blowing, now they are terrible but offer a good laugh.

Re-watch for some hilarious story lines and some that were downright disturbing, including the episode about violent inbred murders that was so chilling it was actually initially banned from TV.

The supernatural cult hit returned in 2016, reuniting the famous Mulder and Scully duo.

Watch now on Prime Video

My So Called Life

Before Claire Danes was falling in love with terrorists and Jared Leto was winning Oscars for dressing in drag opposite Matthew McConaughey, their big break came in the form of 90’s hit My So Called Life. The teen show only lasted one season, but it paved the way for grown-up teen dramas, delving into the teenage psyche and dealing with real life issues. It also inspired a generation of teens to embrace a grungy, Kurt Cobain-esque aesthetic which has come around full circle.

It’s over 25 years old now (Jared Leto is 48!) but it’s still one of the best teen dramas ever made.

Watch now on Prime Video.

Clueless

Few films epitomised 90s fashion quite like Clueless and after the success of the Alicia Silverstone, Paul Rudd and Brittany Murphy starring film, they revamped it for TV.

It was obviously not as good as the original (Uh! As if!) but it still pulled in some of the film’s big stars including Stacey Dash as Dionne and Donald Faison as Murray.

Rewatch for Cher Horowitz’s revolving wardrobe if nothing else.

Watch now on Now TV

Freaks and Geeks

Co-created by Kings of Comedy Paul Feig and Judd Apatow, Freaks and Geeks was a gateway into Hollywood for the likes of stars James Franco, Seth Rogen, Busy Phillips and Jason Segel. It appealed to anyone that felt like a bit of a misfit at school, whose classmates were cooler and wannabe girlfriends were hotter.

The show managed to gain a loyal fanbase before the world of social media came into play, building fan sites and discussing episodes in dedicated forums. Despite this, it never made it to a second season, perhaps making it all the more special.

Watch now on All4.

Skins

Channel 4 series Skins arrived on the scene like a teenage kick to the face. Before this we’d only really seen teenage life played out in American teen dramas, which at times seemed overly kitch (Clueless) or emotionally overindulgent (Dawson’s Creek). 

Skins was neither – it was raw, cool, sexy, provocative and it certainly wasn’t something you wanted to watch with your mum and dad. It also represented the generation just before the Facebook and Instagram explosion, when teens would misbehave and didn’t need to worry about it going on their Stories.

It also launched the careers of some of Hollywood’s brightest young things, from Nicholas Holt to Kaya Scodelario and Dev Patel.

Watch now on All4.