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Hulu's "90s Week" and the comfort of TV nostalgia

Hulu's 90s week.
(Image credit: Hulu)

Keeping up with every current scripted TV show is impossible in the streaming era and as someone who gets paid to write about television, I still struggle with the seemingly endless new release schedule. Even with the constant flow of original options amassing across various platforms, shows that have long since finished can be just as alluring. Cable gave rise to more choice and DVD box sets have long let viewers rewatch an old favorite or indulge in a defining series they have missed when it aired. Myriad reasons exist for clicking on an older title and reruns were a source of comfort long before an entire library was available in one location. In a bid to score subscribers, a back catalog boasting classics is an additional selling point used to lure viewers. Friends and The Office recently gained a new generation of fans on Netflix with HBO Max and Peacock paying roughly $1 billion dollars to score the exclusive rights. Nostalgia is big business and to celebrate the release of the documentary film Kid 90, Hulu is taking a page from the beloved TV playbook adding ‘90s teen favorites to the platform. Everything old is new again can be applied to Hollywood’s ability to recycle, reboot, and revive — even without the promise of a cast reunion and all-new episodes. 

During Hulu’s “90s Week,” Blossom, Felicity, and My So-Called Life will be added to the platform before the Kid 90 debut on March 12. Leading up to Friday’s premiere of Soleil Moon Frye’s intimate exploration of growing up as a child star in the ‘90s and the extensive home movies she made during that period — which features many recognizable faces from this decade — are virtual specials to get you in the mood. Events hosted by ATX TV on YouTube include a conversation with the actresses who played moms on shows like Dawson’s Creek, The Wonder Years, and Moesha, as well as a trivia night. As someone who turned 13 in 1995, this particular theme week hits a little harder as My So-Called Life was the first time I felt “seen” by a character on TV at a time when I felt alone. I even have the diary entry to prove it, but you will have to take my word (unlike Frye I am not willing to share this publicly). Blossom is a show I watched sporadically and Felicity didn’t enter my life until long after my college days — it didn’t air on a major channel in the UK. Coming-of-age TV has the potential to make an impact long after it debuted or you are the key demographic. Considering my comfort TV over the pandemic is the entire Columbo and Bewitched collection, there is no time limit on finding solace in TV from the past — as the NBC sitcom resurgence has proved. “90s Week” will resonate with those who consumed these shows as teens, but there is plenty of space on this sentimental sofa for new and old fans alike.

Hulu’s roster of classics is a time capsule of this decade covering everything from Beverly Hills, 902010 to The Wonder Years. If you don’t want to spend time with teens, ER, Ally McBeal, Twin Peaks, Melrose Place, and Living Single are also available to stream. Recent acquisition Freaks and Geeks was met with deserved fanfare and it is a veritable whose who of current comedy stars. Often held up as a canceled-too-soon venture, this is another show I originally missed out on due to geography. Much like Felicity, I quickly fell under its spell and there is no statute of limitations on teen TV sending you spiraling back to the awkwardness of those years. Generational gaps are highlighted by trends (see whatever is happening with skinny jeans and side partings at the moment), but television is a great equalizer. While certain jokes haven’t aged well and cultural references might require a quick search online, a good show at its core holds timeless appeal. 

Rather than speaking for Gen Z (because as an old Millennial I don’t have the same insight), here is what to expect when tuning into the three fan-favorite additions to the Hulu line-up and why these shows might be your next go-to comfort binge — and sartorial inspiration. 

Blossom (available now)   

Before Mayim Bialik played Amy on the hugely popular sitcom The Big Bang Theory, she starred as Blossom Russo for five seasons on NBC. As the only girl in a house with three generations of men, the series begins after her mother has left to pursue a singing career in Paris. Dreaming of a sitcom fantasy mother, Blossom also received advice during imagined conversations from Mr. T, Hugh Hefner (really), Phylicia Rashad, and fellow ‘90s TV icon Will Smith. Ticking some of the serious issues boxes, Blossom covered addiction, sexual assault, and teen pregnancy. Perhaps best remembered for wearing a floppy hat adorned with flowers (a quick search on Esty reveals this style is still referred to by this character’s name), no doubt this style will provide material for those currently indulging in the ‘90s fashion revival. Playing the rare combination of an adolescent who is smart and reasonably popular while also avoiding either the beauty or nerd stereotype, she showed there is more to being a teen star than being put in one specific box.

Felicity (available now)

Felicity Porter's (Keri Russell) haircut is often discussed in scandalous tones as if it caused the ratings to tank — unsurprisingly, the reasons behind this decline are less incendiary than a dramatic chop. The catalyst behind the salon visit is incredibly relatable (a break-up) and Felicity’s charm comes from her mostly down-to-earth persona — this ability to disarm comes in handy for Russell on spy series The Americans. Changing all your college plans and moving across the country to New York is definitely eyebrow-raising, but this impulsive act lays the foundation for the iconic WB series that launched J.J. Abrams and Matt Reeves’ careers. Even in a series set in the real-world, sci-fi signatures including the magical mystery box and even time travel (yes, time travel) are present. The fondness for using the in media res narrative device and flashing back to the day before is also rife, and a black-and-white homage to The Twilight Zone is Felicity at its best. Like most teen shows, a love triangle dominates and you will have to pick a side (for what it is worth, I am Team Ben). Considering how many sweaters the titular character wears, this show is the equivalent of warm knitwear; cozy, classic, and reliable. Some of the later season storylines are bumpy, but Russell is charming throughout and this show should resonate whether you are applying for college, graduated long ago, or still dare to dream big.

My So-Called Life (available 3/11)

Emotions run high throughout this depiction of adolescence, in which friendship fall-outs are just as devastating as romantic heartbreak. Long before Claire Danes delivered every flavor of cry face as CIA Agent Carrie Mathison on Homeland, her ability to cry on cue as Angela Chase — going beyond delicate single tears or misty eye welling up — is award-worthy. Balancing naivety with a world-weary turn, this is the kind of performance that when witnessed at 14-years-old (or even much later) lingers. Voiceover explores Angela’s deepest (and sometimes most superficial) thoughts, which I am convinced made me feel even more seen by this show. Openly gay BFF Rickie Vasquez (Wilson Cruz) paved the way for queer characters and this groundbreaking representation is incredibly important nearly 30 years later. Stories of “method acting” have long since extinguished this crush, but Jared Leto as Jordan Catalano (seriously, the way he leans) still burns bright. My So-Called Life will have you reaching for a plaid shirt, “Crimson Glow” hair dye, and Cranberries CD — or Spotify playlist.