TV Shows I Obsessed Over as Child/Teenager

I am known to fixate. People who know me are now laughing and muttering things like, “Way to understate it.” Look, awesome things are awesome, and I will gladly mainline those awesome things on a regular schedule and perhaps go on about them at length. My television habits are no different. While right now I am exploring that wonderful rabbit hole that is Netflix Instant, remember how we used to have to, you know, make an effort to see our favorite shows? And perhaps threaten violence against anyone who might impede upon that time? Yes, let us talk about the shows over which we obsessed as young Persephoneers.


Full House - shut up, you loved this cheeseFull House

Oh, the cheese. Unfortunate hair, unfortunate clothes, unfortunate catchphrases. And yet, I watched every damn week for several years. In first grade (this was 1989), I staged a protest at recess because my elementary school’s Open House Night was scheduled at the same time as Full House. I rounded up friends, and we stood on a concrete bench yelling about it while those in charge ignored us. Sadly, we were forced to miss that week’s new episode after all. In 1991, anticipating the episode where Becky would give birth to the twins, I was annoyed that my parents had plans to drag me to their friend’s house instead. First thing I did when we arrived was inform the host that I needed to watch Full House, so if they could point me in the direction of the TV, that would be great. My parents were probably relieved to have me finally quiet for half an hour. Like a lot of kids, I eventually outgrew the show, but I think people around my age who say they never watched it are probably lying.

Lois & Clark: Only Sorta Like That Comic SupermanLois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman

I watched the show for pretty much its entirety, coming in some time during its 1993 opening season, up until it finished in 1997. Because I ranged in age from 10 to 13 during that time, my fascination can basically be summed up thusly: Dean Cain. I mean, it probably wasn’t the writing that did it, right? Except, the show was totally into cliffhanger episodes. In another instance of “I don’t care what we’re doing, I need to find a TV at this time,” I’d accompanied my dad on some sort of work-related trip to West Yellowstone, and told him that I had firm plans to watch the Season 2 finale. He was probably glad that he had plans at that time, and I was left in the hotel room to watch in peace. That is, until Clark proposed to Lois, and they ended the episode before she answered. Lots of middle school “OHMIGOD”-ing occurred. I’m sure that if I were to watch the show now, I’d wonder what exactly I saw in it, and maybe Dean Cain might seem a little too wholesome looking. I don’t know. It’s popped up on Netflix, but I have yet to succumb to curiosity.

The 90s logo - yes, the 90s had a soundtrack for everythingGeneral Hospital

Okay, clearly, my young self had a weakness for over-dramatic plot lines. One of my best friend’s older sister watched General Hospital, and over the summer before seventh grade, I became hooked. I watched Monday through Friday and was sad that there weren’t episodes on the weekends. Even sadder I became when I had to start school because the show aired at 1pm. But then! Christmas came, and my parents gave me a VCR to go with the small TV I’d received the previous Christmas. A glorious, wonderful VCR and a stack of blank tapes, and more middle school “OHMIGOD”-ing occurred. I taped the show and watched every night before bed, careful not to actually mention the show to my parents, who viewed it as a waste of time, not to mention possibly inappropriate for a 12-year-old. If you watched the show then, you know the addictive story lines the mid-90s brought: Miguel (Ricky Martin, with long hair) the musician being all hot and then leaving Brenda (Vanessa Marsil, whose haircut at the time, I totally had). Mobster Sonny’s wife Lily dying via car bomb after she found out she was pregnant. Brenda dating Sonny. Brenda leaving Sonny for Jax. Robin dating Stone, the AIDS patient. Stone’s totally tragic death over which I cried. Emily (Amber Tamblyn) going catatonic for reasons I can’t remember. Bobbi’s secret daughter Carly. I don’t know why my brain has held onto this information for almost 20 years, but it has. One summer, I was going to be out of state for a month, and only had enough tape to record Monday and Friday episodes (which is when the most stuff happened/resolved). My friend’s older sister dutifully hand-wrote recaps for each full week I was gone. That’s some pre-internet dedication, man. I’ve never watched any other soap, and gave up watching this one regularly some time in high school, but I still have a soft spot for it whenever I hear it mentioned.

The X-FilesThe X-Files

See, I eventually developed what is commonly referred to as “better taste.” For some reason, our local cable company didn’t get FOX until the mid-90s, and I didn’t watch the show until mid-way through Season 5. I was sick and had fallen asleep with the TV on, and when I woke up, I saw what I now know is the Stephen King co-written episode, “Chinga,” which primarily features Dana Scully. I don’t know if it was the Nyquil that helped, but I was invested in it immediately. I found both Gillian Anderson and David Duchovney exceptionally attractive, though Gillian Anderson perhaps more so – something that was a rather new sensation to realize. As in, Huh. Ladies are something I like, too. Being 14, I didn’t tell anyone this, but I do credit that show for assisting in my figuring out the murky business of sexuality. But as for the show itself, yes, those giant plot arcs mixed with monster-of-the-week stories were completely fascinating. Luckily, FX was rerunning the show every night, two episodes at a time, and I quickly caught up on the seasons I missed. I saw the 1998 movie in the theater, obsessed over the conspiracy details with like-minded friends, and wondered why they gave Scully such ill-fitting clothes in the first few seasons. It was such an interesting show about belief, loyalty, and possibility, and I am even one of those people who enjoyed the later Mulder-less seasons. By then, I was in college, but I still had the same trusty VCR and I recorded the show every week. I still watch the show, when I come across it, every once in awhile.

The West Wing - Agree that it is great, or we might be in a fight.The West Wing

If you don’t think this is one of the best shows to have been on television, we might be in a fight. Aaron Sorkin’s writing, particularly his rapid back-and-forth dialogue, makes me want to get to work on my own writing. For whatever reason, I didn’t start watching until the Season 2 premiere (2000), when I happened to sit down and watch it with my mom. She gave me a quick summary of what was going on during commercials, and then we were silent while we watched. From then until the 2006 series finale, I think I only missed one episode, and I eventually saw all of Season 1 as well. Talk about belief, loyalty and possibility – this show was smart, funny, heartbreaking, and perfect for me. Friends or my boyfriend would sometimes make the mistake of calling me on Wednesday night while the show was on, and all I’d usually have to say was, “And what time is it right now?” before they were apologizing and saying that whatever it was could at least wait until the hour was over. Even once I’d moved on to college, I’d make time to watch the show as it aired, while the VCR recorded Dawson’s Creek for my roommate while she worked. Girls in the dorm would come down the hall, and poke their head into my room during that hour, hoping to catch Dawson’s Creek, and would be somewhat baffled when I turned them away, with one eye still on the West Wing screen. I loved all the main characters in their own way, particularly CJ Cregg (Allison Janney).  She kicked ass when she needed to, but was not infallible. She was unconventionally beautiful, one of the smartest people in the room, and Jeezy Chreezy, are you talking to me during The Jackal? Never talk to me during The Jackal.

So what about the rest of you? Any common ground here? What were your TV Dates in your formative years? Remind me of my glaring omissions.

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Sara Habein

Sara Habein is the author of Infinite Disposable, a collection of microfiction, and her work has appeared on The Rumpus, Pajiba and Word Riot, among others. Her book reviews and other commentary appear at Glorified Love Letters, and she is the co-manager of Electric City Creative.

32 thoughts on “TV Shows I Obsessed Over as Child/Teenager”

  1. Oh my god, Lois and Clark and  General Hospital were my OBSESSIONS in middle/high school. I picked back up with GH when I was unemployed a couple of summers ago… just as Joshua Jackson came back as lucky. I still watch it every so often, but it’s just not the same.

  2. Since I had few friends in high school, I watched a lot of TV and films. I think it’s benefitted me since I’m going to get my MA in film studies. I probably won’t remember everything I watched, but here goes:

    Corner Gas
    Desperate Housewives
    The Simpsons
    Family Guy (I know, I know, so bad but I thankfully grew out of it)
    American Dad
    King of the Hill
    South Park
    Law and Order (any of them)
    The Office (I once planned out my wedding to John Krasinski during a boring class)
    A Vicar of Dibley, Monty Python and Fawlty Towers triple-bill every Saturday night on PBS
    jPod (I still hate the CBC for cancelling this after one season)
    Rick Mercer Report
    So You Think You Can Dance

    You can totally tell I loved animation and satire and that I’m Canadian from this list.

  3. My TV shows of shame as a pre-teen and into my teenage years was TGIF, I remember distinctly going into my mum’s room and doing a cartwheel when I learned that Sabrina the Teenage Witch was coming to TGIF. Those shows were so bad and yet I adored them especially as they made me feel like I had something to do on Friday nights when I thought that everyone in the world ought to be out socializing and I was not.

  4. I recently watched the first episode of X-Files on Netflix because I remember watching it when it premiered, and I was aghast at how dated the footage looked. Still, the first two seasons were like crack to me as a kid, and I absolutely obsessed over the show. I remember watching Full House and obsessing over the wallpaper in DJ’s room because I thought it was cool (white with black lines and little red and blue dots!). I remember in the evenings after the news watching stuff like Family Ties and even Growing Pains. The Beatles’ Ob-La-Di will forever be the theme song to Life Goes On. I’m pretty sure I could still tell you the line-up for TGIF in the early 90’s, and what time each show came on. I remember The Wonder Years came on at 5pm everyday and I watched it – not because I liked it, but because I had to watch something while eating my bowl of mac and cheese, dammit.

    I’ve always been a cartoon person, though. I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that I always have and always will love cartoons, even cartoons that are meant for someone much younger than me. I simply don’t care anymore. I have trouble remembering very many TV shows that I obsessed over as a kid/teenager, but I could rattle off a dozen cartoons in thirty seconds that meant a lot to me.  I have a Roku box that added YouTube to, so now I can watch YouTube on my regular TV. You’d better believe that I’m watching old episodes of stuff like Animaniacs, Darkwing Duck, Batman: The Animated Series and the like – I honestly believe that the stuff you liked as a kid is still stuff you like as an adult. I don’t know what that says about society or humans, but I think that’s the way it is. And it is awesome.


    1. Star Trek TNG was a family ritual for us (em, mostly because we only had one TV). Every week we’d sit down and watch the new episode. The episode where Tasha Yar died seriously made me cry.

      I have a friend whose favorite show was Duck Tales – she’s still got the comic books and action figures. I’d forgotten about the show until she showed me her collection about a year ago, and I got such a kick out of the fact that she’d kept it for so long!

  5. Buffy came on when I was 12, and I instantly became obsessed with it. I also loved Xena, and the X-Men cartoon of the 90s. Best weekend TV! I also watched Dr Quinn every week with my mom, starting when I was just wee, and I definitely loved it, even though I had a suspicion that it was really lame. There were a lot of awesome female characters in the 90s for a mini-feminist!

  6. Ohhhhhh, West Wing. Bartlett’s imaginary presidency got me through the Bush years. Every single one of my friends and family would wistfully say how much they wished he were actually president. Even though he pronounced “Concord” wrong. Dude, if you’re from NH, “Concord” is pronounced either “CONKerd” or, with the true native accent, “CONKehd.” Not “ConCORD.” That always used to annoy the shit out of me. Like, c’mon, Sorkin, couldn’t you have asked a native NH-er how to pronounce the capital of the state your character is supposedly from??

    The show I was obsessed with when I was in middle school was “The Tripods,” the 1980’s BBC series based on the John Christopher books. I had a huge crush on the main actor, John Shackley. I taped the show on our VCR and watched each episode at least 20 times. I can still recite huge swaths of dialogue.

    Good lord, I’m old.

  7. We didn’t have tv until I was in highschool cuz we lived too far out in the country.  The only one I was obsessed with throughout high school was Ally McBeal…. until it turned into a drama instead of a comedy, then I stopped w/ TV shows for awhile.

  8. I was never really into any of those shows, although I have heard so many good things about The West Wing that I may watch if it’s on Netflix Canada.

    I think my interests as a kid were split between those of a super nerd and those of an older lady. I was really into Star Trek (some original series and Deep Space Nine, but mainly Voyager and Next Generation), Stargate, and those Xena and Hercules shows. But I also watched a lot of Murder She Wrote and Columbo. This primed me for an interest in Law & Order (the original series), of which I am pretty sure I have seen every episode. I also watched a lot of cartoons, and probably some more kid shows, but the ones mentioned above are what really stand out in my mind from about age 8 onwards.

    I still love scifi (I have watched all of the later incarnations of Stargate, and even slogged through the most recent Star Trek tv series) and procedurals, so I think these shows had a big effect on my taste in television.

  9. I went a huge chunk of my life without TV. Like, 4th grade on, We had not reception at all. Instead, I watched my brother play video games.

    I was later THRILLED by finding at a yard sale boxed VHS sets of X-Files episodes and watched them obsessively, remembering sneaking down the stairs the first couple of seasons when My parents watched and I was “too young” to watch. So many episodes I knew only from the sound, not the visuals, because of the need of not having my parents catch on.

    I watched project Runway’s early seasons with my Aunt who did have TV, and she would time our personal weight watchers weigh ins for then at her house. (My doctors have been trying to get the weight off me since I was 12. I haven’t been below the 170-175 range since age 12, and I’ve been in the mid 200s for a couple years now.) We also ate delicious healthy food. The joy of curried avacado you guys.

    Then the time of streaming and such happened. For a while I watched house and bones and Hana Yori Dango 1 and 2 (hush, so many pretties.)

    But. . .  yeah. My obsessions were books and online fandom. Not so much TV.

  10. I have a lot of good memories of going to my grandmother’s house after elementary school and watching General Hospital with her while she ironed. I saw the Luke/Laura storyline, which ended with the big wedding, and the time a bunch of them were trapped on the island with a while whoever the bad guy was threatened the world with a freezeray. And the young John Stamos as Blackie. And Rick Springfield.

    X-Files was more college aged for me and it was a religious Friday night ritual. I’ve been thinking about rewatching the series with Mini.

    My big ‘don’t bother me’ show was the original Beverly Hills 90210. When I startled playing derby, 90210 was the number I picked. I have a practically encyclopedic knowledge of everything that happened on that show between the high school and college years, and barely watched at all once they graduated. I still prefer Brenda to Kelly, and I get very passionate about it.

    We watched Star Trek; TNG as a family show, I loved ‘V’, which I had to sneak watch because my mother thought it was too violent, and I also lurved a show called ‘Otherworld’ and another called ‘Young Riders’ which I am fairly certain I was the only person watching them. (I wrote several Young Rider’s spec scripts. I’m sure they were awful.)



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