P-Mag Nostalgia Project: 1996 with Sara Habein

Friends, 1996 is one of my all-time favorite years, and it was also a leap year. Pick out your favorite babydoll tee and gather round the wayback machine, because it’s time to say goodbye to Jessica Fletcher.

P-Mag Nostalgia Project: 1996

Yes, 1996 was the year that the very last episode of Murder, She Wrote aired, and if you’ve been following this site for some time, you know that Jessica Fletcher is a P-Mag Patron Saint. Twelve million people watched the series finale, “Death by Demographics.”

Many of the Top 5 US shows in 1996 remained that way for more than one year, with the exception of one that probably benefited from its Thursday night spot on NBC’s schedule:

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  • ER
  • Seinfeld
  • Suddenly Susan
  • Friends
  • The Naked Truth (which I don’t remember at all, but it starred Téa Leoni, Holland Taylor, and Tim Curry. Being the lead-in for ER, I assume, helped its ratings considerably.)


In general worldwide news, plenty of big things happened. The winter brought a horrible blizzard on the US East Coast, causing 150 deaths and D.C. Government offices closing for days.

In Manchester, England, an IRA bomb went off in the city’s center, injuring over 200 people. The IRA were also responsible for a bomb in London’s Canary Wharf District, which killed two people and caused millions in damage. Not to make light of terrorism, but the ’90s and the IRA can more or less be summed up as “and then there were a lot of explosions and assassinations.”

The “Unabomber,” Ted Kaczynski, was arrested in his cabin near Lincoln, Montana. I live(d) about two hours from there, and the funny thing about Montanans is that even when we’re on the news for a bad reason, our reaction is often still, “Woo! We’re on the news!”

Motorola releases the StarTAC, a “wearable cellular telephone,” and becomes the lightest and smallest phone on the market. And so it begins…

In entertainment news, Japan released Pokemon Green, the first game in the Pokemon series. Since my 9-year-old daughter is obsessed with current incarnations of the game and its characters, I’d feel guilty not to mention this.

Alanis Morissette becomes the youngest person to win Album of the Year (for Jagged Little Pill) at the Grammy Awards.

Braveheart wins Best Picture at 1996’s Oscars, with Whoopi Goldberg hosting. I still haven’t seen this movie.

Independence Day - movie posterWhat other movies were playing at that time? Here are the Top 5 Highest Grossing Films:

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  • Independence Day (I saw this in the theater with some friends.)
  • Twister (Also saw this in the theater, on an afternoon where my dad and his neighbor friend decided to take all five kids between them, presumably so we could quit bothering our mothers.)
  • Mission: Impossible (Didn’t see this until years later, but we danced to the theme that year in my dance class.)
  • The Rock (I don’t care if this movie is ridiculous; I still love it.)
  • The Hunchback of Notre Dame (This Disney movie doesn’t get a lot of love, and I’m not sure why.)


Other notable releases included Swingers, Trainspotting (whose soundtrack I would soon love), The English Patient, and Mars Attacks! And let’s not forget the teenage girl swoon-worthy masterpiece: Romeo + Juliet.

Now, my favorite part: 1996 in Music

In my ongoing column, 30 Years of Music, I’ve already talked about 15 of my personal favorites from 1996, but the Top 5 Bestselling Singles were not too shabby either:

Wannabe – Spice Girls

Do not even front; you know you find them delightful. I first saw this video at about 2 a.m. on MTV, and at first, I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them. What exactly did “zigga-zig-ahh“ mean, after all? Soon after, like most everyone else I knew, I had a favorite member. (Posh Spice 4Eva.)

Killing Me Softly – The Fugees

Ah yes, The Fugees making all of us young’uns learn Roberta Flack’s name with their cover of this song. We heard this everywhere for a good long time, and I never once got sick of it.

Macarena – Los Del Rio

All I will say is that somewhere, on a dusty old VHS, there is incriminating footage of my friends and I doing this dance at a birthday party.

Wonderwall – Oasis

Well, of course I get to talk about the year where Oasis blew up all over the whole damn planet. Bless ’em. My love for them is well-documented all across the internet, but even if you do not know a single other Oasis song, I bet you know “Wonderwall.”

Children – Robert Miles

I completely forgot about this song until I started researching the top songs for 1996, which is funny, because this was another song we used in dance class, though I believe we did that the following year. Those among us who more adult in age in 1996 might remember this song from your club days. Remember to drink plenty of water, wink-wink, nudge-nudge.

Other musical highlights include “Bulls on Parade” from Rage Against the Machine, “Naked Eye” by Luscious Jackson, and “If You Could Only See” by Tonic.

What was I doing in 1996, besides obsessing over Oasis and Bush and other music matters? I was thirteen years old as of that July, and I was busy hanging out with my best friends Amanda, Heather, Kristen, and Melanie – who are all still my close friends to this day, and some of them, I’ve known since kindergarten. I had daily arguments with my English teacher who kept losing my work, and math started to get really, really hard for me. I also had a TV and VCR in my bedroom – quite the get for a teenage girl – and recorded General Hospital every day, since it aired while I was at school. And in a box somewhere, I still have old videotapes with MTV footage.

What about you? What struck your fancy in 1996?

By 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.

4 replies on “P-Mag Nostalgia Project: 1996 with Sara Habein”

We also did the same thing with The Freemen (crazy militia dudes), and also any time our Governor (past or present) is on TV.

And yes, I know, I get insufferably indie sometimes in my music choices in my 30 Years column, BUT! BUT! Um…. new stuff to listen to ?

I got all worldwide with my newsy business. Thanks Wikipedia! ;)

I think the first movie I saw in the theater/cinema was The Land Before Time. I think. That was definitely close to the first, if it wasn’t. It was in the one screen movie theater in the mall that no longer exists, but every time I’m in the mall, I wonder if the guts of it still exist in there somewhere, or if they ripped it all out and it’s lame drop ceilings and storage.

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