Hello again, RetroJunkers.
Are you ready for my perspective on the era that caught everyone by surprise? I would be talking, of course, about the early 1990s. So, without further ado, here is my article on my early 1990s childhood. The Early 1990s The Party Time, Environmentally Aware, and Winds of Change Days
On January 1st of 1990, us 80s people were finally there! It was 'the 90s now' and I was really excited because like everyone else, I thought the world would see change at instantaneous speed (it was 'hot' at the time). Because nearly everyone and their mothers were trying to imagine what life in 1999 was going to be like, I had to do some math. The 1990s were the first time period where I would be an adult before they were over, so it would be time to say goodbye to my 80s childhood once and for all in the 90s. The 90s were a bombastic time in the beginning (the very early 1990s) and everything from the music to main events reflected that.
January of 1989 was one year back in January of 1990, meaning the styles, movie types, TV shows, toys, and political standings were all going to be the same in the very early 90s (1990 to early 1991) as they were in the very late 80s (late 1988 to 1989). Today, some of my friends think of neon fanny packs, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles action figures, and Stussy shirts as 'late 80s things', but all of those items should actually be associated more with the early 90s than the late 80s. At the start of the late 80s (1987), I don't think anyone saw the Stussy line being introduced like it was in the 1988 to 1989 TV season. The very late 80s were discontinuous to the start of the late 80s in a fashion akin to the end of the early 90s and the very early 90s. The very early 90s were an exciting time for 10-year-old me because I knew the mid to late 80s culture would be like shed skin to a snake as the early 90s and new culture made in the early 90s took off.
The first piece to the early 90s that I remember was that you were either team muscle pants, team jorts (jean shorts), or team biker shorts with and without the stripe in the summer. The early 90s were what you could call 'the Sea World days' for us children of the 80s as a lot of us looked like the young tourists you would expect to see at Sea World. The teenagers at the time had their white shirts tucked in their mom jeans (high-waisted and straight-legged jeans) like a modern James Dean (Brandon Walsh), whereas muscle pants and biker shorts with the neon stripes seemed to resonate with my micro-generation from 1987 to 1992. The early 90s was the era where our parents would start dressing Millennials born in the late 80s like us, so the 90s were when Xennials became leaders to Millennials in the way the late members of Gen X were to us all throughout the 1980s.
In the early 90s, the Reebok Pump shoe was the Rubik Cube and Transformer toy. I wanted the Reebok Pump sneakers because some teen guys and adult guys were wearing them with their tracksuits and beepers. The slogan 'Pump It Up' for ads was just 'so early 90s' even to us in the early 90s. Of course, I thought the gimmick behind the sneakers worked, but the shoes did a great job in making me look like I had the feet of an adult when I tried them on at Foot Locker. The Twilight Zone Pump basketball sneakers were the first Reebok Pump sneakers my micro-generation was able to get their hands on. Reebok Pump sneakers and clothes were '90s' for Americans until 1993 or so.
It goes without saying the most popular celebrity that everyone spoke about in the early 90s was Roseanne Barr. The show Roseanne caught on at the right time in the very late 80s when crowds had grown tired of the popular sitcoms from 1986 to early 1989 and it was still going strong in early 1990. Roseanne was an anti-syrupy mid-80s sitcom that was okay to watch because it was more relatable and true to life than anything on the FOX network (I'll get to that later) and other channels. The early 90s were the only time Roseanne could appear in cartoons, so many magazines, and sing the National Anthem all in the same year (1990). It was fun seeing people do Roseanne and Dan impressions in mid-1990 (Roseanne and Dan were the ultimate 90s couple to me) because Roseanne and Dan Conner rambled on like an actual married couple (even though Roseanne was actually married to comedian Tom Arnold at the time). Who did not want a laid back and funny relative like Roseanne in the early 90s?
In the very late 80s and early 90s, bi-sports players (made-up word) were fascinating to some children, teens, and adults because they had not heard of such a thing before then. There was an R and R (Raiders and Royals, not rest and relaxation) player, Bo Jackson, everywhere you looked as he inspired my micro-generation to be more active than we were growing up in the 80s. The best and most memorable part of that player being popular was the funny shirts that followed. There was the "Moe Knows" shirts for young The Three Stooges fans, "Boo Knows" shirt for Halloween lovers and saucy shirts like "Bo Knows Your Girlfriend" being sold at clothing stores and vendor shops. I can't think of another time period in history where sports mattered as much as they did to the world like in the late 80s and early 1990s. The 90s as a whole were a glorious time to be a sports fan (especially the early 90s).
All of this talk about what happened mainly in the very early 1990s brings me to the year that started it all...that would be... 1990 A Year of Camcorders, Super Mario Brothers 3 Happy Meal Toys, and Hiking Boots Becoming Totally Cool
The year 1990 is commonly referred to as 'The Year of the Horse', but to us who saw that time, it was clearly 'The Year of FOX'. Teens and children of the late 80s and very start of the year 1990 wanted more from their entertainment, so The FOX Network was a 'light and fit' version of HBO and Pay Per View for us in those days. I could never watch FOX during school nights in the 1989 to 1990 school year, so I had to wait for the summer of 1990 to catch all the action that happened before that point. There was nothing like watching the 'film corporation network' in the dark on a hot summer night. 21 Jump Street was my- go-to-show as everything about 'the now' for 11-year-olds and up in those days.
Johnny Depp was the star of 21 Jump Street, but both Johnny Depp and Richard Grieco were on every magazine cover like the now-President was in the late 80s and very early 90s. 21 Jump Street was the grittiest and raw hit teen crime drama of its time. You never knew what you were going to get when you watched an episode of it and it was not surreal like some new primetime drama series like Twin Peaks. The one component I took away from this show was that teen cops had good generic cop last names (Hansome, Penhall, Ioki, and Hoffs). I will say this - I wanted to run through a high school hallway like I saw the teen cops doing at different times (seriously, it looked like fun). Like everyone else, I stopped watching when Johnny Depp left and the show moved into syndication.
21 Jump Street was the only show I watched by myself or with my cousins that year, the other FOX shows were programs I watched with the whole family. My mother always caught wind of the fact the full Frank Sinatra song ”Love and Marriage” being used for the extended opening to the Sunday night show Married...with Children. I did not know too much about Married...with Children as an 11-year-old, so it was 'male Roseanne with almost grown kids' show to me then. From what I remember, more insults were dished out in Married...with Children than in Roseanne and other shows similar to Roseanne. There were not any melodramatic moments in Married...with Children either, but that was what the teens and children like myself enjoyed about it. Married...with Children was a breath of fresh air after seeing repeats of 50s sitcoms and the sequel series to them in the 80s for some children and teens of the very late 80s and very early 90s.
The most controversial TV family arrived on the FOX Network in January of 1990 and it wasn't a live-action show. The Simpsons were the ultimate dysfunctional family to come out of the whole 1987 to 1990 TV era. The 90s were a lot closer to today from January 14th of 1990 onward, but we did not know that then. Bart Simpson 'was' the show for a lot of Xennials and late Gen Xers. The sarcastic tone and attitude exuded by Bart made him 'a kid's kid' in the way Al Bundy was 'a man's man'. From what I remember, The Simpsons merchandise hit first in early 1990 and then Married...with Children late in the summer of 1990 (The Simpsons merchandise was obviously the cash grabber out of the two). Teens in 1990 wore the Bart Simpson Underachiever shirts, while most Xennials were pushed by our parents to wear the Don't Have a Cow shirt, Bartman Avenger of Evil shirt (a spin on Batman), and Family Portrait shirt.
The way I see it, Bart Simpson was the Mickey Mouse of late 1990 into 1991 like Super Mario and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were before the first movie came to theaters. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were an independent MAD magazine-like comic book spoof of the most popular Marvel Comics characters (X-Men) and lesser-known DC Comics heroes (Frank Miller's Ronin). My introduction to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was through the syndicated weekday afternoon 30-minute toy commercial which it seemed like I had lived for in 1990. By mid-1990, just about every child in the world had grown tired of seeing the same cartoons with human characters and overly anthropomorphic characters, so we fell in love with four mutated wisecracking teen turtles Leonardo, Donatello, Raphael, and Michaelangelo (the names you had to know in the very early 90s). For people like me, the cartoon could not compare with the first movie in 1990.
Seeing the attitude indicator on the 1990 movie poster, "This is No
Cartoon", told me that the turtles were going to be lean and green from 'kicking butt' and the movie did not disappoint (I won't give away spoilers). The best fact about the 1990 movie was that one of the biggest teen stars of the late 80s, Corey Feldman, was credited as the voice of Donatello (my favorite turtle). I knew that had to be something that would bring actual teenagers to see the same movie I would be watching. I did not own many action figures in the 80s, but I had to make space for a Donatello item in 1990.
Unfortunately for me, I did not start searching for the Donatello memorabilia until after Turtlemania was upon (APRIL of 1990). I remember wanting a regular Donatello action figure that did not have pupils like the kids my age and younger had. To me, it did not matter whether that Donatello had a soft head, hard head, or cartoon background stand (like one of my classmates had); I desperately needed to have a Donatello before I entered junior high (that's what middle school was called in the analog age). Sewer Swimmin' Donatello (the easiest of the Wacky Action figures to get) was the figure my father purchased for me. As 1990 went on, I was plagued with guilt for not being patient from seeing a small Donatello plush with suction cups at Wal-Mart(Garfield Stuck on You dolls were in stores) and a Giant Donatello in the back of Kay-Bee Toys.
I stuck with the weekday afternoon version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon (good, harmless fun watching the same episodes over and over again) and waited for The Secret of the Ooze (the sequel/one of the most early 90s movies ever made) to come to cable in the rest of the early 1990s. I would be 13 years old in two more years from 1990, so it was time for me to move on from toys to music. 1990 was, also, the year of the slow school dance song. In early 1990, singer-songwriter Sinead 'O Connor's "Nothing Compares 2 U" was one of those songs and the music video was played quite often on MTV. "Nothing Compares 2 U" and "U Can't Touch This" by MC Hammer (the world's favorite party-rapper of the early 90s) were songs that were 'early 90s in the title alone', but I always thought it could have been "Nothing Compares To You" (either both titles are great). The regular vinyl and long-box sleeve for the album I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got (I know, so dramatic) had an emphasis lighting on Sinead's eyes similar to what you would see in a Belinda Carlisle video in 1987 or 1988 and every other serious release album sold from mid 1989 to mid 1990 (...But Seriously and Rhythm Nation 1814 come to mind).
Sinead 'O Connor's look in 1990 was sharper and more dangerous to the media eye than any artist from 1978 to 1983. Those buzzwords I used remind me of another entity of 1990 — the Slap Wrap (slap bracelet) in the 1990 to 1991 school year. Before the fall of 1990, my micro-generation was going from wearing fat neon shoelaces to owning velcro wallets to neon wrist pouches to Dick Tracy (first 'not Batman' movies of the 90s) shirts to Umbros shorts, therefore the slap bracelet was the most innovative new product to come to stores like Claire's in the mall. Slap bracelets were unisex more so than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon and movie making it like the Electron Mini Pianos of the very late 80s into the early 90s. The slap bracelet was the hottest novelty item of the early 1990s beating out the dancing Coca Cola can, ice cream cone shooters, bubble necklaces, holographic design round sunglasses, stick-on earrings, and new mood rings (along with very late 80s novelties like fiber-optic flower light lamp music boxes for mom). In hindsight, the early 90s were shaping up to be different from 'the professional Drakkar Noir, I.O.U. sweatered, and Z. Cavaricci pleated dressed trouser early 1990s' after the people of that time saw slap bracelets in vending machines.
For some unknown reason, it had seemed like licensed and unlicensed slap bracelets were easier to get through second-hand clothing shops and small toy stores. Perhaps, the unlicensed slap bracelets with the silver piece of metal inside appealed to girls and boys of my micro-generation better than the authentic Slap Wraps because they came in neon colors without designs (the early 90s were the new late 60s and early 70s). All I know is that girls were collecting slap bracelets, getting their slap bracelets airbrushed at the mall, trading slap bracelets at school, and mailing away Cap 'N Crunch box tops to get slap bracelets in early 1993. The last slap bracelets I distinctly remember seeing in late 1990 and early 1991 were the slap bracelets oriented to the movie and music fan communities. There will never be another movie promotion that broke ground for future generations like the Home Alone slap bracelets handed out to everyone there in the opening week (1990 was the best year ever for movie promotions). 1991
1991 was the year of the early 1990s when everyone got settled into the early 1990s. The 90s were no longer a mystery to the world like they were in the early 1990s, but 1999 was 3,000,000 miles away still in early '91. The counterblast against every cultural event that happened in 1990 began in early 1991. We saw even more wholesome early 90s culture in 1991 from Amy Grant's Heart In Motion album to T-800 bonding with John Connor to the sitcoms Step By Step and The Torkelsons airing that fall. With that said, the Friday night TGIF block had the shows that my micro-generation enjoyed before holding Nintendo parties.
The TGIF block from 1990 to 1991 was the second-best of ABC's best Friday night lineups in the 90s. The first, of course, was 1989 to 1990 for the 1988 to 1990 sitcom Just The Ten of Us with Heather Langenkamp from The Nightmare on Elm Street series. I wasn't big on Full House in those days as it was 'a show for babies and their mothers' to 11-year-old me. Full House was the Davey and Goliath of the early 90s that mainly females liked. I would only watch Full House now to review it for the very funny moments. The next three shows were the ones I wouldn't miss.
Jim Henson's Dinosaurs premiered in 1991 and it was ABC's answer to The Simpsons. Instead of Homer choking Bart, ABC viewers had Baby Sinclair hitting Earl Sinclair over the head with a frying pan and shouting "Not the Mama". There was a nice contrast between Earl Sinclair with the remodeled Homer Simpson of season 2 of The Simpsons. In the spring of 1991, I was not allowed to watch The Simpsons on Thursday night like so many children near the end of the very early 90s (Bart said the d-word), but my folks did not know what to make of Dinosaurs (it seemed safe because Jim Henson's name was attached to the project). Dinosaurs was out of place with the other TGIF shows in early 1991.
The openings to Family Matters and Perfect Strangers always put me in a good mood when I looked at them in the early 90s. How can you not love those settings? Family Matters was a show that females at my school and younger liked for Steve Urkel. The 'superbly early 90s event' of Family Matters erupted when Urkel showed Laura and her friend how to 'Do the Urkel' in a dance number eerily sounded 'ab-so-lutely' (early 90s lingo) like "How to Dance" by Australian house music group Bingo Boys and Princessa. Family Matters was never the same that fall when Jaleel White reached the awkward age (the high pitched voice didn't sound right).
1991 me preferred Perfect Strangers mid to late 80s repeats over the early 90s premieres. I liked the dynamic between Balki and his cousin Larry before their girlfriends were on the show.
The slapstick was perfect from late 1986 to early 1989. Perfect Strangers was on all throughout the early 1990s, but the memorable early 90s episodes all aired from 1990 to early 1991. Out of all the Friday night programs on ABC, you knew for sure that it was Friday when you heard David Pomeranz performing "Nothing's Gonna Stop Me Now" and the Perfect Strangers title card came up (I didn't like the move to Saturdays for this show). Good times!
Zubaz came out in the fall of 1990 and became the signature muscle pants of the 90s in the flash of an eye. Zubaz were cool in that they gave you the ability to feel like a glam rock star and Arnold Schwarzenegger in one. Zubaz pants and Harem pants were extremely comfortable to wear in the spring of 1991 (both were the best pants of the 90s, in my opinion). I never owned a pair of Zubaz in any era of the 90s (sweatpants were everything to me). Zubaz pants were one of those hip early 90s clothing trends pretty much everyone knew about, like Hypercolor, in the pre-low top sneaker days of the early 90s.
Hypercolor was the largest eye-opening sensation of early 1991 to most of the children and teenagers at the time. There were tie-dye and Earth tone Hypercolor shirts from what I remember and you would see a white imprint as soon you smacked your hand against the shirt (teens were pressing their middle finger against Hypercolor shirts all the time in '91). Initially, the shirts did not have the 80s and 90s company Generra [Sportwear] before Hypercolor, so it was difficult for some children in 1991 to request their parents pick up a Hypercolor shirt from the mall. Hypercolor and the sequel shirt Hyper-Grafix (1992) were worn until the end of the 90s by people who had them, but others sold them at yard sales soon after the early 90s. The color-changing with heat feature to the Hypercolor shirts was gone as soon you got them out of the dryer in your washroom. Hypercolor was Generra's greatest item to date, so early 1992 was the last time I remember seeing actual Hypercolor shirts with Generra above Hypercolor (the first Hypercolor shirts without Generra on them were the favorites of those people who wore them throughout the 90s).
1991 brought the second-largest amount of change in the early 1990s (first was 1992). The cartoons that made a debut in late 1990 were becoming cartoons that would go on to define the childhoods of Millennials born in 1987 and early 1988. The two cartoons that Baby Boomers, Xennials, and some late members of Gen X knew about in 1991 were Steven Spielberg's Tiny Toon Adventures and Ted Turner's Captain Planet and the Planeteers. None of those aforementioned cartoons were knocking any version of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles out from the top spot for kids TV show ratings in 1991, but they were close behind the Turtles. Tiny Toon Adventures had more of a following in the early 90s than Captain Planet and the Planeteers due to Tiny Toon Adventures coming on basic cable networks and the Happy Meal toys from early '91.
For those of you Retrojunkers who not alive, Baby Boomers were lamenting the passing of Mel Blanc (voice actor of Bugs Bunny) from 1989 into the 1990s, so there was the 50th Birthday for Bugs Bunny in early 1990, Tiny Toon Adventures on the air in late 1990, and The Warner Brothers Studio Store opening in 1991 in the early 1990s. I loved The Bugs Bunny and Tweety Show on ABC Saturday mornings over Tiny Toon Adventures as I could never make it past the Tiny Toon Adventures theme song. Still, I never forgot about the teenagers who had Dizzy Devil (purple colored child Tasmanian Devil) airbrushed on their plain white T-shirts and Guess Jeans overalls with the left strap down. The color Purple was 'in' from 1989 to 1999 when the televangelist Jerry Falwell came out against Tinky Winky (the purple Teletubby) for being a 'little too happy' out of all the Teletubbies. Dizzy Devil was the most famous character on Tiny Toon Adventures in 1991 because he looked like the party animal out of the bunch. The popularity or lack of popularity of Tiny Toon Adventures paved the way for Animaniacs to come along in 1993 and make nonfans of Tiny Toon Adventures forget about Steven Spielberg's first efforts at a weekday morning and afternoon series.
Captain Planet and the Planeteers, on the other hand, was more to my liking as it reminded me somewhat of the 30-minute toy commercials that were behind the times and I liked the message to it then, also. Captain Planet was basically actor Tom Cruise with a long green mullet who, like so many people in the early 90s, wanted to see radical changes be made to the world. Captain Planet was summoned in Prince Adam's style from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe by the five Planeteers (Mighty Morphin Power Rangers BEFORE Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers). There was a wide array of celebrity voices used for Captain Planet and The Planeteers ranging from actress Meg Ryan to actor Jeff Goldblum. The Captain Planet and the Planeteers action figures came on card-backers made from 100 percent recycled paper ('wickedly early 90s') and looked a little displaced in the department store toy aisle amongst stuff like the Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure toys (Captain Planet toys should have been sold at mall stores like Natural Wonders or Zany Brainy). Captain Planet wasn't quite He-Man or Thundercats, but Captain Planet and The Planeteers does not fall below the more obscure shows and show-based toy lines of the early 90s either like the Pirates of the Dark Water and King Arthur and The Knights of Justice; Captain Planet suffers from being 'too 1991' and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles even had him beat with the Turtle Tips in the Saturday morning version of the show and drug PSA that was shown on ABC all the time from 1991 to 1993.
1991 was full of the most lighthearted entertainment out of the whole early 1990s era (1990-1992) and Disney’s Beauty and The Beast was the best out of it all to those of us living in late 1991 and early 1992. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was full of more CGI than Disney’s The Little Mermaid in 1989, so I went to see it with my parents one Friday night at my local cineplex. Needless to say, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast wasn’t ‘a first’ like Disney’s The Little Mermaid, but it was calming to watch on a Friday night in a theater that wasn’t terribly packed. Disney’s Beauty and the Beast was a reverse Disney’s The Little Mermaid, but Beauty and the Beast did not seem to use as much steam as Disney’s The Little Mermaid. As a result of that, there wasn’t a ‘Beauty-mania’ for children of the early 90s (‘87/‘88 borns) like there was ‘Mermaid-mania’ from 1990 to 1992 for Xennials and Millennials. The biggest ‘I’m living in the 90s moment’ for me in 1991 was when my parents and I went to Burger King after seeing Beauty and the Beast.
The world was a different place for me when I realized there were Disney’s Beauty and the Beast toys on display in a Burger King Kids Club plastic hanging shelf at the center of the registers and Burger King Kids Club Adventures leaflets all the way to the left to the four toys on display. Burger King Kids Club was Burger King’s competition against McDonaldland characters and McDonald’s Happy Meals. A part of me was deeply saddened to see the hit new Disney movie characters as toys in Burger King as McDonald’s had the Disney partnership from 1987 to mid-1991. I have never forgiven Burger King for partly taking Disney away from McDonald’s towards the end of the early 90s. Pizza Hut Kids Pizza Packs with Disney promotions (1991-1994) were fine by me, but the Disney The Little Mermaid (late 1989) were iconic toys in my eyes than the Disney Beauty and the Beast Burger King Kids Club toys.
January of 1990 was one year behind us already, but 1991 was ‘the mother of all battles’ in terms of the early 90s years for me. The analog age of the 20th century became the digital age in the fall of 1991 (CompuServe commercials were the new Encyclopedia Britannica commercials) and I really took notice of some changes that happened from 1990 to 1991 in the last months of 1991. Not only was there a free Burger King Kids Club Adventures pamphlet for children to read in 1991, but there was a Disney Adventures magazine on the register magazine racks at select supermarkets. December of 1991 was the first time I read of a copy of Disney Adventures at Pathmark before heading off to Woolworths and Blockbuster afterward (which I could finally do without my parents as a 12-year-old). That became a tradition for me to do from 1991 to 1996 or 1997. The boys toy aisle at Woolworths was full of mainly old toys like Police Academy toys, RoboCop and The Ultra Police stock, years old Inhumanoids toys, and C.O.P.S. (remember that cartoon), whereas the girls toy aisle had Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid Bend-Ems. It was at that moment in 1991 that I came to the conclusion that the 1990s were for the ‘90s girls. I didn’t give up on the latest pop culture news yet though, but I wasn’t expecting 1992 to be the 'doozy' it was. 1992
1992 was the year when 1986 was 6 years ago and the year 1989 became 3 years ago as we were now living in what would become a pseudo-digital era year. The USSR was gone, Super Nintendo was starting to tread over Nintendo and New Alternative Express replaced Night Tracks before the summer of 1992. I knew my teenage-hood would start in 1992, so I was anticipating the occasions when I would have my freedom from day one of 1992. Like my parents, I couldn't wait for the 90s to break out of the early 90s stage (thought of as the 90s with the 80s vibe to it) and move closer towards 1999. I didn't what to expect from the year 1992 as a preteen bordering towards teenage-hood, but 1992 wasn't that far off from 1989 and 1990. Still, 1992 turned out to be one of the heaviest times in pop culture history for me.
Early 1992 was the 'Neon and Black Windbreaker, Ski Pants and Oakley Frogskin cool days' of 1992 and the film Wayne's World was the best flick out of that whole fall of 1991 to spring of 1992 TV season for me. Saturday Night Live movies were born in the 1980s with The Blues Brothers, got better in the early 90s with Wayne's World, and went sour soon after that (with Office Space being the exception). The Saturday Night Live Wayne's World sketches were the best sketches on Saturday Night Live from early 1989 into the early 90s, so a film had to be made in 1991 to solidify Wayne and Garth as popular early 90s characters. There were many great one-liners in Wayne's World, but 'not!' was the favorite of Xennials everywhere in 1992. Bill and Ted (the biggest rental of early 1990) were the original 90s famous duo, but Wayne and Garth in 1992 made the world forget about Bill and Ted in the way Beavis and Butthead would pummel Wayne and Garth in 1994.
Wayne and Garth and Waldo from the Where's World book series are random reminders of what the very late 80s and early to mid-90s were like for the styles of the characters. The Where's Waldo books were known as 'Waldo' to me because of the easiness of finding Waldo for me (my eyes went right to him in a first glance). The Where's Waldo books were the Magic Eye books of the early 1990s in that it was an evening family event to find him. At the time, in early 1992, there was a cartoon, video game, clothes, trading cards, video games, action figures, and dolls of Waldo and all of his allies. It was reversing and interesting to see department stores full of Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer articles switch over to carrying Urkel and Waldo articles. Did Waldo ever have a last name? Carmen Sandiego (Waldo's rival then), at least, had a last name. What was supposed to be significant about Waldo? Was Waldo a homeless adventurer? Was the author Martin Hanford trying to foil the Super Mario Brothers creator with all of these books like the Sega team did in late 1992? I can't search
(drum roll) for an answer.
In late 1991, there was an onslaught of cartoons for boys and girls born in the late 80s and older on pay television networks. The cartoon that stood out above the competition on Sunday mornings was The Ren and Stimpy Show. Pee Wee's Playhouse was off the air by then, so Millennials born in the late 80s were not able to see as many top-rated live-action programs for children as my micro-generation did in the 80s and very early 90s. Nickelodeon's Ren and Stimpy was the cartoon for my distal family (Millennial cousins) and I to watch all summer long into the fall [when the creator John Kricfalusi was fired from The Ren and Stimpy Show by Nickelodeon]. The Ren and Stimpy Show officially beat out Tiny Toon Adventures as the new Looney Tunes-like show for Millennials growing up in the early 90s. Both Xennials and Millennials had a wardrobe full of The Ren and Stimpy Show and Looney Tunes shirts from 1992 to about 1996 or 1997. The Simpsons and The Ren and Stimpy Show helped to inspire children and teenagers of the early to mid-1990s to dream about being cartoonists and not comic book designers like we wanted to be from 1989 to 1990.
There were a plethora of Millennial toys in 1992. Larami Super Soakers were the unigenerational (Xennial and late Gen X) phenomenon of 1992 and Ace Novelty Treasure Trolls were toy craze of early 1992 for Millennials and some Xennials. Russ troll dolls were unavoidable in '92, but Ace Novelty Treasure Trolls were high scale items sold exclusively at toy stores and department stores back then. The strong belief behind Treasure Trolls was that you could rub the plastic gem on their stomach and it would bring good luck like something out of a fantasy story of the 90s (Love Potion No. 9). The girls at my middle school would place them on the desks when pictures of small pictures of Paula Abdul used to go. Thankfully, the invention of the TalkBoy, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, and POGs would bring Xennials and Millennials out of 'the new late 60s and early 70s' as the 90s went on.
Barney dolls from the first to second season Barney and Friends years resonated with Millennials a little more than Treasure Trolls did in ‘92. Barney and Friends on PBS in 1992 and early 1993 was to Millennials what the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon was to us in 1989 and 1990, a highly addictive substance. I couldn’t put my finger on what made Barney and Friends a big deal to children of the early and mid-90s, but I believe it was the togetherness and love that the children had with Barney. Personally, I would have liked to see a Grimacemania in late 1992 and early 1993. That would be the child of the 1980s in me talking. The animated Barney shirts were the final Mickey Mouse type shirts to come out of the entire 1990s (Pokèmon was at the turn of the 2000s). There was nothing mushier than Barney and Friends and Full House towards the end of the early 1990s (Elmo was even worse as far as I’m concerned).
While Baby Boomers had the TVs set to Barney and Friends, I was deciding which teen shows to see in the fall to winter seasons of 1992. There wasn’t a wide range of teen shows to watch in late 1992 like there was in late ‘98 for Millennials, but there was variety in terms of teen shows. We had the teen shows for children like Saved by the Bell on the weekend, Fresh Prince and Blossom on weekday nights, and Swan’s Crossing on weekday afternoons (after the cartoons). I wasn’t allowed to watch Beverly Hills, 90210(RIP Luke Perry), the spin-off Melrose Place, or the second attempt The Heights. Those FOX shows were on the level of MTV’s The Real World as they tackled difficult subjects. The three NBC shows were adequate and potent enough to guarantee me a safe High School experience.
I found out about Saved by the Bell and Swan’s Crossing with Sarah Michelle Gellar of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame on the same day in September of ‘92. There were Saved by the Bell season 1 and season 2 repeats in syndication and on the TBS Superstation all throughout 1992, while Swan’s Crossing was on for 13 weeks in 1992. Saved by the Bell held my interest longer than Swan’s Crossing. I caught the Good Morning Miss Bliss and Saved by the Bell reruns on the weekdays and watched the all-new episodes of Saved by the Bell before California Dreams on Saturday morning that fall. I was puzzled as to how the character Zack Morris went to school with Kelly Kapowski and Jessie Spano in one episode and Tori Scott in the next like many teenagers in late 1992. However, Zack Morris did manage to sweep every female main character off their feet in that 1992 season so that saved the show for me (good ole TV land escapism). I’m not sure of what happened to Tori on graduation day in ‘93, but that’s a story for another day.
Fresh Prince and Blossom were my shows from late 1992 to 1994. My classmates all knew the Fresh Prince theme song 'by heart' through the one guy who sang it in my 7th-grade science class. Fresh Prince was the attention-grabbing teen sitcom that survived the latter half of the early 90s and all the mid-90s. Blossom was an early to mid-90s show that I haven’t seen since the 90s, but it was the show that I learned of the words, “Tonight on a very special…”. I kept my eyes peeled for Joey Lawrence as Joey Russo who was ‘the Dan Quayle’ of Blossom (Woah) and Six LeMuere (brilliantly played by Jenna von Oÿ), but Mayim Bialik was one of the actresses I associate with the late 80s and early to mid-90s.
In the last months of the leap year 1992, the syndicated version of the 3rd season of Saved by the Bell wasn’t on TV yet. California Dreams wasn’t ‘The Zack Attack show’ to some of the world late in the early 90s, it was California Dreams. California Dreams was the show Saved by the Bell need to be in 1992. The fashions were recent (Cross Colours recent), dilemmas were recent (say no to machoness), and the music was up to date (“This Time” could be confused for “Constant Craving” by KD Lang). Saved by the Bell had the higher camp factor in the very late 80s and early to mid 90s that California Dreams was not allowed to have, so Saved by the Bell would go on to be The Andy Griffith Show for my micro-generation. The Heights had California Dreams in the back seat, also, when the theme song went to number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts that fall.
The ‘90s teen show craze brought an end to my 1983 to early 1992 Saturday morning cartoon viewing days and jettisoned the current and defunct TV networks to 1999 in no time.
I can’t say I miss the years 1991 and 1992 the way I do the 80s and the year 1990, but I would take them over today in a heartbeat. Entering the 1990s was the best experience of the 90s for me. It was upsetting to see what came out of the 80s vanish during the 90s. From ‘my opinionation’(Holy Blossom reference, Batman), the 90s did not have as much to offer as the 80s did. The 50s and 60s nostalgia kept things afloat in the 90s for me (not really a 70s fan). The 90s had simply lost its way when early to mid 70s nostalgia took over.
I see the year 1991 and the first half of 1992 as the awkward part of the early 90s (like my mid-childlike crisis at the time), but make no mistake, they were the early 90s. The early 90s will always be my pre-teen to teen years and for that I’m extremely grateful! Where else will you be able to watch Donatello and Doogie Howser MD in the same day while thinking about the classic Star Trek versus Star Trek The Next Generation? I guess I’ll be daydreaming about a pop culture museum of everything from 1988 to 1991 now.
I hope you enjoyed the article, RetroJunkers! I apologize for sorry the repetition of words and the long article in the school essay format.
Peace in the Middle East and Hasta La