Whatever happened to kids' TV?

June 9, 2008, midnight | By Anika Manzoor Jenny Williams | 12 years, 10 months ago

Silver Chips Online reminisces about old favorites

Disney Channel, Cartoon Network (CN) and Nickelodeon gained much popularity during the 1990s and stole our attention as innocent young children, long before the time of six-hour homework loads and an emphasis on extracurricular activities. Although these TV networks still produce shows that continue to entertain their young audience, shows like "Hannah Montana" and "Zoey 101" are, well, certainly not the way things used to be.

After wistfully watching many "old school" clips on YouTube and wondering whatever happened to the good old days, your Silver Chips Online kids' TV experts have compiled a list of each network's top five that aired during the 1990s and early 2000s and a list of the five best Disney Channel Original Movies - or "DCOMs", as they have been obnoxiously nicknamed today. All you TV lovers out there are guaranteed to recognize some old favorites, even as you experience that empty feeling while channel flipping through the summer.

Disney Channel Original Movies

Brink (1998)

Photo: According to Brink, blading is all about the fun. Photo courtesy of Disney Channel.

Andy "Brink" Brinker (Erik Von Detten) and his friends are what they call "Soul Skaters." Despite the beef they get from the X-Bladz, a sponsored in-line skating team captained by Brink's rival, Val (Sam Horrigan), they continue to skate because it is their passion, not for the money. However, when the Brinker family's financial situation tightens, Brink feels obligated to earn money - and starts skating with the X-Bladz for $200 a week. His friends brand him as a sell-out and stop speaking to him. The "Soul Skaters" are finally reunited by their determination to beat the X-Bladz at a regional in-line skating competition. The light-hearted theme of "Brink", along with the amazing skating stunts and realistic dialogue, make the movie great for all ages.

Wish Upon a Star (1996)

Hayley (Danielle Harris) and Alexia ("Grey's Anatomy's" Katherine Heigl in one of her first roles) are as different as sisters can be. While Hayley is a shy, brainy sophomore with dirt under her fingernails, Alexia is a sexy, popular senior with a dreamy jock boyfriend (Don Jeffcoat) but a 2.07 GPA. When Hayley wishes upon a shooting star, the two magically switch places. As they attempt to reverse the wish, the sisters pull off some hilarious antics and discover that they are more alike then they thought. This "Freaky Friday" scenario might be overplayed, but it is always an entertainment to watch.

Escape to Witch Mountain (1995)

Danny (Erik von Detten), a trouble-making orphan, has bounced from foster home to foster home in search of his true family. When he meets his twin Anna (Elisabeth Moss) in an orphanage, they find that together, they have special abilities – most notably a purple beam of light that shines when they join hands. When Mr. Bolt (Robert Vaughn), the most influential man in town, discovers their powers, he quickly adopts the two and uses their abilities to his advantage. As the two discover more about their powers, they learn more about their origins - and Bolt's true intentions. Though the screenplay is excruciatingly corny, the fantastical plot and relatable sibling connection did not fail to mystify youngsters.

Photo: Even though Johnny misses the surf back home, he quickly learns to love snowboarding. Photo courtesy of Disney Channel.

Johnny Tsunami (1999)

Johnny Kapahaala (Brandon Baker) lives to surf, spending his days off the coast of Hawaii trying to catch the biggest waves around. He has it all: the waves, a cool grandfather - the film's namesake - and rockin' friends. But his life takes a sudden turn when his dad's job transfer takes the family to Vermont, where all Johnny sees is snow. Johnny must now make the most of his new lifestyle and convert to a new sport: snowboarding. He learns valuable and inspiring lessons while learning how to perform like a true champ in any situation.

Luck of the Irish (2001)

Kyle Johnson (Ryan Merriman) is the star athlete and most popular boy in his junior high. He always seems to get lucky, whether it's finding money in the street, making last second shots or pulling perfect grades in school. But Kyle's life changes for the worse when he loses his charm necklace. Soon Kyle begins to transform into a leprechaun and his parents reveal that he is Irish, explaining the family secret. His family has depended on this charm for generations, and he has to find it before time runs out and they are all reduced to leprechauns. The wild adventure that ensues is one of teamwork and family values.

Disney Shows

So Weird (1999-2001)

Life can get pretty boring on the road - but paranormal events never fail to find Fiona "Fi" Phillips (Cara DeLizia). In every episode, she stumbles upon mythical creatures, such as doppelgangers and sirens, as she travels through the country with her musician mom (Mackenzie Phillips). As Fi gets increasingly tangled in the world of the unknown, she soon realizes that messing with magic can lead to consequences that may have led to the demise of her father when Fi was three. Fitting with the "scary show" craze of the 90s, "So Weird" was both a captivating and educational show for anyone interested in myths or just seeking a good thrill.

Lizzie McGuire (2001-2004)

Photo: One of the quirky things about "Lizzie McGuire" is an animated version of Lizzie, who always has something humorous to say. Photo courtesy of Disney Channel.

Lizzie McGuire (Hilary Duff) is just your average girl, bumbling through junior high with her best friends Miranda (Lalaine) and Gordo (Adam Lamberg) while experiencing milestones in her teenage life, like buying her first bra or asking her biggest crush to a dance. The show also focuses on Lizzie's relationship with her embarrassing parents (Halie Todd and Robert Carradine), who are always there to help Lizzie out whenever she is in a fix, and her younger brother Matt (Jake Thomas), who is always up to some mischief. "Lizzie McGuire's" charm lies in its realistic characters and adolescent humor, something lost in today's world of secret pop stars and teenage wizards.

Famous Jett Jackson (1998-2001)

Jett Jackson (Lee Thompson Young), a famous teenage TV show star in the spy series "Silverstone," has been living a lavish lifestyle in L.A., but begins to miss his hometown in the fictional Wilsted, North Carolina. Jett decides to move back to his home to live with his dad Wood Jackson (Gordon Greene) and his grandmother, Miz Correta. Back home, Jett spends half of his time being a "regular kid" and the other half starring in his show. In his new life, Jett often finds himself in many mix-ups and comical instances that his best friends J.B. and Kayla help him get out of.

The Jersey (1999-2004)

One day, four best friends, Nick Lighter, Morgan Hudson, Coleman Galloway and Elliot Riffkin, unexpectedly come across a magical jersey. The friends soon discover that donning the jersey transforms them into famous professional athletes. In each episode, the transformations usually are helpful in solving whatever dilemma the jersey-wearing character is facing. The show featured several famous professional athletes, including David Robinson and Malik Rose. With a different athlete appearing every episode, "The Jersey" is an enjoyable watch for sports fans and novices alike.

Photo: Louis always manages to get under his sister's skin, but Ren and Louis are close despite their rivalry. Photo courtesy of Disney Channel.

Even Stevens (2000-2003)

Louis (Shia LaBeouf), a quirky seventh grader who enjoys a good joke, spends his time pestering his sister Ren, often instigating feuds with his ingenious pranks. Louis's knack for mischief often lands himself in trouble, but his best friends Tawny and Twitty help Louis through his sticky situations. "Even Stevens," fun and witty, provides more laughs per episode than an entire season of "The Suite Life of Zack and Cody," in the well-researched opinion of these two experts.


Doug (1991-1994)
Doug Funnie (Billy West) is just your average sixth grader. He has a dog called Porkchop, a strong penchant for drawing and writing in his journal and a huge crush on Patti Mayonnaise (Constance Shulman). The cartoon centers on the everyday goings-on of the kind and humble Doug and his memorable peers, including his kooky yet loyal best friend Skeeter (Fred Newman), the trash-talking, leather-jacket-wearing bad boy Roger and the resident snobby rich girl Beebee. It was always a joy to watch the characters, with such different and distinct personalities, interact with each other.

Rugrats (1991-2004)

Lasting for a successful 13 seasons, "Rugrats" gave viewers a look at the never-ending adventures of four infants - the fearless Tommy Pickles (Elizabeth Daily), the cautious Chuckie Finster (Christine Cavanaugh) and the boisterous twins Phil and Lil Deville (Kath Soucie). With a swish of Tommy's toy screwdriver, the babies are out of their playpen and off to brave antics, such as saving the playground from a kid who takes candy from babies. Added to the mix are Tommy's older cousin Angelica (Cheryl Chase), who is quite the opposite of her name, and a handful of adults who are absolutely oblivious of their mischievous babies.

Are You Afraid of the Dark? (1991-1996)

When the Midnight Society gathers around the campfire, you know that you're in for a true scare. Similar to the plots of many horror flicks, the stories follow an oblivious protagonist in a world suddenly plagued by ghosts and other terrifying phenomena. Despite the clichéd plot, each episode of "Are You Afraid of the Dark?" left kids with the freaked out yet satisfied feeling you can only get after a good horror story.

Hey Arnold (1996-2004)

Arnold is a fourth grader navigating trouble with friends and an abnormal home life. Gerald, his right hand man and best friend, stands with Arnold through his sticky situations. "Hey Arnold" is goofy, with laughter and lessons to be learned in every show. From Arnold's Jewish education to his "Rocky" style training to preparing himself for an eating competition, "Hey Arnold" will satisfy any viewer's needs.

Kenan and Kel (1996-1999)

Photo: The dynamic duo of Kenan and Kel never failed to serve up the laughs. Photo courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Set in Chicago, this Nick staple focuses on two teenage comics: Kenan Rockmore (Kenan Thompson, now making laughs on "Saturday Night Live") and Kel Kimble (Kel Mitchell). Kel was particularly well-known for his obsession with orange soda and a bunch of supposedly clever ideas that eventually led to a hilarious storyline.

Cartoon Network

Looney Tunes (1992-2004)

Originally created in the 1930's, "Looney Tunes" was one of Cartoon Network's first shows and has since been picked up by its subsidiary station, Boomerang. "Looney Tunes" provides its audience with timeless short animations, like Bugs Bunny always cleverly besting Elmer Fudd. It's the source of classic characters like Road Runner and Daffy Duck, as well as unforgettable lines such as "What's up, doc?" and "Th-th-th that's all folks!"

Cow and Chicken (1997-2001)

Cow and Chicken are two animal siblings with human parents who are never seen from the waist up. In every episode, they are antagonized by a devil-like character known as The Red Guy, who constantly changes his name and appearance to avoid detection. Most parents probably saw "Cow and Chicken" as gross and inane based on slapstick humor and risky animations that emphasized certain body parts, but its unmatchable silliness made us kids giggle.

Photo: Johnny Bravo, shown in his trademark outfit, sunglasses and hairstyle. Photo courtesy of Cartoon Network.

Johnny Bravo (1997-2004)
Johnny Bravo is a buff body boy who loves his hair as much as his "mama." He generally makes a fool of himself, especially in front of the ladies. A cool "dude" who enjoys women and a nice tan, Johnny soon learns to live life the hard way through his ridiculous and immature antics.

Dexter's Laboratory (1996-2003)

Dexter, boy genius and budding mad scientist, has the answer to everything. Unbeknownst to his parents, he cooks up mischief in a secret lab in his room. As Dexter competes with his nemesis Mandark, he and his equally mischievous little sister, Dee Dee, tend to find themselves in strange situations. Equally silly and strange - and made all the better by Dexter's creepy accent - "Dexter's Lab" was the place to be in the 90s.

Scooby Doo

Scooby Dooby Doo! Scooby and the mystery gang find themselves figuring out mysterious situations in each episode. Shaggy and Scooby are notorious for making mistakes, but in the end, they always solve the mystery of the masked ghouls or mysterious ghosts. The rest of the gang boosts the show's comedy with Fred's obsession about his looks, Velma's smarts and knack for losing her glasses and Daphne's concerns with her attire.

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