90s TV Characters Who Are Still Influencing Pop Culture

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The 1990s were filled with all kinds of nonsense: acid wash denim, grunge and everything in Crystal Pepsi. It was a time before cell phones became mainstream, but it was also a time when people were starting to realize that there might be something about all that “internet” stuff they were hearing about. Specifically, there were quite a few TV shows throughout the decade that left a lasting impression on viewers.

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Some shows would prove to be so impactful that they would inspire similar stories years after their release. This was often the case with children’s shows, whose viewers grew up to find work in the media. Often, the show itself has been the subject of memes and viral videos long after it first aired on television. Some shows of the decade even lasted decades after the 90s.

ten Sailor Moon – Many modern heroines owe a little to Usagi Tsukino


Reflection of Usagi and Sailor Moon

Sailor Moon revitalized the Magical Girl genre, often mistaking them for superheroes, and painting how the genre is still seen in the West. In his native Japan, he spawned a slew of similar shows at the time. Cute Honey was briefly revamped into a shojo series after Sailor Moon ended its 90s run and Revolutionary Girl Utena was based on an initial idea of Sailor Moon movie. Even in the West, the franchise has proven to be a huge influence in media, literature like The Lunar Chronicles to franchises like Buffy the Vampire Slayer – with Sailor Moon cited as an influence as early as his 1992 film.

9 Buffy the Vampire Slayer – Buffy Summers is the reason we have TV tropes


buffy the vampire slayer

While 1992 buffy the vampire slayer the movie wasn’t too popular, its TV show spin-off was instantly revered. The franchise has already proven itself while on air, inspiring a slew of spin-off books and comics, before being rebooted as a comic itself, and even saw a spin-off. television, Angel, before the end of the decade. University classes have even been dedicated to the series, with even high schools in Australia and New Zealand teaching Buffy.

Many shows with female leads have cited the series as an influence, such as Joan of Arcadia, Veronique Marsand A.k.a. Beyond that, even the rebirth of Doctor Who cited the show as an influence. One of its more surprising media influences, however, is that the TV Tropes website is said to have had its roots in focusing on the series.


8 Twin Peaks – Many mystery heroes are inspired by Dale Cooper (and Laura Palmer even had a mock funeral)


Agent Cooper Twin Peaks

Mystery-horror drama twin peaks came out at the start of the decade and was initially so short-lived that people often mistake it for an 80s show, but its first run ran from 1990 to 1991, along with the 1992 film, Fire walk with me. Many mystery-themed shows — especially those with a supernatural twist — have paid homage to the series, from Riverdalefor Lost, Atlanta, Desperate Housewivesand Gravity Falls.

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twin peaks has even influenced the gaming world, with the series being cited as an influence for The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. The show was also huge in Japan, with Agent Dale Cooper even appearing in local cafe commercials (and Laura Palmer, whose death begins the series, receiving a mock funeral in Tokyo.)


7 Beverly Hills, 90210 – Teen soap operas became all the rage thanks to these kids


Beverly Hills 90210

Beverly Hills 90210 was already big enough when it was on the air, inspiring fashion trends, for ten seasons, the Melrose Square spin-off, and even rack up another spin-off the following decade, 90210. The series’ popularity at the time arguably also helped popularize teen drama, with series since then including Riverdale, Gossip Girl, Dawson’s Creekand A tree hill taking influence from the series.


6 The Sopranos – Tony Soprano has inspired a host of dark characters


Tony Soprano and Mafia associates stand together.

Technically speaking, The Sopranos was just a ’90s show when it premiered in 1999, but it’s still had a massive influence on the TV industry, especially popularizing an anti-hero role on Western television.

Similar shows with dark characters that have cited Sopranos influence include Six feet Under ground, Save me, The shieldand breaking Bad. The show is also cited as having helped establish HBO’s reputation for cutting-edge material.


5 The Simpsons – The family helped revitalize adult animation


Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Homer, Marge Simpson are all watching TV while having dinner on The Simpsons

In the 1990s, adult animation slowly began to gain mainstream acceptance, as The simpsons and South Park. Regarding the former, Fox has since seen quite a few family-oriented adult animated sitcoms on Sunday nights, from family guyfor american dad, The Cleveland Showand Bob’s Burgers. The showrunners would release another series, Futurama, before the end of the decade, which would also gain a cult following.


4 The Nanny – Fran Fine has inspired other nannies around the world


The Nanny - Fran Fine and Maxwell Sheffield

Nanny sitcoms have been around for years, but Fran Drescher’s The nanny proved hugely popular with global audiences, going so far as to inspire numerous overseas remakes. Its Russian adaptation was so popular that showrunners had to ask American screenwriters for more scripts. When Italy aired a dub of the series, it was so localized that it inspired a book on the subject, Since when is Fran Drescher Jewish?

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Other countries to make foreign versions include Argentina, Chile, Greece, Indonesia, Poland, and Mexico. And while it didn’t create the genre, the series still influences later nanny-focused shows: Disney Channel’s jessy was even created by one of The nanny‘s executive producers.




3 María La Del Barrio – Soraya Montenegro has become an internet meme all over the world


Soraya Montenegro Maria La Del Barrio

Maria La Del Barrio is a 90s telenovela, itself a remake of Los ricos also lloran, which proved to be popular and influential around the world. The ’90s show ended up inspiring a remake in the Philippines, airing in nearly 200 countries, and is considered one of the most successful shows of all time.

Even people unfamiliar with the actual series might be familiar with a scene revolving around the show’s main antagonist – rival Maria Soraya – yelling at her daughter-in-law and the heroine’s son after catching them in a hug. His actress, Itatí Cantoral, even took over the role to promote the unrelated American series, Orange is the new black.


2 Arthur – The titular aardvark and friends’ final episode has ended National News


Arthur adult

Based on the book series by Marc Brown Arthur, The PBS adaptation revolving around an anthropomorphic aardvark with a significantly shrunken nose ended up being one of the longest-running animated children’s shows in the United States. The show would become known for covering issues like asthma and cancer over the years. arthurThe latest episode of “All Grown Up”, ended up becoming national news.


1 SpongeBob SquarePants – There’s even a mushroom named after the famous sea sponge


sponge bob party

Sponge Bob SquarePants was released at the end of the decade, but it marked a turning point for Nickelodeon, eventually overtaking the network and for decades becoming one of the longest running animated series made in the United States.

Over the years, SpongeBob has scored many milestones – and not just with movies and a Broadway musical – from being the first animated character to get a wax sculpture from Madame Tussauds to becoming a fashion statement in Egypt and in Libya. Real life organisms have been named in honor of the show, such as the Spongiforma squarepantsii mushroom.

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