7 retro shows on Disney+ to awaken the nostalgia in 80s and 90s kids
Here are some hidden gems on Disney+, old favourites that will make you marvel at the plethora of shows on the platform.
The 80s and 90s were simpler times. There was no email (okay there was, but it wasn't the overwhelming mound of spam that we all have these days), there were no (okay, fewer) mobile phones (so you weren't constantly bombarded by calls) and baggy jeans were in. But besides reminiscing about the fashion choices of the past, what else can you do about the 80s and 90s? There's no way to relive it — right?
Well, you can — by watching old favourites from the 80s and 90s. Here are some hidden gems on Disney+, old favourites that will make you marvel at the plethora of shows on the platform. How many of them have you watched?
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1. Ally McBeal
Ally McBeal is a quirky series about a wistfully idealistic — if perennially insecure — lawyer and her chaotic life at a Boston firm. Grappling with unresolved feelings, a difficult assistant, some oddball colleagues, and a high-pressure career, Ally slips into one fantasy after another in order to cope with her new life.
Ally McBeal was the sort of show that really appealed to the inner kid inside you — but was still ostensibly for adults (although admittedly, I was not an adult yet when I watched it). She would fantasise about things happening to the people in her life, and who hasn't? Her dancing baby fantasies were probably the most famous ones of all. Calista Flockhart's pouty lips also definitely helped with the angsty scenes when she played the titular character.
But what made Ally McBeal really memorable was the fact that it was on Channel 5 back in the 90s — and an episode revolving around Richard Fish's (Greg Germann) performance issues in bed was allowed to air. Several parental guidance warnings were shown before the actual episode itself, but Channel 5 was lauded for handling the episode in a mature way. However, a later episode involving a lesbian kiss was not broadcast.
2. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a comedy-action series that chronicles the adventures of Buffy Summers, a teenage girl who is gifted with the strength and skill to hunt vampires.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer was a horror show that utilised a rock soundtrack, which was a trendy 90s thing to do. It tried to subvert the whole "blonde girl is the first to die" trope of horror shows by having the blonde girl be the most powerful character. However, the creator, Joss Whedon, knew what he was doing — there's no denying the appeal of having an attractive blonde female as your lead actress. The dialogue was also smart and snappy, although it can be a little grating for modern tastes.
What made the show memorable was how it took supernatural monsters and turned them into metaphors for coming-of-age pains. Whether it was subtle or not is another matter altogether, but if you were an angsty teen, it sure felt good to see someone punch your problems into oblivion.
When Donald Duck leaves town to join the Navy, nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie are left in the care of Donald's uncle, Scrooge McDuck. However, Scrooge has little time for family as he is kept busy protecting his vast fortune from the notorious Beagle Boys.
DuckTales' catchy theme has endured the test of time, with the 2017 reboot using an updated version of the original theme song. Although its ostensibly about a wealthy miser who learns about the value of family (again, and again, and again), that was really just an excuse for an action-adventure romp all over the world, and even into outer space!
Scrooge McDuck faced his fair share of nemeses, all of whom served to add more colour to an already colourful series — the evil Italian sorceress Magica De Spell, Scottish rival billionaire Flintheart Glomgold, and the Beagle Boys' thuggish mother Ma Beagle. But he always found a way to triumph over them (just like a good 80s character should) and still retain his title as the richest duck in the world.
4. The Muppet Show
Join Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, the Swedish Chef and more in this groundbreaking twist on the classic variety show, blending original songs, sketch comedy and guest stars into a prime-time hit for all ages!
If you loved Sesame Street, you'd have loved The Muppet Show — which featured the same sort of fictional furry characters (the eponymous Muppets themselves), but with fewer morals and squeaky-clean humans. That's not to say there weren't any real people on the show — many famous actors of that era appear appeared as guest stars on the show. But overall, the focus was squarely on the antics of the Muppets, rather than about learning a lesson or trying to shoehorn a human in.
Besides Kermit, Miss Piggy was undoubtedly the other star of the show. Who doesn't have a friend who resembles Miss Piggy, lusting after a smaller love interest like Kermit? I've known several people who fit that profile, and it makes me chuckle thinking of them and their beaus as Miss Piggy and Kermit. Perhaps it's this striking similarity to real life that has made the Muppets so endearing.
5. NYPD Blue
NYPD Blue is an American police procedural drama television series set in New York City, exploring the struggles of the 15th Precinct detective squad in Manhattan.
When NYPD Blue came out, it was memorable for its sheer grittiness. That's not to say that cop dramas were all about clean-cut police officers back then, but the show had a distinct authenticity with its realistic (and sometimes dark) portrayals of its characters. It ran for an impressive 12 seasons, spanning 261 episodes.
Andy Sipowicz (Dennis Franz) was everyone's favourite character, and surprisingly so, since he didn't fit the typical mould of a leading man. But the depiction of his drinking (and his eventual recovery from it) as well as the difficult situations he constantly found himself in made him a sort of Everyman that viewers could understand.
6. The Simpsons
The Simpsons is an animated comedy that continues to strike a chord with viewers for irreverently poking fun at anything and everything. With its subversive humour and delightful wit, the series has made an indelible imprint on American pop culture.
If you didn't already know — The Simpsons is still going on strong. At the time of writing, the show is in the middle of its 34th season, with it being renewed for Season 35 and Season 36 after that. It's famously known for being the longest-running television series ever, and with over 700 episodes having been aired since 1989, how could it not be?
The sheer volume of episodes means that each Simpsons family member has been thoroughly fleshed out and developed, to the point that they are some of the most well-known characters on television. Even after all this time, it still manages to deliver somewhat prescient observations about the world, and it is possibly older than some of the readers out there.
7. Family Guy
Animated comedy Family Guy features the adventures of the Griffin family. Endearingly ignorant Peter and his stay-at-home wife Lois have three kids. Meg, the eldest child, is a social outcast, and teenager Chris is awkward and clueless when it comes to the opposite sex. The youngest, Stevie, is a genius baby bent on killing his mother and destroying the world. The talking dog, Brian, keeps Stewie in check while sipping martinis and sorting through his own life issues.
Like The Simpsons, Family Guy has been running for an impressive number of seasons, with no sign of it stopping any time soon. It is in the middle of its 21st season, and it has been renewed for Season 22 and Season 23. While it may be an animated series revolving around an American family, that's where the similarities between Family Guy and The Simpsons stop. Family Guy is distinctly more American in nature, but then American culture is so well-known that it is still relatable.
As for me, I apparently bear a physical similarity to main character Peter Griffin (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), which is... well, suffice it to say that I'm glad that I look like any fictional character at all, so I'm not begrudging this.
Which is your favourite retro Disney+ series?