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Gilmore Girls walking through Fall Festival
Gilmore Girls walking through Fall Festival
Warner Bros. Television
Culture > Entertainment

A Love Letter To Popular ’90s and Early 2000s Tv, From This Uni Student

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Carleton chapter.

Throughout most of my life and now as a university student, TV shows have been my favourite escape from the woes of everyday life. These days, they retain the same base characteristics regardless of genre: high drama, high stakes, fast-paced plots and age-inappropriate actors. It seems like modern TV has taken a darker turn, moving further from the relatability that viewers crave. While these are complements of changes in Hollywood, streaming service competitions and shorter audience attention spans, I often find myself returning to simpler times. There’s something so comforting about the catchy theme songs, realistic plots, holiday-themed episodes and long seasons that held popular shows in the ’90s and early 2000s. Somehow, they were always able to represent the ups and downs of early childhood, teen years and adulthood all at once.

This idea came up a couple of weeks ago when I completed the sixth season of One Tree Hill; a teen drama about two high school brothers who play basketball. While you might be wondering about the appeal of such a simple concept, One Tree Hill was different for several reasons. 

Consistent Character Development

Namely, the focus on character development was astounding. Even when notable characters left the show, I stayed for other characters that I had grown with and become attached to. For example, I admired its transformation of the perpetually entitled jock (Nathan Scott) into a family man who underwent challenges that forced him to reassess his relationship with basketball. At his side was the shy, nerdy girl (Haley James) who took a chance on her music career and became extremely successful. These characters felt real, which made me genuinely care about what happened to them regardless of the plot (not to say that the plots weren’t impeccable). 

This is a recurring theme that also appeared in sitcoms at the time. Let’s take a look at Fresh Prince of Bel-Air; a ’90s classic featuring a wealthy Black family who take their cousin Will in from the ‘hood’. The episodes were filled with both subtle and exaggerated humour while tackling heavier subjects like child abandonment, gun violence and the struggle to define Blackness. Will, Carlton, Aunt Vivian, Hilary, Ashley and Uncle Phil felt real. No amount of holiday-themed filler episodes, bad laugh tracks or montages of Jazz getting thrown out of the Banks’ house could change that. I watched these characters grow up and go through the same changes that I did. These days, it’s rare to see shows that manage the delicate balance between feel-good, realistic and entertaining. 

Not Leaving the Academics Behind

Gilmore Girls walking through Fall Festival
Warner Bros. Television

Looking back, I think what I appreciated most (and still do) about these shows as a student was the focus on academics. Gilmore Girls is a classic example of this phenomenon; a wildly successful teen drama about a studious teenager (Rory) who lives with her single mother (Lorelai) and the trials and tribulations she endures throughout her very normal life. In high school, watching Rory strive towards her dream of Harvard and then Yale pushed me to romanticize my own academic life (something that I never thought would be possible). Now in university, I still return to the show to embrace the comforting fall vibes and mundanity of it all. These days, TV shows like Riverdale, ignore the relevance of academics despite featuring high-school students. But this concept matters and has been proven to be relatable and interesting time and time again. I mean, what happened to the classic all-nighter episode like that of Dawson’s Creek where the main character doesn’t have time to study for a big test and all of their friends band together to help them study? This was a plot point that I enjoyed seeing in Amazon Prime’s latest hit series The Summer I Turned Pretty (Team Jeremiah btw). It took me right back to the older stuff.

belly, conrad, and jeremiah in the summer i turned pretty season 2
Erika Doss/Prime Video

Final Thoughts 

The main idea here is that sometimes the classics are just what we university students need. While I do enjoy the occasional fast-paced drama or modernized period piece, nostalgia is often at the core of the peace that many students and adults feel at the end of their long days. That’s why so many of these TV shows still trend today.

Teni is the current Campus Correspondent of Her Campus at Carleton! She oversees and supports the executive team, ensures that HCHQ requirements are met, and acts as a final reviewer of all articles. Outside of Teni’s Her Campus duties, she is a second-year student in the Public Affairs and Policy Management Program, with a specialization in Communication Technologies and Regulation in addition to a French minor. Teni is passionate about racial advocacy and has administrative experience through organizations like CATIE where she worked as a Research Assistant. Within the role, she updated the public service directory of community-based organizations along with their internal database. On campus, she works as a Front-Desk Associate at Carleton’s Center for Student Academic Support. In terms of extracurriculars, she has kept busy with clubs like BSA (The Black Student Alliance) and BSPA (Black Students in Public Affairs), where she volunteered at an Afrofuturism conference and made lifelong connections with other Black students in PAPM. To relieve stress, Teni thrives in the realm of escapism, ranging from fantasy books to reality TV. As a lover of the arts, she uses poetry as a creative outlet and aspires to be a published author alongside a career in either Law or Public Policy.