‘Everything Sucks!’: The best modern TV shows with nostalgic 90s soundtracks
The 90s were a special time. Not only were we a lot younger and less cynical, but there was also a heck of a lot of decent chart music that had not yet been overrun by the likes of Taylor Swift, Rihanna, and whatever other sludge people call pop music today. While we might remember the decade like it was yesterday, the fact is that it has been many years since Beanie Babies and jelly shoes were all the rage.
There are a number of modern TV shows set in the 90s. We’re here to celebrate these shows and the awesome soundtracks that come with them, taking us back to our golden years like we’d never left. Snap those bracelets on, wind those scrunchies in, and flip on your CD player – it’s time for a trip down memory lane.
This is England ’90 (2015)
In this spinoff season of Shane Meadows’s skinhead drama This is England, we get to see Shaun (Thomas Turgoose) and the gang in a whole new set of devastating dramas, all the while donning bucket hats, listening to The Stone Roses, and dabbling in the latest drug trend, ecstasy.
As such, This is England ’90 is filled with 90s jams, from the Happy Mondays’s “Step On” to The Stone Roses’s “Fool’s Gold” to 808 State’s “Cubik”, taking us back to Madchester where our melons were well and truly twisted.
Everything Sucks! (2018)
We’re still totally butthurt that Netflix decided to axe Everything Sucks! after just one season, the show about two groups of high school misfits – an audiovisual club and a drama club – as they collide in 1996 Oregon. Not only was the 90s coming-of-age dramedy a loving throwback to the decade that echoed many of our childhoods, but the show also provided nostalgia via its wicked 90s soundtrack.
We’re particularly fond of the moment freshman Luke O’Neil (Jahi Di’Allo Winston) recreates Oasis’s music video for “Wonderwall” in a bid to ask out his love interest, Kate Messner (Peyton Kennedy). But the soundtrack also includes such classics as “Lovefool” by The Cardigans, “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran, and the catchy ska punk number from The Mighty Mighty Bosstones “The Impression That I Get”.
My Mad Fat Diary (2013 – 2015)
For those of you who haven’t heard of this 90s-set British dramedy, My Mad Fat Diary tells the story of a very troubled young girl named Rae (Sharon Rooney) that is equal parts tragic and humorous.
After spending four months in a psychiatric hospital for attempted suicide, Rae reconnects with her best friend Chloe (Jodie Comer) and her group of buddies and attempts to navigate through friendships and relationships while dealing with her mental health issues.
My Mad Fat Diary brings with it all the fashions and trends of the decade along with a soundtrack that is packed full of 90s gems that’ll make you want to barricade yourself in your bedroom, put on your headphones, and listen to vinyl all day long. Highlights include “Setting Sun” by the Chemical Brothers, “Sorted for E’s & Wizz” by Pulp, and “Friday I’m in Love” by The Cure.
Halt and Catch Fire (2014 – 2017)
This stunningly underrated TV show started off its narrative depicting a fictionalized insider’s view of the personal computer revolution in the 80s, but later moves on to the growth of the World Wide Web in the early 90s.
The latter portion of the show is supplemented with an eclectic mix of 90s tunes, from A Tribe Called Quest’s “Electric Relaxation” to PJ Harvey’s “Rid of Me” to The Breeders’s “Cannonball”. It’s a rare, flawlessly constructed must-see series.
Fresh Off the Boat (2015 – )
We’re stoked to see Nahnatchka Khan’s comedy show Fresh Off the Boat has been renewed for a fifth season, about a Taiwanese family as they make their way in America during the 90s. Starring Hudson Yang (The Sisterhood of Night), Randall Park (The Interview), and Constance Wu (Sound of My Voice), it is the first American TV sitcom starring an Asian-American family to air on American network primetime since the early 90s.
Fresh Off the Boat also contains an absolutely epic soundtrack, one that’s filled with popular 90s hip hop jams such as The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Big Poppa”, Cypress Hill’s “Insane in the Brain”, and Ice Cube’s “It Was a Good Day”.
Surviving Jack (2014)
Surviving Jack follows an emotionally distant father (Christopher Meloni) as he takes more of an active role in the lives of his two teenage kids when his wife goes back to law school. While the comedy was axed after just one season, it was relatively well received by the critics, with many citing its 90s time frame as providing some of the show’s few amusing moments.
One area Surviving Jack truly excelled in was the soundtrack, featuring such smash hits of the decade as “What’s Up?” by the 4 Non Blondes, R.E.M.’s “Shiny Happy People”, and “Unbelievable” by EMF.
Moone Boy (2012 – 2015)
This Irish sitcom created and co-written by and co-starring Chris O’Dowd (The IT Crowd) is about Martin Moone – a young boy who relies on the help of his imaginary friend Sean to deal with the quandaries of life in a small-town family.
The charming, quirky, and ever-so wacky comedy has been likened to Malcolm in the Middle, while its 90s setting gives it a nostalgic edge that’s held up by an eclectic soundtrack. Highlights from the decade include The Stone Roses’s “Waterfall” and Primal Scream’s “Loaded”.