7 Lessons from TV Romances of the 90s

June 5, 2012 § 6 Comments

I was a child of the 90s and a child of television, so it goes without saying that my view on real-life romances is somewhat ingrained from 90s TV.  Maybe that’s why I can’t find a girlfriend.

Because real life is not TV and movies.  The stories we watch on the breast tube are meant to be more interesting and engaging than real life because that’s why we watch them.  If they were not, we wouldn’t watch TV because we could get that same entertainment outside.  (Entertainment outside you say?  Yeah right.  Now THAT’S a tall tale, my friend!)

Television romance usually starts with anguished longing for another and so we follow.  We watch and wait and see if our hero will get the girl and inevitably they do.   The two loves are united and as viewers, we are satisfied because that’s what we were waiting for all along.  However, how many of my real life crushes became sweethearts?

I think I’m about 0-for-2,513 in that category.

Relationships don’t always bloom from a crush.  Sometimes they just happen.  Whether organic or forced, sometimes love sparks from a drunken makeout behind a dive bar or from a friend right in front of you that you had never noticed before.  And sometimes, it is from a crush.

But maybe the inherent problem with “crushes” is that they are so one-sided.  If a crush is reciprocated early on, then you should be able to spot it.  Returned flirtation should soon turn into something real and if it doesn’t, then it’s probably never meant to be.  Yet on television, romances almost always start off as unrequited love and almost always turn into the requited version.

I thought for awhile yesterday not about the crushes I had (because that would require me to think about my actual life and NO THANKS!) but on the best television romances that I grew up watching and the lessons we learned from these relationships.

What started as a crush, soon turned into these 90s TV Romances and the lessons we learned:

Ross and Rachel, Friends

Lesson: Sometimes you never get over a crush or past love.

The show may have been called “Friends” but the stage for show was set in the pilot episode when we found out in the beginning that Ross had always loved Rachel and now she had appeared back in his life, without any idea that Ross had ever felt this way.  So everybody was immediately trapped in this universe of “Is Ross going to win her over?”

Which was bullshit because Ross was never my favorite character.  A bit too whiny, know-it-all, and pretentious for my liking, the only characteristic of Ross that I could relate to was this unrequited love that he had been holding onto forever.  And clearly since Rachel was too good and too hot for him, it was almost like additional icing on the cake for every guy that had ever loved a girl that was out of his league.

On-again, off-again, will they ever?, “we were on a break,” the romance literally lasted from episode one to the series finale without ever being a sure thing.  Ross and Rachel will always be remembered as the quintessential television romance of the decade, but the writers knew what they were doing and screw you writers.

Monica and Chandler, Friends

Lesson: Sometimes the love of your life is one of your best friends.

Because I might as well, right?

This was one of those rare TV relationships that did not start out as a crush and instead started out after a desperate one-night stand at one of Ross’ weddings.  The love wasn’t there and then all of a sudden it was.

Monica and Chandler had something that Ross and Rachel never had: A complete lack of annoyance.  It was just easy, which is something everyone looks for.

Dawson and Joey, Dawson’s Creek

Lesson: Sometimes your sweetheart is right next door.

Did I watch Dawson’s Creek?  Noooooo.  I had a life.


I don’t really remember why or how I started watching Dawson’s Creek, but I was a freshman in high school and Kevin Williamson was my favorite writer after I had seen Scream, my favorite movie.

I kind of hated Dawson.  I kind of hated James Van Der Beek’s face.  I kind of hated the way that these “teenagers” talked over my head.  But I could relate to Dawson on two levels: an obsession with horror movies and an obsession with Katie Holmes, who at the time was the loveliest girl I had ever seen.  Forget the fact that Joey was always making that stupid face, I totally get where Tom Cruise is coming from.  Holmes was the perfect “girl next door” and while I might have hated Dawson, I could at least live vicariously through him.

Now Pacey and Joey?  Mrs. Cruise and Mr. Duck?  Now that’s a dream couple.

Cory and Topanga, Boy Meets World

Lesson: You stick by each other through thick and thin.

Just before the 90s, there was Kevin and Winnie.  Ironically the next “Kevin and Winnie” type couple (Or maybe it’s not ironic.  Maybe they just ripped them off) was Fred Savage’s younger brother Ben in the Cory & Topanga love story.

I think that BMW is one of the most underrated television shows of the decade, in that I loved it when I was a kid and I love it in re-runs.  It is a legitimately funny show, even if the humor is slapstick and sophomoric, it’s good slapstick.

However, I was never one of those “OMG Topanga!” kids and I didn’t see the appeal until later in life, which sounds creepy but I mean when Topanga grows up a bit.  Cory was reluctant towards girls in the beginning of the show but eventually grew up, fell in love with Topanga, got married, and they made it work.

It wasn’t the perfect relationship set in perfect circumstances.  It was more like real life; sometimes shit is shitty and you have to deal with it.  Cory and Topanga (and Shawn) always found ways to deal with their sometimes-crappy existences and one thing that always held true was their love for each other and Mr. Feeney’s creepy love for them.

Certainly, this boy met the world.

Urkel and Laura, Family Matters

Lesson: Looks do matter?

Now flip the script from an underrated show with strong ideals and morals to a show that did not hold up and had TERRIBLE ideals and morals.  Re-runs of Family Matters are literally hard to watch (and I watch Full House religiously!) but the part that has to annoy me the most is how they push the idea that Laura should be rewarded for her shallow behavior.

Steve Urkel, in love with Laura for every second of his existence on the show, was treated like total crap by her at every turn.  Despite the fact that Urkel would do anything for Laura (and that he saved the show from early cancellation in season one, when he was introduced midseason during very poor ratings) she shit on him.  Then when the show started to get really weird in later seasons, he turned into Stefan… a much more suave and handsome version of himself that didn’t wear suspenders and glasses.

Now Laura loves him back.

REALLY?!   THIS IS THE MESSAGE WE ARE SENDING TO KIDS?  “Hey kids, if a girl doesn’t like you, it’s probably because you are a nerd and if you want her to love you… CHANGE!”

Sorry, I can’t endorse this.  Apparently, long after people stopped watching the show, she eventually chose Steve over Stefan, but the damage was already done.  Laura was a bitch and honestly Steve nor Stefan should have ever given her a second chance.  Steve Urkel was much better than her, but he couldn’t see it and she couldn’t see it.  He was Steve Jobs… She was some girl that has a job at Hot Dog on a Stick (probably.)

That’s the message that Family Matters should have sent to kids, that you should never change who you are for someone else, but they failed and it’s a shame.

Jesse and Becky, Full House

Lesson: Family is the most important thing.

As I said, I watch it religiously.

Jesse seemed like a bad boy, the kind of guy that could have any woman he wants.  Motorcycles, leather, guitar, and hair.  But deep down he was a sweetheart that helped take care of his nieces after his sister passed away and Becky saw that.  She was a local TV star and a perfect 10 who could have any guy she wanted, but clearly this was a match that was made to last “Forever.”

Sure, Nicky and Alex are the bane of society and turned out to be two total idiots but sometimes you put all the right ingredients together and still get a bad batch.  That’s life.  Jesse and Becky stuck it out through the good times and bad (though life never got too bad on Full House, where literally the lowest point of the show by far came just before the pilot episode when Mom died and then everything was roses for the next nine years) and made a home for themselves… in the attic.

They could never stray too far from home or away from their family, which held their relationship together like L.A. Looks held together Jesse’s hair.

Zack and Kelly, Saved by the Bell

Lesson: The hot people end up together, eventually.

I think Zack Morris ended up kissing everybody on the show at least once, including Mr. Belding and Screech, but his one true love was Kelly Kapowski.  (Though Leah Remini during the summer season was somethin’ else.)

Kelly flirted with the idea of Slater and could have had any guy that ever entered the Saved by the Bell universe, but it was the trouble-making Zack that really got her heart all a-flutter.  They eventually got married in Saved by the Bell: Wedding in Las Vegas and it was confirmed a few years later in “The New Class” (per wikipedia) that they were still together.

However, most marriages manage to last at least a few years.  Every high school’s power couple sweethearts end up getting married and divorced, so this is how I imagine them now with Zack hooking up with Violet Bickerstaff at the 10 year reunion and Kelly reuniting with Johnny Dakota from the “No Hope with Dope” episode for a short fling.

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§ 6 Responses to 7 Lessons from TV Romances of the 90s

  • Bob Johnston says:


    Personally I feel the Urkel situation is the perfect life lesson…

    Steve took the wrong approach and got kicked in the teeth until he figured out he needed to do something different. Even better he learned that getting what you want isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

    What would have been unrealistic is if he got the girl while still continuing to be a dweeb. Life doesn’t work like that, I think the writers did a nice job.

    I think the lesson to learn is that crushes suck. They make you do stupid stuff that others might find cute but the object of your affection never will.

    • Well, I think it’s good to derive a lesson from everything and you’ve pointed out a positive way to look at the situation, but we both know that Urkel should have forgotten about her early. I guess that was a lesson that he had to learn the hard way but it would have been nice if Steve AND Stefan had told Laura to screw off.

  • beck16 says:

    this is perfectly analyzed. and hilarious!

  • Pink Ninjabi says:

    Awesome post!


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