Guaranteed to revert your brain to the warmest, most pleasant type of goo
Whether you've already embraced the powerful regression effect of quarantine, or you have yet to enjoy its warm embrace, you're reading this article for one reason: You need an escape.
The world is a mess, politics are ridiculous, and a global pandemic is killing thousands of people every day. Who wants to deal with any of that–let alone being stuck inside, thrown off your usual routine, with everyone obsessing over a documentary about animal cruelty and a reality show starlet who dropping racial slurs? No, what you need right now is not some new crazy drama to obsess over or any kind of grown-up distraction—you need a time machine that can take you to a simpler era. Short of that, these 10 shows from the late '80s to the early 2000s are among the best ways to turn off your brain and pretend to be a kid again.
They may not be the best shows from that era, but they are all currently streaming on one of the big four platforms (Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+), and they are all guaranteed to transport you back to your childhood... Unless you happen to suffer from the personal defect of not having been born between the mid-80s and the mid-90s, in which case there's nothing here for you.
Even Stevens - Disney+
Remember the old Shia LaBeouf, before Transformers and performance art and Nymphomaniac? Back when he was the goofy child star of Holes—and even earlier. If you want to, you could relive the darker side of that Shia in the new movie Honey Boy based on his childhood, or you could escape into the year 2000 and the world of Ren and Louis Stevens, with all the hijinks they got up to on the Disney Channel. Now that all three seasons of Even Stevens, along with the 2003 movie are streaming on Disney+, you can relive the wackiness of the Stevens family and their next door neighbor Beans, and ponder the important questions in life, like, "If a chicken had lips, could it whistle?"
Powerpuff Girls - Hulu
Sugar, spice, and everything nice never needed a remake, so let's all pretend it never happened and go all the way back to 1998, when Professor Utonium accidentally added that batch of chemical X to his recipe and created Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup. Because there's nothing quite like watching six seasons of kindergarten superheroes protect Townsville from the evil deeds of Mojo Jojo, Fuzzy Lumpkins, Princess Morbucks, and Him. You might also find that there were a ton of great references you missed out on as a kid. The remake is also on Hulu if you decide you have bad taste.
Spider-Man - Disney+
At this point Spider-Man has starred in nearly as many TV shows as he has movies, but real minds (AKA people who were kids in the '90s) know that the only true Spider-Man show was the animated classic that ran from 1994 to 1998. And now that all 64 episodes are streaming on Disney+, you can relive Peter Parker's greatest battles with the Venom, Mysterio, and Doc Ock. Just try not to crush too hard on Mary Jane—it's not cute anymore.
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Netflix
At only 15 years old, 2005's Avatar: The Last Airbender barely makes the cut for nostalgia viewing, but it is such a perfect show that it doesn't matter how old you were when it came out—it will instantly make you a kid again. Aang, Sokka, Katara, Toph, Zuko are always getting up to super-powered adventures and learning important life lessons about love, friendship, and struggle. It's genuinely heartwarming and consistently fun and has just been added to Netflix—lucky you. It's almost good enough to make you forgive the show for replacing Uncle Iroh after the tragic passing of Mako Iwamatsu. Also, if you know anything about British slang, the fact that people are always calling each other "benders" adds an extra layer of extremely juvenile humor.
Invader Zim - Hulu
Invader Zim was the precursor to a lot of the best children's cartoons today that embrace dark weirdness and gross-out humor. But none of them do it with quite as much stomach-churning glee as the 2001 original. Find all 27 episodes on Hulu to watch Zim fight off a giant mech-blob of space babies, Dib slowly transform into balogna, and GIR just being GIR. You don't have to be a kid to enjoy such nauseating humor...but you probably should be.
Recess - Disney+
From 1997-2001, it was the job of T.J. and his friends Spinelli, Vince, Gretchen, Gus, and of course Mikey (RIP Jason Davis) to maintain order at Third Street School. But as much of a lovable crew as they were, it's the extended cast of recognizable playground tropes that made the world of Recess so perfect. From the Ashleys and the diggers to Miss Finster and her stooge Randall, all the heroes, villains, and wacky side-characters of childhood were represented. And amid that chaos, Miss Grotkey was there to provide the show's sturdy moral center. All six seasons are streaming on Disney+.
Spongebob Squarepants - Amazon Prime
Spongebob Squarepants hasn't really gone anywhere. It just finished up it's 12th season more than 20 years after its 1999 premiere. But for those of us who were there at the beginning, Bikini Bottom will never be as beautiful and strange as it was in its early years. Thankfully those early years are now streaming on Amazon Prime, so you can relive the introduction of Patrick, Squidward, Gary, and Mr. Krabs. You can go back to the creation of Doodlebob and Bubble Buddy, and the discovery of Rock Bottom. The one thing you can never do is get the Krusty Krab pizza song out of your head.
Ducktales - Disney+
Huey, Dewey, and Louie with their uncle Scrooge were technically the stars of 1987's Ducktales, but half the fun is just the high energy intro listing off cool things like race cars, lasers, and aeroplanes, all of which could be found in the duck blur of Duckburg. Add to that the fun of Launchpad McQuack and the villainous plans of the Beagle brothers and you're in for a thoroughly childish treat. This is another show that TV executives have accidentally remade, but you can stream the original on Disney+ and be transported to simpler times.
Goosebumps - Netflix
Okay, Goosebumps was probably never all that scary—something about the fact that it aired in the afternoon and all the actors had Canadian accents made it clear that nothing that bad was going to happen. Yet somehow it was still gripping and silly fun. Four seasons of quick horror stories usually revolved some kind of bizarre monster, or cursed object. And there may be nothing that makes you feel like a kid again like allowing an R.L. Stine jump-scare to catch you off guard. The entire series is streaming now on Netflix (along with the Jack Black movies that are also pretty silly fun).
Hey Arnold - Hulu
1996's Hey Arnold is another classic defined by its extended cast of characters. Arnold, Gerald, and Helga were usually the focus, but everyone from Oskar Kokoshka to Stoop Kid to Dino Spumoni had a role to play in fleshing out Arnold's neighborhood. It always seemed like such a fun place to live, and for five seasons and the cost of a Hulu subscription, you can live there for a little while too.
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