100 best TV shows from the ’90s

Published 8:30 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Grub Street Productions

100 best TV shows from the ’90s

Before the era of streaming services, TGIF and Must-See TV reigned supreme. In the 1990s, networks like ABC and NBC stocked up on comedies and realistic dramas, while relative newcomer Fox had its own arsenal of groundbreaking shows. Even cable networks like HBO and Cartoon Network started upping the ante with quality programming, marking a turning point in television history. Viewers had more options than ever to get their entertainment fix.

Stacker compiled data on all 1990s TV shows in English with over 7,500 votes on the Internet Movie Database and ranked the top 100 according to IMDb user score (as of February 2023), with ties broken by votes.

Do you remember the cop show that introduced (partial) nudity and crude language to primetime TV? Or the Nickelodeon show that launched the career of a future cast member of “Saturday Night Live”? How about the NBC crime drama that has had more spinoffs than there are presidents on Mount Rushmore? We include those shows and more, plus transcendent British comedies, genre-bending cartoons, and the sketch show that birthed the careers of many of the top comedians of the ’90s.

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It is a testament to the power of ’90s TV that many of the shows on the list, while still holding up on their own, are being rebooted for newer generations. Each slide includes a hodgepodge of information like notable cast and crew, accolades won, the show’s legacy, and other interesting tidbits.

Continue reading to see if your favorite ’90s shows made the list.

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A cartoon of a school bus flying through flowers.

South Carolina ETV

#100. The Magic School Bus

– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– On air: 1994-1997

Based on a popular children’s book series, “The Magic School Bus” chronicles Miss Frizzle and her class as they go on far-out adventures around the galaxy. Award-winning actress Lily Tomlin voiced Miss Frizzle, lending charm and grace to the main protagonist. The show was reimagined for Netflix in 2017, featuring “Saturday Night Live” star Kate McKinnon as Miss Frizzle.

Kenan Thompson and Kel Mitchell laughing on a couch.

Nickelodeon Network

#99. Kenan & Kel

– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– On air: 1996-2000

Like any good buddy comedy, “Kenan & Kel” connected with audiences due to the titular co-stars’ on-screen chemistry. Centering two longtime friends, the show followed the two teens across a variety of adventures and became an anchor of Nickelodeon’s late ’90s lineup. Kenan Thompson went on to star on “Saturday Night Live,” and Kel Mitchell was a regular on the kids’ sketch show “All That” from 1994 to 2020.

Patricia Routledge and Clive Swift.


#98. Keeping Up Appearances

– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– On air: 1990-1995

“Keeping Up Appearances” translated across the English Channel and beyond, gaining a rare following in the U.S. Centered on obnoxious social climbers, the show followed in the great tradition of wry British comedies. Today, it still charms audiences across the globe as it is available on a wide array of streaming services.

A cartoon of two mice by a tree.

Warner Bros. Animation

#97. Pinky and the Brain

– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– On air: 1995-1998

The aforementioned “Pinky and the Brain” is a spinoff of “Animaniacs” and focuses on the pint-sized villains’ plans to take over the world. The show’s writer, Gordon Bressack, died in 2019 and was fondly remembered by fans. The show’s theme song is another beloved aspect of this memorable cartoon, and it has been covered in various formats.

Sam Waterston in a gray suit.

Studios USA Television

#96. Law & Order

– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– On air: 1990-present

Who hasn’t seen an episode of “Law & Order”? The show that birthed what seems like a million spinoffs (there are actually over half a dozen) is now entering its third decade on TV. Jerry Orbach, Benjamin Bratt, and Michael Imperioli are just some of the noted actors to have starred in “Law & Order.”

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John Lithgow and a family around a dining room table with a green jello mold.

Carsey-Werner Company

#95. 3rd Rock from the Sun

– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– On air: 1996-2001

Alien comedies were created before “3rd Rock from the Sun,” but something about this clan from outer space charmed audiences differently. John Lithgow and Joseph Gordon-Levitt starred in the show, which followed them and their colleagues learning to adapt to life on Earth. The show sometimes offered irreverent humor, but it was often insightful with well-timed, one-liner jokes from French Stewart.

Marketing image of a spaceship over a planet with the sun in the background, with Star Trek Voyager written at the bottom.

Paramount Television

#94. Star Trek: Voyager

– IMDb user rating: 7.8
– On air: 1995-2001

Following in a long line of “Star Trek” TV shows, “Voyager” was set in a different galaxy and was noted for its introduction of new characters (female characters, in particular). Video games, books, and other merchandise were produced in abundance, and the show still carries a special place in the hearts of Trekkies.

A cartoon of three men standing together.

Columbia Pictures Television

#93. The Critic

– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– On air: 1994-2001

Jay Sherman is a no-nonsense, witty, sometimes annoying critic voiced by Jon Lovitz on this hit show. Sherman has been described as a “likable jerk” known for his catchphrase, “It stinks!” In a popular episode of “The Simpsons,” Sherman made a cameo as a film festival judge.

A still of the characters from the animated series Rocko's Modern Life.

Joe Murray Productions Inc.

#92. Rocko’s Modern Life

– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– On air: 1993-1996

Another Nickelodeon animated classic, “Rocko’s Modern Life” revolved around a wallaby and his eccentric friends. Although not adult-themed, the show had more nuanced comedy stylings and was big on sight gags. The behind-the-scenes stories were even crazier.

Three animated characters in Hollywood.

Warner Bros. Animation

#91. Animaniacs

– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– On air: 1993-1998

One of the most beloved animated shows of the ’90s, “Animaniacs” had witty innuendo and recurring gags that charted well with kids and adults. Antagonists Pinky and the Brain were so well-received by audiences that they spun off into their own successful show. The show was rebooted in 2020 and will finish its third and final season in 2023.

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A cartoon of a group of school kids outside.

Disney Television Animation

#90. Recess

– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– On air: 1997-2001

“Recess” was an ingenious animated show about kids who created their own society on the school playground during recess. After its cancelation, the show was praised for its characterization of politics and how societies work, and several movies featuring the “Recess” cast followed.

Detectives looking at something in the distance.

Bentley Productions

#89. Midsomer Murders

– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– On air: 1997-present

“Midsomer Murders” is an English detective drama based on a 1987 novel by Caroline Graham called “The Killings at Badger’s Drift.” The show has captured legions of fans for over 20 years with its tongue-in-cheek humor, although some critics like to point out that there are an absurd amount of murders taking place in what is a relatively small town.

A cartoon of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles posing.

Murakami Wolf Swenson

#88. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– On air: 1987-1996

“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” was a staple in many family households during the ’90s. Based on the eponymous comic book, the animated television show premiered in 1987 and ran for nearly a decade, airing its last episode in 1996. Children fell in love with the relatable personalities and zany adventures of Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael. The franchise became a cash cow, producing everything from action figures to video games and even a few live-action films.

A cartoon of Dexter standing in a giant machine.

Cartoon Network Studios

#87. Dexter’s Laboratory

– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– On air: 1996-2003

Child scientist Dexter runs a secret laboratory, has a remarkable pet monkey, and is constantly quarreling with his sister—you know, ubiquitous adolescent experiences. “Dexter’s Laboratory” was nominated for many awards and helped launch Cartoon Network into a new stratosphere.

Kirstie Alley, Woody Harrelson, and Ted Danson smiling behind a bar.

Charles/Burrows/Charles Productions

#86. Cheers

– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– On air: 1982-1993

It’s hard to believe that “Cheers” was nearly canceled after its first season. Thanks to summer reruns in 1983, word of mouth began to spread, and the comedy ended up prospering for 11 seasons. Though its cast was unknown when it premiered, it boosted the careers of now-A-list celebrities like Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson, Kelsey Grammer, and Kirstie Alley. It also spawned “Fraser,” a spinoff that became popular in its own right.

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Mekhi Phifer, Sara Gilbert, and Sherry Stringfield in white doctor coats.

Constant c Productions

#85. ER

– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– On air: 1994-2009

Yes, “ER” turned George Clooney into a megastar, but the show also made the medical drama en vogue for years to come. “ER” captured the perfect mix of sadness, humor, and heartwarming moments and won a slew of Primetime Emmy awards. The show was also applauded for its unique visuals, which many future shows copied.

David Boreanaz in a black tank top.

Mutant Enemy

#84. Angel

– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– On air: 1999-2004

Most spinoffs premiere after the original show ends, but “Angel” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” aired simultaneously for most of their time on TV (the former ran from 1999-2004 and the latter from 1997-2003). “Angel” followed the story of its titular character after he left “Buffy” in Season 3, moving to Los Angeles to seek redemption for past wrongs.

Will Smith pointing at Alfonso Ribeiro on a couch.

NBC Productions

#83. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

– IMDb user rating: 7.9
– On air: 1990-1996

Besides having perhaps the catchiest intro in television history, “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” is one of the more culturally relevant entries on this list. Not only did Will Smith become a star, but the show mixed comedy with topics like race, social status, and parenting. The show was rebooted and retitled as “Bel-Air” in 2022.

First responders from Third Watch standing on a New York street.

John Wells Productions

#82. Third Watch

– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– On air: 1999-2005

Third watch refers to firefighters, paramedics, and police officers who work the 3 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift, one of the most active periods of the day. Critics often praised the show for its reality, and after the September 11 attacks, the cast and crew paid tribute to real-life first responders. Bobby Cannavale was among the notable actors with a recurring role on “Third Watch.”

Lance Henriksen.

20th Century Fox Television

#81. Millennium

– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– On air: 1996-1999

A former FBI agent joins a shadowy organization known as the Millennium Group in this mystery thriller series. The show often bore similarities to “The X-Files,” but with offbeat humor.

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An excited woman running in front of a church.


#80. The Vicar of Dibley

– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– On air: 1994-2020

In one of the more unique premises in television, “The Vicar of Dibley” is a British sitcom based around the law that allowed women to be ordained in the church. The fictional town of Dibley has oddball residents who are surprised when their new vicar is a woman. In 2020, fans of the show were delighted when the series returned with special Christmas episodes.

David Foley, Maura Tierney, Phil Hartman, Vicki Lewis, Joe Rogan, and Stephen Root standing around a desk in an office.

343 Films

#79. NewsRadio

– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– On air: 1995-1999

Although “NewsRadio” never got the acclaim of other NBC comedies like “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” and “Frasier,” it developed a cult following over five seasons. Former “SNL” alums Phil Hartman and Jon Lovitz appeared as regular cast members on this series about an AM radio station.

Patricia Clarkson tied up in a padded room.


#78. Tales from the Crypt

– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– On air: 1989-1996

“Tales from the Crypt” proved the method of a horror anthology hosted by a witty puppet corpse worked. Much of the show’s content originated from stories via its source material, a 1950s comic series of the same name. Because it aired on HBO, the horror/dark comedy series could stretch boundaries regular cable shows at the time couldn’t, including profanity, graphic violence, and nudity.

Phil Hartman, Lorne Michaels, Ellen Kleghorne, Kevin Nealon, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, Mike Myers, Rob Schneider and David Spade posing.

Mitchell Gerber/Corbis/VCG // Getty Images

#77. Saturday Night Live

– IMDb user rating: 8.0
– On air: 1975-present

“Saturday Night Live” is the longest-running sketch comedy/variety show in America, and its ’90s cast is one of its most memorable. During that decade the show spawned stars like Will Ferrell, Phil Hartman, Chris Farley, Mike Myers, Dana Carvey, Adam Sandler, Jimmy Fallon, Chris Rock, David Spade, and Janeane Garofalo—and that’s a very abbreviated list. “SNL” has always produced comedic stars, so it’s no wonder the series has won 82 Emmys during its long tenure.

Transformer characters in battle.

Alliance Atlantis Communications

#76. Beast Wars: Transformers

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1996-1999

You’d be hard-pressed to find an animated series that’s not CGI animated nowadays, but back in the ’90s it was unheard of. While Pixar pioneered that type of animation on the big screen, “Beast Wars: Transformers” was the first television series to use CGI. The series was part of the Transformers series; however, its characters were animals, not vehicles.

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A man in a suit looking on a phone with people in scream masks behind him.


#75. Jonathan Creek

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1997-2016

“Jonathan Creek” may not be a familiar name to Americans, but the BBC mystery crime drama was beloved enough to air for nearly 20 years. The story focuses on its titular character—a stage magician’s creative consultant who also solves mysteries with a partner in tow—and its success won the show a BAFTA for Best Drama Series in 1998.

An animation of a creature opening it's jaws.

HBO Animation

#74. Spawn

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1997-1999

The Spawn character has lived many lives through comics, movies, video games, and an animated television series. The adult-geared “Spawn” aired on HBO from 1997-1999. Though it was short-lived, the cartoon won an Emmy in 1999 for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming More Than One Hour).

Keenen Ivory Wayans and David Alan Grier onstage in black and white costumes.

Ivory Way Productions

#73. In Living Color

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1990-1994

With “SNL” dominating the sketch comedy genre, “In Living Color” was a loud, hip, and downright funny competitor throughout the ’90s. The brainchild of the Wayans family, “In Living Color” set up the careers of Jamie Foxx and Jim Carrey and even featured Chris Rock for a period. Popular sketches included Damon Wayans as Homey D. Clown, Foxx as Wanda, and Carrey as Fire Marshal Bill.

A cartoon of superman changing into his superhero costume while running.

Warner Bros. Animation

#72. Superman: The Animated Series

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1996-2000

Kids’ WB offered some of the more memorable animated shows of the ’90s, particularly with their darker-than-usual versions of comic book heroes. “Superman: The Animated Series” provided an in-depth look at Superman the character and served as a precursor for “Batman: The Animated Series.”

An animation of the gargoyles.

Buena Vista Television

#71. Gargoyles

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1994-1997

“Gargoyles” was another animated show with a dark theme, this time featuring stone statues that came to life at night. There’s been chatter of a reboot; in 2018, Jordan Peele hoped to make a film version of “Gargoyles.”

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An animation of Daria in a green coat.

MTV Animation

#70. Daria

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1997-2002

Daria, who first made appearances on “Beavis and Butt-Head,” was featured in her own show on MTV beginning in 1997. Daria’s deadpan delivery and spot-on analysis of teen life won her fans—she remains one of the most iconic characters of ’90s television.

An animation of Batman punching a hole in a steel pipe.

Warner Bros. Animation

#69. Batman Beyond

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1999-2001

“Batman Beyond” focuses on the Caped Crusader’s years before he fought crime in Gotham City—with a twist, diverting away from the Bruce Wayne storyline. The show was immensely successful despite only airing for three seasons, spawning toys, books, games, and other media.

An animation of an old man duck and a little girl duck.

Disney Television Animation

#68. DuckTales

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1987-1990

“DuckTales” originally ran for four seasons with 101 episodes, but Scrooge McDuck and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie made a much larger impact than that. Not only did the series inspire video games, merchandise, and even a full-length movie, but it also made enough of an impact to get the reboot treatment in 2017.

The Golden Girls sitting on a patio talking.

Touchstone Television

#67. The Golden Girls

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1985-1992

“The Golden Girls” is one of the most beloved sitcoms of all time, and for good reason. The show focused on four older women, played by ​​Bea Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, sharing a house in Miami. It received critical acclaim through its seven-season run and won several awards. Each of its stars also notably won Emmys for their performances.

Three teen characters, Shawn, Cory, and Topanga, standing in class with a teacher, Mr. Feeny.

Michael Jacobs Productions

#66. Boy Meets World

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1993-2000

One of the most memorable shows for teens from the ’90s, “Boy Meets World” followed Cory (played by Ben Savage, younger brother of fellow kid star Fred Savage) as he grows up and learns life lessons with his friends, family, and principal. Danielle Fishel and Rider Strong played supporting roles on the show. In 2014, a spinoff called “Girl Meets World” aired on Disney Channel.

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The Star Trek characters on a TV poster.

Paramount Television

#65. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1993-1999

The second “Star Trek” entry on this list, “Deep Space Nine” was the third sequel to “Star Trek: The Original Series.” In detailing the adventures of the USS Defiant, “Deep Space Nine” featured big storylines like the Dominion War.

Katey Sagal and Ed O'Neill's characters sitting on a couch.

Embassy Television

#64. Married… with Children

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1987-1997

Before Ed O’Neill played the curmudgeon with a heart of gold Jay Pritchett on “Modern Family,” he played the curmudgeon Al Bundy on “Married… with Children.” The show had an impressive 11-year run, making it the longest-running live-action sitcom in Fox history.

Mariska Hargitay and Christopher Meloni in an early episode of SVU.

Wolf Films

#63. Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1999-present

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” also known as “SVU,” has equaled the popularity of the original “Law & Order” and may be even more culturally relevant. Mariska Hargitay and Chris Meloni carried the show in its early years as Detective Benson and Detective Stabler, with many fans hoping for a romantic direction. That didn’t happen, but the show remained a ratings force with Ice-T and others stepping up after Meloni left the series. Meloni has since reprised his role in the 2021 NBC drama “Law & Order: Organized Crime.”

Laura Prepon and Ashton Kutcher's characters in front of a VW van.

Carsey-Werner-Mandabach Productions

#62. That ’70s Show

– IMDb user rating: 8.1
– On air: 1998-2006

“That ’70s Show” was a standard teen comedy but had uncanny success in developing new stars. Almost the entire main cast went on to have long Hollywood careers, with Mila Kunis, Ashton Kutcher, and Topher Grace among the show’s notables. Fox, looking to bank on the popularity of “That ’70s Show,” even created “That ’80s Show,” but that show had no direct tie-ins to its precursor. Show creators are trying it again—this time, tying it back to the original with “That ’90s Show” on Netflix.

Two guys opening presents.

Red Production Company

#61. Queer as Folk

– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– On air: 1999-2000

“Queer as Folk” was groundbreaking British television for going in-depth into the lives of the LGBTQ+ community. It inspired an American version, which aired that same year. Some aspects of the show seem dated today, but many praise its portrayal of realistic, imperfect characters faced with significant challenges.

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Bill Nye.

KCTS Seattle

#60. Bill Nye the Science Guy

– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– On air: 1993-1998

“Bill Nye the Science Guy” made science appealing to youth and adults alike with its wit, humor, and fast-paced style. It also caught the attention of critics and won seven Emmys during its six-season run.

Two cartoon characters.


#59. Home Movies

– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– On air: 1999-2004

This quirky animated show is about a young aspiring filmmaker who makes—you guessed it—home movies with his friends. A cult classic, “Home Movies” was co-created by Loren Bouchard, who went on to create “Bob’s Burgers.”

Detectives and first responders at a crime scene.

Zenith Entertainment

#58. Inspector Morse

– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– On air: 1987-2000

“Inspector Morse” may have only aired 33 episodes during its 12-year run, but it was quality over quantity. Each episode of the British detective drama clocked in just under two hours, and many consider it Britain’s all-time greatest crime drama. After “Inspector Morse” came to its conclusion, it spawned a spinoff called “Lewis” and a prequel, “Endeavour.”

A group of scared kids in the woods.


#57. Are You Afraid of the Dark?

– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– On air: 1990-2000

The standard bearer of young adult horror shows, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” was a pillar of Nickelodeon’s SNICK (Saturday Night Nickelodeon) lineup. Each episode told a different scary story as horror fans (The Midnight Society) gathered around a campfire. The studio revamped the show in 2019.

Conan O'Brien and his guest.

Broadway Video

#56. Late Night with Conan O’Brien

– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– On air: 1993-2009

When David Letterman stepped down from hosting the “Late Night” franchise, viewers didn’t know what to think of newcomer Conan O’Brien; however, he quickly won over the hearts of millions with his brand of quirky humor. When the first episode of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” aired, he was a complete unknown. Lorne Michaels encouraged O’Brien to audition for the gig, and during his last episode, O’Brien said he owed his career to the “Saturday Night Live” producer.

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Jennifer Saunders and Joanna Lumley riding in a car.

French & Saunders Productions

#55. Absolutely Fabulous

– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– On air: 1992-2012

Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders created this gut-busting British comedy, which centers on two outlandish media figures. A feature movie was equally well-received, and the TV pilot, “Mirrorball,” served as a brief continuation of the “Absolutely Fabulous” universe.

A man stopped on the side of the road in an antique car talking to a woman in a kimono picking yellow flowers.

Belisarius Productions

#54. Quantum Leap

– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– On air: 1989-1993

“Quantum Leap” is a sci-fi show that focuses on Dr. Sam Beckett’s experiments with time travel, leading him to temporarily take the place of other people in order to correct historical mistakes. The show originally aired for five seasons and was revived in 2022.

The cast of Frasier on an opera balcony looking down.

Grub Street Productions

#53. Frasier

– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– On air: 1993-2004

One of the anchor shows during NBC’s ascent as a comedy fireworks factory, “Frasier” ran for 11 seasons. Starring Kelsey Grammer as psychiatrist Frasier Crane, the show remains one of the most celebrated sitcoms ever. “Frasier” also had several tie-ins to another seminal sitcom, “Cheers.”

Cartoon sea creatures.

Morena Films

#52. SpongeBob SquarePants

– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– On air: 1999-present

Who lives in a pineapple under the sea? Most kids from the ’90s can answer that question quicker than they can name the colors of a rainbow due to the popularity of “SpongeBob SquarePants.” SpongeBob is still going strong, with the film “The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run” released in 2004 and a prequel series “Kamp Koral” launched in 2021.

A cartoon family and their dog posing in their living room.

20th Century Fox Television

#51. Family Guy

– IMDb user rating: 8.2
– On air: 1999-present

In many ways, “Family Guy” is a descendant of “The Simpsons” (they did a crossover episode in 2014), but Seth MacFarlane’s animated comedy was able to build its own legacy, too. Stewie, Brian, and Peter Griffin are pop culture mainstays, with more than 400 episodes in the bank. The show is known for its non sequitur jokes and pop culture riffs.

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A cartoon character on a raft.

Hyperion Pictures

#50. Life with Louie

– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– On air: 1994-1998

“Life with Louie” is an animated look at the childhood of standup comedian Louie Anderson. During its three-season run, the cartoon was nominated for eight Emmys and took home two.

Four cowboys playing cards.

Boam/Cuse Productions

#49. The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr.

– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– On air: 1993-1994

Not your average Western, this show followed a former lawyer turned bounty hunter. The show lasted only one season but gained a cult following, with fans clamoring for more episodes. One word many used to describe this show was “weird,” but that can often equate to good.

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie in suits onstage.


#48. A Bit of Fry and Laurie

– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– On air: 1987-1995

Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie both got their start with “A Bit of Fry and Laurie,” a sketch comedy show written and created by the starring comedians. The series was known for breaking the fourth wall and implementing similar techniques as “Monty Python’s Flying Circus.”

Two men in suits on the TV poster for Bottom.


#47. Bottom

– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– On air: 1991-1995

“Bottom” is a British comedy based on two losers in London who get involved in ridiculous situations. Starring Ade Edmondson and Rik Mayall, “Bottom” was mainly a hit overseas and led to a feature film and a spinoff series. The show, which is still revered in the U.K., is now available for streaming in the U.S.

John Corbett talking to an older man in a studio.

Cine-Nevada Productions

#46. Northern Exposure

– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– On air: 1990-1995

Small towns in Alaska have served as the setting for TV and movies frequently, but “Northern Exposure” might be the most popular of them all. With a nice mix of comedy and drama, the show detailed small-town life with relatable adult issues. For some who couldn’t grasp “Twin Peaks,” this show was often viewed as lighter fare.

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A cartoon character in front of a shattered mirror.

Ellipse Animation

#45. The Adventures of Tintin

– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– On air: 1991-1992

Based on the famous French comic, this short-lived animated show was jam-packed with action. Tintin, his dog Snowy, and occasional accomplices Captain Haddock and detectives Thompson and Thompson track down treasure and criminals around the world. In 2011, Steven Spielberg released a 3D movie about Tintin.

Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands sitting outside in front of tropical plants.

Universal Television

#44. Columbo

– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– On air: 1971-2003

Where most popular detective shows follow the “whodunit” format, “Columbo” was known for being a “howcatchem.” In this genre, the viewers see the crime being committed by the perpetrator at the beginning, and then the plot focuses on how the criminal will eventually be exposed and caught.

A man and woman in black leather next to two alien like people.

Jim Henson Productions

#43. Farscape

– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– On air: 1999-2003

“Farscape” is one of the lesser-known arms of The Jim Henson Company, but a favorite among fans, nonetheless. This sci-fi series revolves around a group of justice seekers aboard the spaceship Moya and calls for a reboot have grown louder.

A scared pink cartoon dog.

Cartoon Network

#42. Courage the Cowardly Dog

– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– On air: 1999-2002

An easily scared anthropomorphic dog has proven to be a formula for success, but “Courage the Cowardly Dog” is more than just a Scooby-Doo clone. Critics praised the show for being authentically terrifying. While there have been rumors of a Courage/Scooby-Doo crossover, nothing feature-length has materialized yet.

Jon Stewart on the Daily Show set.

Ark Angel Entertainment

#41. The Daily Show

– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– On air: 1996-present

“The Daily Show” began with former ESPN “SportsCenter” anchor Craig Kilborn behind the desk. In 1999, Jon Stewart replaced Kilborn, and he lasted as host until 2015 when Trevor Noah took the helm until 2022. The show currently has a set of interim hosts while the network finds a permanent host to replace Noah. The show also launched the careers of Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, and others. It also spawned a comedic book called “America (The Book): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction.”

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Sarah Michelle Gellar holding a knife while talking to a woman on the ground.

Mutant Enemy

#40. Buffy the Vampire Slayer

– IMDb user rating: 8.3
– On air: 1997-2003

If you were a teen in the ’90s, you most likely watched (or at least knew of) “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” The supernatural show starred Sarah Michelle Gellar as the titular character and was praised for centering around a strong female. The series’ cultural impact continued after its end and even sparked interest from scholars in what’s referred to as “Buffy” Studies—academic papers that explore the cult classic’s deeper themes.

Two boys looking at a magazine.

Wellsville Productions

#39. The Adventures of Pete & Pete

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– On air: 1992-1996

In the pantheon of eccentric kids’ shows, “The Adventures of Pete & Pete” may take the cake. Following two brothers named Pete, the siblings interacted with various wonderful characters like Artie, the Strongest Man in the World; Mr. Tastee, an ice cream truck driver with a soft serve head; and Papercut, a schoolyard bully who only threw paper in games of rock-paper-scissors. The show also had great cameos, including LL Cool J, Iggy Pop, and Michael Stipe.

Bob Odenkirk and David Cross on the TV poster.

Brillstein-Grey Entertainment

#38. Mr. Show with Bob and David

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– On air: 1995-1998

Bob Odenkirk and David Cross brought a new type of weird to their sketch comedy show, “Mr. Show with Bob and David.” For four seasons, the show brought viewers into a wonderful world of surreal sketches, with improv heavyweights like Paul F. Tompkins and Scott Aukerman helping out along the way. The show felt very anti-establishment and proved that you didn’t need mainstream Hollywood chops to create a new comedy lane.

A man smoking a cigar with a cabbage on his head.

Broadway Video International

#37. The Kids in the Hall

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– On air: 1988-2021

All sketches in “The Kids in the Hall” starred the eponymous comedy troupe of David Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney, and Scott Thompson. In an era dominated by “SNL” and pop culture references and impressions, the Canadian sketch comedy show opted for more of a “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” approach, showcasing quirky, surreal skits where the troupe played all the characters, regardless of gender.

A TV poster for The League of Gentlemen with the two characters in costumes.


#36. The League of Gentlemen

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– On air: 1999-2017

This British sitcom is based on the work of a comedy troupe that built an underground following in the mid-’90s. Among the characters are a family infatuated with toads and hygiene, a kidnapping carnival owner, and a taxi driver. In 2017, the show returned after a 15-year hiatus.

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Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie driving an antique car.

Carnival Film & Television

#35. Jeeves and Wooster

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– On air: 1990-1993

This British sitcom is based on P.G. Wodehouse’s “Jeeves” stories. “Jeeves and Wooster” starred a young Hugh Laurie and was praised for being true to Wodehouse’s original works. In 2016, many of Wodehouse’s unseen works were acquired, including those made while he was under Nazi imprisonment.

Claire Danes and another teen in the halls.

The Bedford Falls Company

#34. My So-Called Life

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– On air: 1994-1995

Claire Danes became a poster girl for disillusioned ’90s youth in “My So-Called Life.” Danes starred as introspective outsider Angela Chase alongside emerging stars like Jared Leto. The show tackled topics rarely discussed on TV, like homophobia, drug use, and homelessness.

The cast of Top Gear inspects a car.

BBC Worldwide

#33. Top Gear

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– On air: 1978-2002

“Top Gear” was the primo show for car enthusiasts during its 25-year run. The British motoring series was structured in a magazine format (and even spawned a publication, Top Gear Magazine), broadcasting various segments during its time slot. Though it covered all things transportation, car reviews, advice for consumers, and road safety tips were the most popular topics. Shortly after its cancellation, two of the show’s presenters, Jeremy Clarkson and Andy Wilman, persuaded the BBC to relaunch a new version of the show. The revamped “Top Gear” premiered in 2002 and is still ongoing.

The Babylon 5 cast.

Babylonian Productions

#32. Babylon 5

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– On air: 1993-1998

“Babylon 5” was a popular sci-fi show set in the 23rd century, when Earth has expanded its reach of influence deep into the galaxy. Battles for power and independence rage on throughout the show’s five seasons, which critics praised for its different storytelling.

A cartoon of Spider-Man leaping in the air.

New World Entertainment Films

#31. Spider-Man: The Animated Series

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– On air: 1994-1998

The hero Spider-Man was introduced to a new generation with this animated series based on the Stan Lee comics. The first “Spider-Man” animated show debuted in 1967. Hank Azaria of “The Simpsons” fame occasionally lent his voice to this version of “Spider-Man.”

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A human-like robot.

Grant Naylor Productions

#30. Red Dwarf

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– On air: 1988-present

“Red Dwarf” has garnered quite the cult following since it premiered in 1988, but its heyday was in the ’90s. The British sci-fi comedy focuses on the titular spacecraft’s technician Dave Lister who wakes up 3 million years after being in suspended animation to find he’s the last living human. The series won an Emmy in 1994 and saw its highest ratings in 1999. It was revived in 2009 and is still on the air today.

Fred Savage and Josh Saviano, as kids, sit on a curb.

New World Television

#29. The Wonder Years

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– On air: 1988-1993

“The Wonder Years” is such an iconic show, it’s hard to believe it only aired for six seasons. During its short tenure, the coming-of-age dramedy won a number of awards, and its star Fred Savage made history by being the youngest actor nominated for a Primetime Emmy in the Outstanding Lead Actor for a Comedy Series category at age 13. In 2021, “The Wonder Years” received the reboot treatment. Though the revival is set in the same period as the original (the 1960s), it centers around a Black middle-class family.

Two officers on a ship standing behind a clear planning board.

Double Secret Productions

#28. Stargate SG-1

– IMDb user rating: 8.4
– On air: 1997-2007

Based on the 1994 film “Stargate,” this sci-fi series continued the story from the movie. Focusing on a special ops team that explored the galaxy, “Stargate SG-1” was highly successful and led to several spinoffs and films. Beau Bridges briefly joined the show toward its tail end.

Larry Sanders and two guests on his show laughing.

Brillstein-Grey Entertainment

#27. The Larry Sanders Show

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– On air: 1992-1998

Garry Shandling starred in this sitcom based on a fictional late-night talk show, which often featured Jeffrey Tambor, Jeremy Piven, and Janeane Garofalo along with a host of other celebrity cameos. “The Larry Sanders Show” is particularly loved by comedians, and remains an influential show today.

An animation of Batman and Robin flying though downtown.

Warner Bros. Animation

#26. The New Batman Adventures

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– On air: 1997-1999

This Batman series showcased Bruce Wayne’s sidekicks, noticeably Robin, Batgirl, and Nightwing. Voice actor Kevin Conroy voiced Batman and would find additional work giving vocals to the Dark Knight in Batman video games. “The New Batman Adventures” also gave prominence to Harley Quinn, whose popularity grew exponentially in the 21st century.

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Hal Sparks, Sharon Gless and Randy Harrison in Queer as Folk, sitting in a diner.

Cowlip Productions

#25. Queer as Folk

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– On air: 1999-2005

Like the British show of the same name that inspired it, “Queer as Folk” broke new ground by being the first U.S. network broadcast that centered around the LGBTQ+ community. Many praise its portrayal of under-publicized stories, like those of HIV-positive people. Vulture called it “one of the steamiest LGBTQ series to grace the small screen in the U.S.” It was rebooted in 2022 but only lasted one season.

A marketing image for The X-Men animated series.

Genesis Entertainment

#24. X-Men: The Animated Series

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– On air: 1992-1997

This show was the first successful attempt at airing an X-Men-based animated show, and it ran for five seasons on Fox Kids. The show’s popularity led to several comic book spinoffs and may have served as a basis for the ultra-successful 2000 film about the X-Men.

The cast of Whose Line Is It Anyway on a TV poster.

Hat Trick Productions

#23. Whose Line Is It Anyway?

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– On air: 1998-2007

An adaptation of a British hit show, the American version of “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” featured Wayne Brady, Ryan Stiles, and Colin Mochrie. The improv stars were under the direction of Drew Carey, with various comedic guests popping in from time to time. Brady went on to have the most post-“Whose Line” success, starring on his own show and going on to host “Let’s Make a Deal.”

An animation of a man and a robot having beers.

The Curiosity Company

#22. Futurama

– IMDb user rating: 8.5
– On air: 1999-2023

“The Simpsons” creator Matt Groening unleashed “Futurama” on Fox in 1999, and the show featured the voice of another Fox legend, Katey Sagal, who previously starred on “Married… with Children.” The show followed the workers of Planet Express, led by delivery guy Philip J. Fry. The show, set in the 31st century, featured unique technologies and a wide array of creatures full of wit, snark, and heart.

A TV poster for Brass Eye.

TalkBack Productions

#21. Brass Eye

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– On air: 1997-2001

“Brass Eye” was a popular British show that parodied current news and was a spinoff of the show “The Day Today.” Gina McKee and Simon Pegg were among the stars of “Brass Eye,” and the show’s sharp wit has remained culturally relevant for decades since its release.

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Steve Coogan as Alan Partridge.

TalkBack Productions

#20. I’m Alan Partridge

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– On air: 1997-2002

English acting legend Steve Coogan starred as Alan Partridge in this British sitcom. Down on his luck, Partridge tries to revive his star power with TV show pitches. “I’m Alan Partridge” was co-created by Armando Iannucci, who later went on to mastermind the hit comedy “Veep.”

Simon Pegg and Jessica Hynes standing in a doorway with smoke rising from their feet.

Paramount Comedy Channel

#19. Spaced

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– On air: 1999-2001

Simon Pegg and Jessica Stevenson led this rowdy British sitcom, with Nick Frost as a frequent collaborator. Equal parts geeky, spaced out, and full of witty dialogue, “Spaced” is seen as a high point of British comedy at the turn of the century.

Rowan Atkinson as Mr. Bean sitting on an armchair strapped to the top of a car.

Tiger Aspect Productions

#18. Mr. Bean

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– On air: 1990-1995

Perhaps the most famous British comic character around the world, Mr. Bean (played by Rowan Atkinson) warmed the hearts of audiences throughout the ’90s. “Mr. Bean” aired on HBO and PBS in the U.S., and Atkinson starred in a film featuring the Mr. Bean character in 1997 (wherein he travels to Los Angeles). Mr. Bean memorably popped back up during the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

David Duchovny in the X-Files.

Ten Thirteen Productions

#17. The X-Files

– IMDb user rating: 8.6
– On air: 1993-2018

The truth is out there: “The X-Files” is one of the most memorable shows of the ’90s. Starring agents Scully and Mulder, this duo that was well-studied in extraterrestrial happenings explored the most mysterious realms of Earth. The show originally ran from ’93 to ’02, while its 10th season aired in 2016, and its 11th and final season aired in 2018. Several movies also followed the show’s initial run. “The X-Files” legacy still resonates among a new generation of UFO chasers and believers of the unknown.

Fred Rogers putting on his shoe in a red sweater.

Family Communications

#16. Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– On air: 1968-2001

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was a staple in family homes for decades, and for good reason. The show’s host and creator Fred Rogers was a feel-good mentor who gently taught young children about various topics through music, demonstrations, tours, and interactions with other people (and puppets). Eleven years after the original show concluded, PBS launched an animated spinoff called “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” based on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

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A detective at the police station.

Baltimore Pictures

#15. Homicide: Life on the Street

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– On air: 1993-1999

A gritty cop drama, “Homicide” was often in the shadow of “Law & Order” on NBC, but was equally, if not more revered by critics. The show was based on a book by David Simon, perhaps best known as the creator of “The Wire.” After the show went off the air, a TV movie aired in February 2000.

Cast members of Mystery Science Theater dressed up in costumes.

Best Brains

#14. Mystery Science Theater 3000

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– On air: 1988-1999

Mystery Science Theater 3000” wasn’t the most popular show when it first aired, but its cult following has had a lasting impact on pop culture. Who doesn’t love wise-cracking robots giving their honest reviews on some of the worst films in history? Since its original run ended, “MST3K” has been rebooted on several occasions, first on Netflix and most recently on Gizmoplex.

Three men on the TV poster for Father Ted.

Channel 4 Television Corporation

#13. Father Ted

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– On air: 1995-1998

Dermot Morgan starred as Father Ted Crilly in this Irish slapstick comedy. Several priests live on Craggy Island (a fictional locale), where hijinks regularly occur around men of the clergy. The show was noted for its catchphrases and is still regarded as one of Europe’s most favored sitcoms.

Harold Perrineau in an episode of Oz.

Rysher Entertainment

#12. Oz

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– On air: 1997-2003

HBO became a major player in TV dramas with the release of “Oz,” where at the fictional Oswald State prison, a series of gangs quarreled as they searched for some semblance of existence while serving their sentences. The show’s premise was that the prisoners lived in a contained but open community, behind pods as opposed to traditional cells. Christopher Meloni, Ernie Hudson, and J.K. Simmons were among the show’s stars, along with Dean Winters—who you may know as “Mayhem” from the Allstate commercials.

Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart on the space ship.

Paramount Television

#11. Star Trek: The Next Generation

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– On air: 1987-1994

“Star Trek: The Next Generation” is the most popular series in the famous sci-fi franchise. Set 78 years after the events of the original series, this show follows the USS Enterprise (NCC-1701-D) as it explores “strange new worlds” and “to boldly go where no man has gone before. The show introduced fans to a new crew led by Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart), who would star in his own spinoff, “Star Trek: Picard,” from 2020-2023.

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A cartoon of a bunch of kids following a man in the jungle facing another man with a machete.

Comedy Central

#10. South Park

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– On air: 1997-present

Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s crude kids picked up where “The Ren & Stimpy Show,” “The Simpsons,” and “Beavis and Butt-Head” left off, taking cartoon humor to a new level. In the fictional Colorado town of South Park, four friends get into all kinds of mischief over 300 episodes. A movie and hundreds of varieties of merchandise have kept the South Park brand strong well into the 21st century.

A cartoon of the Simpsons in their living room.

Gracie Films

#9. The Simpsons

– IMDb user rating: 8.7
– On air: 1989-present

“The Simpsons” is still going strong. Homer, Bart, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie have been iconic characters for decades and multiple generations of youth (and adults). With more than 30 years on the air, the show holds the world record for the longest-running animated sitcom.

An animation of a character surrounded by yellow light going into the sky.

Ocean Group

#8. Dragon Ball Z

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– On air: 1989-1996

“Dragon Ball Z” is the sequel to “Dragon Ball.” The show began by focusing on Goku and his son, Gohan, and took many twists and turns during a run of just under 300 episodes. “Dragon Ball Z” may be one of the most important shows in terms of the popularity of manga in the U.S.

Linda Cardellini, James Franco, Jason Segal, Seth Rogan and Busy Philipps sitting on the bleachers outside.

Apatow Productions

#7. Freaks and Geeks

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– On air: 1999-2000

Judd Apatow executive produced this cult classic, which only lasted one season but is cherished near-universally by those who watched it. Based on high school-aged teens, the show was the starting point of successful careers for actors like Seth Rogen, Jason Segel, Linda Cardellini, and James Franco. In 2018, a documentary looked at the short but wondrous existence of “Freaks and Geeks.”

Kyle MacLachlan in a suit in Twin Peaks.

Lynch/Frost Productions

#6. Twin Peaks

– IMDb user rating: 8.8
– On air: 1990-2017

“Twin Peaks” only aired two seasons during its initial run, but its cultural impact far exceeded its runtime. The surreal mystery drama quickly gained a cult following and spawned a full-length movie, “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me,” after the show’s final episode. In 2017, Showtime revived the series for a third season and retained most of its original cast, including Kyle MacLachlan reclaiming his role as agent Dale Cooper.

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Martin Sheen in a episode of The West Wing.

John Wells Productions

#5. The West Wing

– IMDb user rating: 8.9
– On air: 1990-2017

The brainchild of Aaron Sorkin, “The West Wing” had great storylines and a powerful cast to create one of network television’s most memorable dramas. Rob Lowe, Allison Janney, Martin Sheen, and others starred in this White House-centered show. Among the many think pieces about the show, a popular theory is that “The West Wing” foreshadowed the politics of the presidency of Barack Obama.

Jerry Seinfeld and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the kitchen on an episode of Seinfeld.


#4. Seinfeld

– IMDb user rating: 8.9
– On air: 1989-1998

The ’90s was the era of the sitcom, and many people think “Seinfeld” was the best of all time. Created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, the show was a fictionalized telling of the former’s life. During its nine-season run, “Seinfeld” won numerous awards and is still referenced in pop culture today. Not bad for a show about nothing.

Lisa Kudrow, Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Matt LeBlanc and Matthew Perry at a coffee shop.

Bright/Kauffman/Crane Productions

#3. Friends

– IMDb user rating: 8.9
– On air: 1994-2004

NBC scored a runaway hit with “Friends,” with fans going crazy over everything from the theme song to Jennifer Aniston’s haircut. The sitcom’s premise is pretty basic: six friends live in New York City and have crazy stories of dating, family, and friendship—but something was particularly endearing about Ross, Rachel, Monica, Chandler, Joey, and Phoebe. It turns out that many Major League Baseball players from Latin America watched reruns to learn English better.

An animation of Batman saving a woman from the Joker.

Warner Bros. Animation

#2. Batman: The Animated Series

– IMDb user rating: 9.0
– On air: 1992-1995

This noir animated version of Batman was unlike any other portrayal of the Caped Crusader at the time. Considered by some critics as the best adaptation ever of a comic book series on TV, “Batman: The Animated Series” combined precise artwork, great writing, and switched seamlessly between canon and new storylines.

Tony Sirico, Vincent Curatola, James Gandolfini, Michael Imperioli and Silvio Dante at a cemetery.


#1. The Sopranos

– IMDb user rating: 9.2
– On air: 1999-2007

The questionable ending aside, “The Sopranos” might be the definition of “prestige television.” James Gandolfini starred as Tony Soprano, and the show followed him and his associates as they became mob kingpins in the Northeast. In 2021, a movie served as a prequel to “The Sopranos,” keeping the legacy of this show alive and well.

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