Image Credits: ‘My So-Called Life,’ ABC (top left) | ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer,’ The WB (bottom left) | ‘I Saw The TV Glow,’ A24 (center) | ‘Dawson’s Creek,’ The WB (top right) | ‘Daria,’ MTV (bottom right)

The buzzy new film I Saw The TV Glow, follows two teenagers Maddy (Brigette Lundy-Paine) and Owen (Justice Smith) who bond over their favorite television show The Pink Opaque, about two teen girls who have a psychic connection that they must use to defeat the evil Mr. Melancholy. As they become more entranced with the series, Maddy and Owen’s reality begins to blur with the show’s plot.

From director Jane Schoenbrun, the film delves into the ways people—queer people in particular—can relate to a piece of art, when it tells you things about yourself that you may have not even known yet. Through that lens, I Saw The TV Glow is inspiring many within the LGBTQ+ community to reminisce about pieces of media that jump-started their “gay awakenings,” even if they didn’t know it at the time.

Inspired by the television show-within-a-film The Pink Opaque, here are 10 TV series from the ’90s that saw many of us before we even could recognize it. 

Buffy The Vampire Slayer

Schoenbrun’s stated inspiration for The Pink Opaque in TV Glow was the seminal Buffy The Vampire Slayer—their favorite show which they pay tribute to in fun odds and ends in the film. The supernatural drama series Buffy Summers (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and her group of friends as Buffy learns how to be a vampire slayer in real time, fighting monsters right on the Hellmouth. 

For many, Buffy was a way to feel special—imagine if you were the chosen “slayer,” sucked into a world of monster-fighting and making out with hot, but questionable vampires. Plus, it was a show that offered glimpses of progress for LGBTQ+ representation, like the Tara and Willow relationship despite its brutal ending. 

Streaming on Hulu.

Melrose Place

Calling something camp has become so basic that it’s almost ruined the definition. But the Fox drama Melrose Place, about a group of Los Angeles twentysomethings living in the same apartment complex, might be camp to a T.

What starts out as a Beverly Hills 90210 spin-off, gets much weirder and darker as it goes on. At first it’s just a bunch of lover’s quarrels—typical soap opera stuff—but with the introduction of Dr. Kimberly Shaw (Marcia Cross) things get weird quick. While Kimberly terrorizes everyone, television history was perhaps made in the 1994 episode “The B*tch Is Back,” when she has perhaps one of the most epic wig reveals in history. Open the schools, because Melrose Place should be studied. 

Streaming on Amazon Prime.

Dawson’s Creek

Dawson’s Creek might have had Challengers energy way before the Zendaya-starring flick came into our consciousness. The show initially followed Dawson (James Van Der Beek) in his sleepy high school town and his friendships, including a classic will-they-or-won’t-they with his childhood best friend Joey (Katie Holmes).

But when Dawson’s Creek zagged into a storyline where his other best friend Pacey (Joshua Jackson) and Joey end up dating, it changed the fabric of the show, even though all three should have dated. It was the ’90s, but Dawson’s Creek also was known for being ahead of the times in terms of its portrayal of gay characters—Jack (Kerr Smith) was out in season two and the show continued its exploration of him and his sexuality throughout its six-season run. 

Streaming on Hulu.

Eureeka’s Castle 

The ’90s had a plethora of strange, surreal kids television series and Nickelodeon had some of the best and weirdest programs. Case in point: Eureeka’s Castle, about a group of puppets—including Eureeka, a sorceress in training—who live in a wind-up castle music box.

There was Magellean, a green dragon, the Moat twins, and a giant with a huge red beard. It was all very silly and utterly inventive—no doubt thanks to series creator and writer R.L. Stine, also known as the man behind Goosebumps. If you had seen this as a kid, the theme song will still trill in your mind, and Eureeka’s rainbow-streaked hair might serve as inspiration for future Pride events. 

Streaming on Paramount+

My So-Called Life 

My So-Called Life might be the ultimate teen show. The one-season focused on a young Claire Danes as Angela who deals with her day-to-day high school life all while nursing a suffocating crush on classmate Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto).

It also expanded the portrayal of LGBTQ+ representation on television with Rickie (Wilson Cruz), Angela’s friend who was exploring his sexuality. While it’s still lamentable that there was only one season, My So-Called Life paved the way for future teen shows to take young people and their problems seriously.

Streaming on Hulu.

Strangers With Candy 

If Cole Escola, Kate Berlant, and John Early are among your list of queer comedy favorites, you’ve got Amy Sedaris’ late-’90s Comedy Central sitcom Strangers With Candy to thank for paving the way. Sedaris plays Jerri Blank, a 40-year-old high school junkie dropout, who, after being reformed, is ready to relive her teenage years again.

Set up like an after-school special, the series is a queer fantasia filled with Jerri’s bisexuality, an off-the-wall sense of humor, and Stephen Colbert making out with Paul Dinello. It’s a show that most certainly wouldn’t be made today, but it influenced a whole generation of very funny queer people. 

Streaming on Paramount+.

Absolutely Fabulous 

Much like Strangers With Candy, comedy classic British sitcom Absolutely Fabulous influenced a generation of queer comedians. From the brains of Jennifer Saunders and Dawn French are Edina Monsoon (Saunders) and Patsy Stone (Joanna Lumley), best friends who both vaguely work in fashion and are drunk a majority of the time.

Edina and Patsy’s hijinks which center around “Lacroix sweetie darling,” are constantly foiled by Edina’s straight-laced daughter Saffy (Julia Sawalha) who is never not exasperated by her mother’s actions. Edina and Patsy’s foibles are hilarious as they are, swathed in designer clothes and soaked in champagne. 

Streaming on Tubi.


For the teenager who felt dark all the time, Daria was a must-see program. A spin-off of Beavis And Butthead, Daria followed the titular Daria, an outcast who’s just trying to make it through her time at Lawndale High School with her best friend Jane. The two deal with the irritating popular crowd, which includes Daria’s younger sister Quinn, the antithesis of everything Daria is about.

With its acid-sharp tongue and smart satire of teen social dynamics, Daria had a way of speaking directly to the outsiders, the proclaimed weirdos, and anyone else who felt they didn’t fit in—like it was a show made specifically for you.

Streaming on Pluto. 

Sabrina The Teenage Witch

Watching shows with high-level fantasy plots at a younger age, it was hard not to place yourself in the magical scenarios and wonder how they’d play out for you. Sabrina The Teenage Witch asked the simple question: what would a teenage girl do if she was a witch?

While Sabrina (Melissa Joan Hart) gets sage advice and lessons from her two aunts Hilda (Caroline Rhea) and Zelda (Beth Broderick), she does what any teenager would do with a sudden influx of powers—she uses them to get back at her nemesis and flirt with her on-and-off boyfriend. Relatable!

Streaming on Pluto.

Sex And The City

In many ways, Sex And The City depicted a fairytale version of New York, a place we could only ever dream of living in. Seeing Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker) Miranda (Cynthia Nixon), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) living fabulous lives filled with friends, fashion, and food—not to mention the f*cking!—felt like a glimpse into an alternate reality.

In that sense, SATC promised us a life that was too good to be true, but it also shared a message that there was a place for us somewhere out there, one where you could be whoever you wanted to be, and surround yourself with the “family” of your choosing.

Streaming on Netflix.

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