Bring on the Nostalgia, Part 3: Retro TV Shows of the 80s and 90s

Hopefully you haven’t reached nostalgia overload yet, because I’ve compiled 5 TV shows from the 1980s/1990s that may trigger some sensational memories in that brain of yours!

My colleagues, Lauren and Joe, mentioned 8 retro snacks and foods in their posts (which you can find here and here, respectively). However, the reign of forgotten-foods blog posts has officially ended! My contribution to this series will focus entirely on retro television. I’ve decided to pay tribute to some older cartoons and TV shows that helped shape me back in the day, so here goes nothing:

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? – I couldn’t even tell you how often I watched this show in the early 90s. From the tough clues and characters to the infectious theme song by Rockapella, this kids’ show had me hooked from the very beginning! I had the computer game first but I still have this show to thank for a portion of my research and puzzle-solving skills. Carmen Sandiego was one of those rare 90s shows that entertained kids and taught them valuable lessons at the same time.



Dinosaucers – I’ll give you every bill of my Monopoly money if you’ve heard of this show before right now! Dinosaucers is not to be confused with the exceedingly popular Dinosaurs (you know, “Not the Mama!”) although they were on TV at approximately the same time (1987-1988). Dinosaucers was a clever cartoon that followed the adventures of two rivaling dinosaur teams: the good guys were called Dinosaucers and the bad guys were called Tyrannos. This was one of my all-time favorite shows when I was growing up, but apparently I’m the only kid who remembers it because people look at me like I’m an escaped mental patient whenever I mention it. (While we’re on the subject of obscure cartoons, let me know if you remember watching an anime featuring a baby unicorn named Unico. If you do, then I think we may have just forged a new friendship!)

Clarissa Explains It All

Clarissa Explains It All

Clarissa Explains It All – Every woman my age probably remembers tuning in to see Melissa Joan Hart dress in unforgettable outfits and torment her annoying brother! But Clarissa’s appeal ran much deeper than that. She taught young girls how to think independently of the norms, how to stand up for what’s right, and how to use creativity to solve problems. Don’t believe me? Just think about those complicated videos and games she created to show off her master plans (well, at least they were complicated for the 1990s). At any rate, there’s no denying that Clarissa was an inspiration to young girls everywhere.

Legends of the Hidden Temple

Legends of the Hidden Temple

Legends of the Hidden Temple – I desperately wanted to be a contestant on this show until I found out that new episodes were no more. The teams had to find and recover a missing “artifact” that ended up inside the hidden temple, and they had to go through mazes and physical challenges in order to do so. It looked like so much fun! And who could forget the gigantic talking Aztec head named Olmec? This show ended too soon!

Singled Out

Singled Out

Singled Out – This zany MTV dating show got popular when I was already a teenager, and I couldn’t stop watching it. It may not seem like a good fit with the other TV shows I selected, but I chose it because it marks two milestones in my life. 1) Singled Out made me realize early-on that dating was kind of scary, which prepared me for the dating scene once I was actually old enough to date. As weird as that sounds, it’s true! 2) The show also marks the beginning of my 16-years-and-counting nerd crush on the beautiful and talented host, Chris Hardwick, who is now known for his successful Nerdist podcast, comedy music, an ever-growing list of writing and hosting accomplishments (like Web Soup), and not to mention a forthcoming book that I’ll be first in line to buy.

Do you remember watching any of these 80s/90s TV shows? If I didn’t mention your favorite, then shout it loud and proud in the comments!

Want to read more about the shows I mentioned? You can find all of the gritty details by checking out the Wiki articles for these shows: Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?, Dinosaucers, Clarissa Explains It All, Legends of the Hidden Temple, and Singled Out.

Jill Tooley

Jill has been obsessed with words since her fingers could turn the pages of a book. She’s a hopeless bibliophile who recently purchased a Kindle after almost 6 years of radical opposition, and she loves stumbling upon new music on Pandora. Random interests include (but are not limited to) bookstores, movie memorabilia, and adorable rodents. Jill writes for the QLP blog and assists with the company’s social media accounts. You can connect with Jill on Google+.


  1. JPorretto

    I miss when MTV played Music Videos. I didn’t know I shouldn’t take that for granted.

    • Jill Tooley

      I miss that, too! You would think that “MUSIC” television would have continued to play music, but I guess that was too much to hope for. Sadly, MTV is garbage now but it used to be my favorite channel!

  2. Kurt

    Heck yeah Dinosaucers rocked! It’s OK to let everyone know we broke out of the mental institution together! Letting go of secrets is part of healing. πŸ˜‰

    I totally wish some place had episodes of Dinosaurs (β€œNot the Mama!”) for viewing. Gotta check netflix or something sometime. My kids would LOOOVE it. Although my son might start acting out the part of baby dino which could get scary!

    • Jill Tooley

      Are you messing with me, Kurt? Do you really remember Dinosaucers!?!? This is truly a magical day…I seriously thought I was the only person who knew what it was!! πŸ™‚

      And you should totally let your kids watch Dinosaurs – that was a great show, too! It looks like you can watch Seasons 1-4 here, if you were interested.

      • cyberneticSAM

        I remember Dinosaucers as well, I feel it was eventually overshadowed by POKEMON which is unfortunate same with “Captain Planet”.

        • cyberneticSAM

          Last comment I promise. Don’t foget nobody ever talks about Rainbow Brite and Sailor Moon (which I loved was one of the few things in the world that had a charcter with the same name Princess Serenity) was awesome like Dinosaucers. No one ever remembers PEPPER ANN! which was the Ultimate show for girls who felt like outcasts!

          • Jill Tooley

            Rainbow Brite was awesome! I just watched Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer the other night because it’s on Netflix streaming…it made me feel like a little girl again. So many colors and so much happiness! πŸ˜‰ And I watched Sailor Moon occasionally, but it wasn’t one of my favorites. I do remember Princess Serenity, though!)

            I think I was a bit too old for Pepper Ann, but I always heard good things about it. I definitely felt like an outcast in school, so I’m sure I would have loved it!

  3. Lauren

    All of them are so good! Clarissa, brings back memories, I’m taking it in as we speak. A few others I can think of; All That, Rugrats and PeeWee’s Playhouse. Those just to name a few. Carmen Sandiego was one my fav’s as well. I wanted to be on All That so bad bc I loved being the funny kid, still am or try to be! Jill, always bringing back fond memories or reminding me things that I have forgotten. I can remember a night at your ‘rents, watching Ferngully. Good times! And you can’t sick of bringing Nostalgia back! It makes us who we are today! πŸ˜€

    • Jill Tooley

      All That (and anything on SNICK) was always worth watching. I can’t believe that Kenan Thompson is the only one who really made it from that show – he’s the worst. Pee Wee’s Playhouse is kind of scary when you look at it now, but as I kid I couldn’t get enough. I think we should bring back the word of the day and drop confetti from the ceiling! I remember that night we watched Ferngully…good times…that was when we were carefree – haha! πŸ™‚

      • Amanda Sneed

        I still have a bright orange VHS of Snick episodes. Remember “Are you Afraid of the Dark?” and “Roundhouse”? Oh how I loved all those shows…..sometimes when I’m bored, I watch clips on You Tube of these shows….oh how I love reliving my childhood. πŸ˜‰

        Awesome post Jill!

        • Jill Tooley

          I forgot about Roundhouse! That show was sweet. What about Pete & Pete, do you remember that one? I think it was on Nickelodeon as well. I just found Eerie, Indiana on Hulu, which made me happy…I hadn’t seen that show in YEARS! πŸ™‚

          I could seriously sit and reminisce about old TV shows ALL day long…

  4. Juliette

    It wasn’t that long ago that someone gave me a red trenchcoat and my first thought was that I needed to do a costume to be Carmen Sandiego. (I now have that theme stuck in my head.)

    How about the cartoon C.O.P.S. (Central Organization of Police Specialists)? With characters like “Nightshade” and “Ms. Demeanor”? I remember being in love with that show.

    There are two that I can’t let go unmentioned: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (my favorite) and the Super Mario Brothers Super Show (which showed the Adventures of Link cartoon on every Friday).

    • Jill Tooley

      I don’t remember C.O.P.S., but any show with a character named “Ms. Demeanor” is alright by me! πŸ˜‰ TMNT was definitely one of my all-time faves, but people tend to recall that one more often so I opted to leave it off of my featured list. My friends and I just had a conversation not too long ago about the cartoon pizza in the TMNT opening credits…why can’t real cheese stretch that far?!?

      Did you know that Super Mario Bros Super Show is on Netflix streaming? We just watched a couple of episodes a month or so ago!

      • Juliette

        It was a ridiculous cops & robbers show that ran for about a year. Still it was one that defintely provided inspiration for outdoor games. And TMNT is definitely one to remember. Did you ever watch Jem or My Little Pony? (MLP actually had one either movie or episode that was extremely scary)

        I had no idea it was on Netflix! I have to add it to my queue!

  5. Juliette

    And I just caught your line about Unico! I thought I was the only person who ever watched that! I still remember the creepy voice of Kuruku the puppet.

    • Jill Tooley

      AHHHHH!!!! I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU REMEMBER UNICO!!! THIS IS THE GREATEST DAY EVER!!! I bought the DVD off of Amazon and watched it last night…Kuruku is so freaky! I don’t know how I wasn’t terrified of him as a kid; there are some scary scenes in there and I never realized it before. Plus, his voice gets all high like Judge Doom in Who Framed Roger Rabbit! Creepy, but SO good. I’m going to buy the other Unico DVD as soon as Amazon gets it back in stock (there were 2 glorious Unico movies/adventures that I remember).

      • Juliette

        There were two that had english versions! “The Magical Adventures of Unico” and “Unico and the Magic Island”. I so need to get them. And Amazon carries them? Score! Oh I know, that voice (especially with the high pitch and sounding like there were multiple voices) did give me nightmares. I was terrified that Kuruku would find me and turn me into a puzzle piece and put me into the wall!

        I’m so excited that you know Unico!

  6. lizzie

    i used to love EVERY. Single. ONE. of those shows. Especially Clarissa Explains it All and Singled Out. Fantastic list, lady. Oh man, there’s so much TV from back in the day that I used to love…I think my nerdy favorite might have been Unsolved Mysteries…Wait……….Is that guy dead now? Be straight with me, Jill…

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Lizzie! There were so many shows I wanted to feature but didn’t have room…it was tough picking and choosing. But that’s what the comments section is for, eh? πŸ˜‰

      And I hate to break it to you, but Robert Stack, the host of Unsolved Mysteries, did pass away in 2003. I also loved that show, but I think the cameo in Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s “Baseketball” is one of the best things Stack ever did! I wish there was a good clip of it on YouTube, but there isn’t.

  7. cyberneticSAM

    I hate this computer, this is the tird time I have typed this!!!! Ok, so I loved Hidden Temple! I loved a show that no one ever remembers, and they look at me like I am crazy when I describe it: “Bump in the Night” with Mr. Bumpy. I loved that show so much and was heartbroken when it went off air…same with “Dinosaurs.” That was always family sit down time. I think that it is so weird this is today’s topic I was just singing the theme song from “Step by Step” (which holds no torch to the “Family Matters” song). Although my favorite shows, aside from everything on “TGIF” and “Full House,” I was obsessed with “Small Wonders” and “Mr. Belvidere”, I always wanted a robotic sister and Mr. Belvidere helped mold me into the person that I am today and taught us all that NO house is a HOME without a sassy, British manny!

  8. Vernon

    Kinda upset that I wasn’t tapped for this nostalgia of television but here I go anyway. Loved some of the show listed here, except legends (yes I know I didn’t capitalize the L I hated that show that much) it would come on in between two of my favorite shows BananaMan and You Can’t Do That on Television. Clarissa Explains it All was cool if I didn’t have anything else to watch or it was raining, but for the longest I thought her friend Sam was David Faustino (Bud) from Married w/Children. MTV really didn’t know what they had w/the hosts of Singled Out Chris Hardwick (hilarious comedian, I think he will be in IL in May) and Jenny McCarthy and they stick the two of them on a dating show for meat heads and ditzes.

    • Jill Tooley

      Why do you hate Legends of the Hidden Temple? That show kicked ass! I forgot all about “You Can’t Do That on Television!” Isn’t that where Alanis Morissette got her start? And I never thought about it before, but Clarissa’s buddy Sam DID resemble Bud from “Married with Children”! Weird!

      Don’t even tease me about Chris Hardwick coming to Chicago in May! I need to research this RIGHT NOW!!

      • Vernon

        I hated Legends just because as a kid I was petty and it meant I had to sit through this game show where I was clearly smarter and better looking than the contestants (my mother said so) to get to You Can’t Do That on Television.

  9. Joseph Giorgi

    “Legends of the Hidden Temple” and “Guts” were certainly among my favorite shows growing up. Nickelodeon in general was a brilliant network!

    And of course, “Singled Out” was addictive in its own, unique way. It was one of the few great shows that MTV had to offer—and maybe the last! In all honesty, I don’t see why they don’t just bring the show back. Even with all his other current projects, Chris Hardwick could probably find the time to host again, right?

    • Jill Tooley

      Guts was good, and Double Dare was good too! Wasn’t there a show called Wild and Crazy Kids as well? Man, apparently Nickelodeon really wanted kids to go nuts and dump slime on each other…

      And Singled Out was incredibly addicting. That’s why I can’t explain my original draw to it…there was something quirky and funny about it. Maybe, like Vern said, it was because they had such “accidentally” amazing hosts!

  10. Bret Bonnet

    Wow!; all of these TV shows bring back such AWESOME memories!

    Jill; how do you remember this kind of stuff?

    It’s so weird, I wouldn’t be able to recall ANY of these TV shows from memory prior to today’s blog. Being that Kurt and I are brothers and close in age I’m not TOO surprised that he also liked and remembered watching “Dinosaucers”. This used to be my FAVORITE show growing up, and if I’m not mistaken, I think I might actually have an action figure toy or two from this show in my basement now…

    I was a little sad to see that “ALF”, “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”, and “Land of the Lost” didn’t make this list though! πŸ™

    Does anyone remember when the Ninja Turtles went back in time and actually rode dinosaurs? Shredder has a robotic evil dinosaur? I was OBSESSED with dinosaurs as a kid growing up.

    Man… I really AM a TV junky! πŸ™‚

    • Jill Tooley

      I remember everything – I’m like an elephant! πŸ™‚

      If you have a Dinosaucers action figure, then you should dig it out and share with the class! They only made a few prototypes of the figures and they’re worth a lot of money if you have one…I’ve heard they’re really cool.

      I liked ALF, but not enough to put it on my list. And TMNT was awesome and all, but I thought I’d rule in favor of some of the more obscure shows instead.

      Welcome to the TV junkie club!

  11. Peter


    So much to say. First of all, I want to let you know, Jill, that I always enjoy reading your blogs. Good stuff indeed.

    Otherwise, I really enjoyed Carmen Sandiego, Clarissa, Singled Out, and especially Legends of the Hidden Temple. Hearing about Dinosaucers, it makes me wish that I watched it. Also, I know it’s been mentioned so much already, but TMNT was amazing, and I still believe is one of the coolest Sci-Fi franchises out there to this day.

    Some other shows I really loved were Ahhhh! Real Monsters, Rocko’s Modern Life, Ren and Stimpy, Eeek the Cat (which I feel is another one people unfortunately never remember), He Man, Tales from the Crypt, Power Rangers, Transformers…The list goes on and on, makes me hope modern kid’s shows could be so funky. πŸ™‚

    One more thing, talking about how MTV used to play music videos and whatnot, I can’t let it go unmentioned that MTV used to broadcast some of the coolest and edgiest animated shows on television: Aeon Flux, The Maxx (one of my personal favorites), Beavis and Butthead, The Head, and many animated shorts between music videos as well. MTV used to be an incredible network, and they probably should go back to showing weird cartoons, music videos, and dating shows with hilarious sarcastic hosts again. With the popularity of Adult Swim, and animations in that vein, MTV would probably only benefit from going back in that direction.

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Peter! You made my day! πŸ™‚

      I have copies of all the Dinosaucers cartoons somewhere, so I’ll let you borrow them sometime if you’re interested. It was seriously one of the best shows I remember from that era! I watched ALL of the shows you mentioned – the Cryptkeeper was scary when I was a kid but I tuned in anyway.

      My brother and I used to watch MTV religiously and I definitely miss the days when they’d play music and good shows instead of the BS they play now. It seems like everything went downhill once The Real World grew in popularity (that’s one I NEVER got into). Beavis and Butthead was awesome, and Aeon Flux blew my mind. Beavis and Butthead was on Netflix streaming not too long ago, but all of the music videos were cut out due to licensing…where’s the fun in that? It makes me wish I could go back in time and record everything that was even remotely cool. Even the commercials bring back all sorts of memories!

  12. Liz Woodworth

    I love the list!! I don’t know the dino show but the rest brings back fond memories. I was just reading an article about Clarissa and someone mentioned in the comments Pete and Pete. I would have never remembered that show but it was cool and weird and I loved it. I also loved TMNT, Super Mario Brothers and one that wasn’t mentioned was Xmen. I just saw a Power Rangers commercial and about gagged but when I was a kid I wanted to be the Pink Power Ranger. Lame I know. πŸ™‚ Anyway thanks for the trip down memory lane Jill!

    • Jill Tooley

      Oh my gosh, I completely forgot about Pete and Pete! That show was GREAT! I watched X-Men occasionally but I remember watching a show called Gargoyles (kinda scary for kids now that I think about it). Power Rangers weren’t really my thing but I remember when you couldn’t walk into a store without seeing a zillion ranger-themed party favors, posters, toys, etc. Now it seems like kids are obsessed with heartthrobs at an earlier age and they’re forgetting about cartoons and wacky tv shows altogether…so sad! Thanks for commenting, Liz! πŸ™‚

  13. Susan Oakes

    Okay I have to admit I have never heard of these shows but that is because they were not shown in my country. What is interesting is often these type of shows get popular again, sometimes with a new twist with for a whole new generation. I am thinking of the Carmen Sandiego and Dora the Explorer.

    • Jill Tooley

      Come to think of it, Carmen Sandiego and Dora do have a lot of similarities! Both of them teach kids to recognize clues and piece them together to solve puzzles. I’ve never thought of that! πŸ™‚

      Thanks for commenting, Susan!

    • Sherryl Perry

      Okay, I admit I’ve never watched any of these shows and they were shown here. Clarissa Explains It All sounds vaguely familiar. I’m guessing if I asked my daughter about it, she’s probably familiar with it. πŸ™‚

      Any chance of flashing back to the 70’s Jill?

      • Jill Tooley

        You’re right, your daughter is probably familiar with it! It was a staple in my life, that’s for sure. I’d love to flash back to the 70’s – maybe next time! πŸ˜‰

        Thank you for commenting, Sherryl!

  14. Catarina Alexon

    Am Swedish and have honestly never heard of any of those TV shows. And in the 22 years that I lived all over the world I haven’t come across them either. So unfortunately I’m not able to feel nostalgic:))

    • Jill Tooley

      That’s okay, Catarina. Of course I understand, and thank you so much for commenting anyway! πŸ™‚

  15. Michael Pedzotti

    Hi Jill,

    I found your post through the LI group. Way out here in the west or east depending on which way you’re looking – Australia – I have neither seen nor heard of any of those shows πŸ™‚

    We did and still do get a lot of shows from the USA but none of the above. Just recently I’ve seen The Brady Bunch re-runs along with a whole raft of shows I watched from the previous decade.

    My favourite TV show from that era would have to be MASH.


    • Jill Tooley

      Hi Michael, it’s great to meet you. When I shared this with our LI group, I didn’t even think about the fact that people may not know what I was talking about! The Brady Bunch is fantastic, and I was a big fan of MASH when I was old enough to understand it. Great additions! Thanks for your comment and we’ll talk soon. πŸ™‚

  16. Amanda Sneed

    I’ve been reading through some old posts to get ideas for my own, and this one caught my attention!

    I used to love watching Singled Out, and that was quite a few years before I even started dating, hahaha.

    Great post Jill! =)

    • Jill Tooley

      Thanks, Amanda! It was super fun to write! I miss the days when these shows were actually on TV…

  17. kristen

    Oh my gosh no one ever knows what im talking about when I ask about dinosaucers!! So cool I loved that show!!

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