Get your ’90s nostalgia on with these cult-classic TV series

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The X-Files
They look as surprised as we do. Photo: Fox

First Twin Peaks, and now this. Fox is bringing back its seminal monster-of-the-week series The X-Files for a six-episode run, complete with original stars Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny.

We don’t know yet what former agents Mulder and Scully have been up to since we left them floating in the middle of the ocean at the end of 2008 film I Want to Believe (they had a raft; don’t worry). But I imagine it will involve aliens, conspiracies and perhaps an alien conspiracy or two.

If you’re excited about these series making their returns, here are five ’90s cult TV shows to take you back to the world of crappy computer effects and even worse pants. And be sure to let us know more of your favorites in the comments.

Millennium (1996 – 1998)

Frank Black spends a lot of time in creepy woods. Apparently, that's a pretty popular place to hide bodies. Photo: Fox
Millennium’s Frank Black spends a lot of time in creepy woods. Apparently, that’s a pretty popular place to hide bodies. Photo: Fox

X-Files creator Chris Carter’s darker companion series, Millennium, stars Lance Henriksen as Frank Black, an FBI profiler trying to juggle his happy family life with his ability to really, really empathize with serial killers. But it’s more than just a procedural with some spooky elements; Frank’s employer, the Millennium Group, is deeply involved in a conspiracy to either prevent or bring about the end of the world. Because Carter made it, so shadowy figures must be involved.

Despite not making it to its namesake event, Millennium is a fascinating show with some unforgettable imagery, and Henriksen delivers some fine work. Especially look out for the demon-centric second season, which includes an episode in which devils commiserate in a doughnut shop and an impressive and suitably screwed-up finale.

Availability: Netflix (disc)

Quantum Leap (1989 – 1993)

Luckily, the show was wrong about what people would be wearing in 1999. Photo: NBC
Luckily, Quantum Leap was wrong about what people would be wearing in 1999. Photo: NBC

If you want a nicer, less murdery series, Quantum Leap has you covered. Scott “Count” Bakula stars as Sam Beckett, an experimental physicist who is so confident of his time-travel machine that he just goes ahead and walks right into it. The show works as a best-hits reel of the last half of the 20th century as Beckett “leaps” into people’s lives to fix mistakes and improve history.

It’s a pretty weird concept, but Bakula and sidekick Dean Stockwell (as Beckett’s holographic guide from the future) handle the material well. If you watch the entire series, and the ending doesn’t just sucker-punch you right in the feels, you may not be human. I’m sorry you had to hear it from me.

Availability: Netflix (streaming and disc), Amazon Video, IMDb (limited free episodes), Hulu Plus, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube, Sony Entertainment Network

Tales from the Crypt (1989 – 1996)

You can trust him. He's wearing a sweater. Photo: HBO
You can trust him. He’s wearing a sweater. Photo: HBO

Quantum Leap and Tales from the Crypt, HBOs adaptation of Entertaining Comics’ horror titles from the ’50s, were on at the same time when I was a kid. So I usually had a very difficult decision to make. This anthology series featured some big stars in twisted morality tales with a puppet presiding over it all with terrible puns.

It all goes sour during Tales from the Crypt’s uneven final season, but until then it’s a lot of fun. Highlights include “Carrion Death,” starring Kyle MacLachlan as an escaped convict on the run from a vulture, and “Yellow,” in which Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas plays a World War I general whose son faces a court-martial for cowardice.

Availability: Netflix (disc), Amazon Video, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube

SeaQuest DSV (1993 – 1996)

The SeaQuest was shaped like a squid. Why wouldn't it be? Photo: NBC
The SeaQuest was shaped like a squid. Why wouldn’t it be? Photo: NBC

Roy Scheider (Jaws) stars as Captain Nathan Bridger in this series that was basically Star Trek but underwater. SeaQuest has a lot going for it, including a character who is a talking dolphin but manages not to be ridiculous.

Also, remember Jonathan Brandis? He was on this show, and now I’m sad.

The earthbound limitations of the premise catch up to the show a couple seasons in, so it gets a little weird and alien-y, but it starts out well enough.

Availability: Netflix (streaming and disc), iTunes

Forever Knight (1992 – 1996)

Nick Knight is a damn good cop with a bit of a drinking problem. Photo: CBS
Nick Knight is a damn good cop with a bit of a drinking problem. Photo: CBS

I saved the weirdest one for last. Forever Knight is about a Toronto homicide detective with a dark secret: He’s a vampire.

Yes, I highlighted another crimefighting bloodsucker in Vampire Prosecutor back in that Walking Dead roundup, and now I know that the best show imaginable would team the two of them up like Law & Order: Vampires.

Anyway, the detective in this show, Nick Knight, is 800 years old and looking for redemption for all those people he’s murdered since the Middle Ages. So he solves crimes, protects the innocent, and drinks animal blood from bottles.

Things get complicated when his “very old friends” show up and get all judgy with him for not being a monster. Hijinks ensue in proper, overly dramatic ’90s fashion.

Availability: Netflix (disc), Amazon Video, iTunes