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5 Best Back to School TV Episodes from the ’90s

Back to school is equal parts exciting, scary, and chaotic. These are our favourite back to school TV episodes from the ’90s that capture the fun, the anxiety, and the occasional wackiness of the experience.

Full House – “Back to School Blues”

Best known for a scene where DJ and Kimmy Gibbler load up on make-up, this season three episode has DJ struggling to fit in to her new middle school. She’s back to being in the youngest cohort, and everyone else seems so much older and more mature. This is Full House though, so attempts at fitting in via new clothes and make-up go awry while family love and a few kind words from Bob Saget wrap things up nicely.

Sabrina the Teenage Witch – “Every Witch Way but Loose”

Wanting a more normal teenage experience, Sabrina enrols in college and moves out of her aunts’ home. But all of her potential living situations fall apart thanks to magical interference from Hilda and Zelda, who are pretty upset with the idea of Sabrina leaving the nest. Soon, Sabrina ends up in off-campus housing with a super tough roommate who thinks that Sabrina is a ditz and another roommate who’s an encyclopaedia of conspiracy theories. Magic aside, dealing with odd roommates and parental figures who have trouble letting go are totally relatable college experiences.

My So-Called Life – “Pilot”

Never a show to shy away from a more chaotic depiction of teen life, the pilot of My So-Called Life has Angela Chase (Claire Danes!) dye her hair in an attempt to look more like a punk to fit in better with her peers. Also, she thinks that it’s her fault her dad is distant, has a messy friend breakup, fights with her parents over a party, has nasty rumours spread about her, has a run-in with the cops . . . it all works out, though.

With all this negativity, why do we like My So-Called Life? Well, it was never condescending to us, the viewers, and never wrapped everything up in a neat little bow.

The Nanny – “Fran-Lite”

The kids are back to school and Brighton has a problem: he’s “smaller” in the locker room. Which is something he tells everyone until it’s discovered what he actually means is he’s “shorter” than everyone else. File this under jokes we didn’t get at the time.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – “Day Damn One”

In what may be the most interesting take on a back-to-school episode, Will is hanging out with Ashley and her friends at her slumber party when they ask him to tell a scary story . . . so he tells the story of his first day at Bel-Air Academy. It involves what you’d expect: Will has a hard time with his new snooty classmates, the classes are harder, and he thinks it’s strange to wear a jacket and tie. But this episode goes further and has Will carve the word “fresh” into the desk. Then he gets into a battle of wills with Carlton, and himself, over confessing his infraction. The episode ends with a student protest over Will’s treatment by the disciplinary committee. And there are a few horror-movie flourishes throughout. They’re mostly played for laughs, which is how we look back on so many first days back at school: a mix of horror and comedy. Too bad our school didn’t have Will Smith, though.

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August, 13 2021



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