The sepia filter of nostalgia can obscure some of the more screwed up moments from childhood — even with TV characters who, at the time, seemed like they had it all figured out. Was Zack Morris the popular King of Bayside that we all wanted to emulate, or was he something more sinister? What was it, exactly, that caused Steve Urkel to create Stefan? Here’s a clearheaded look at some favorite ’90s TV characters that may help you appreciate some of your own screwed-up moments from childhood.
Bel Air Was Worse Than West Philly
We all know how the song goes: Will Smith gets beat up in his hometown of Philadelphia. His mom freaks out about life on the mean streets of west Philly and sends him to live with his rich aunt and uncle in Bel Air. She thought he would be safe all the way in sunny L.A., but anyone who’s watched the show knows how terrible that plan turned out. In six seasons on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, we saw Will get shot, punched out, robbed, arrested, arrested again, and arrested again. He also fought an armed robber. Why the hard luck? Maybe the universe felt the need to punish Will Smith for something terrible he did (like when he got Carlton screwed up on speed and shamed him into joining a gang) or was going to do.
The Broken Bundys
Kelly Bundy (Christina Applegate) may not have been a valedictorian and she made some terrible romantic choices, but her brother Bud (David Faustino) suffered from delusions of grandeur (and otherwise), was an outright pervert, and lacked basic social skills, spending way too much time in the family basement. But do you blame him, or do you blame his father, Al (Ed O’Neill)? Look at the above video. Bud, who is in the midst of a crisis of conscience over the prospect of sleeping with his cousin Jimmy’s girlfriend Diana, reaches out to his father for support and gets only a “blah blah.” That’s a pretty big #DadFail and proof that Al isn’t going to be in the running for father of the year. And that’s to say nothing about his general apathy towards all things that don’t involve putting his hand down his pants while watching Hondo or talking about his high school football glory days. His horndog attitude isn’t a help, either.
Zack Morris Is A Creepy God
Did you notice in the above Saved By the Bell clip how it wasn’t random chance or the consequence of his own actions that made A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) punch Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins) out? It was the intervention of one man with the power to stop time and change the world — repeatedly and at will — to fit his own selfish desires: Zack Morris. Slater is unaware how his fate had been manipulated by Zack. And Zack is the last person you want manipulating your fate. The dude used subliminal messaging tapes to try and mind control Kelly into asking him out, and manipulated his friends into pretending to hate Slater so he could steal his girl. He also took voyeur shots of teenage girls, including his girlfriend. Knowing Zack would have been hell.
Fear The Tool Man
Tim Taylor (Tim Allen) and his wife Jill (Patricia Richardson) built a happy and well-appointed home for their three sons (Mark, Brad, and Randy), but while they rarely wanted anything, they also probably never had a moment free of anxiety thanks to Tim’s penchant for blowing things up. Imagine what it would be like to live in a house where a dishwasher suddenly gets fired out of the kitchen or the washing machine looks as though it needs an exorcism. Imagine worrying that your father’s 18th fall from the ceiling might be the one that breaks his back, or that your phone will inexplicably shock you when you go to pick it up. This all sounds like a nightmare.
Boy Avoids World
Boy Meets World was not a coming of age story, it was the story of a terminally sheltered young boy who lived next door to his teacher and never grew up. Cory couldn’t just leave school behind so he never had the chance to explore or discover life on his own terms. Maybe the chronic over-protection is why Cory ended up marrying the only girl he had dated since age six and grew up to be a teacher at his kid’s school, repeating the cycle of over-protection in Girl Meets World. These are regressive traditions you’d expect from a religious cult. And maybe a religious cult makes sense because Cory and Shawn have demonstrated the use of psychic powers. They made a kid they didn’t like disappear into nothing and showed no remorse for it.
The Breaking Of Kimmy Gibbler
What a horrifying bunch of jerks the Tanners were. Remember when immediately after Kimmy confessed to Jesse how much it hurt when he insulted her, Jesse promised not to do it anymore and Stephanie said that Uncle Jesse had thus joined the dark side? Every member of the family was quick to tear down Kimmy’s fashion, her big stinky feet, and basically call her a whore. Having the entire family of your only friend constantly harassing you would give you issues. This is probably why she tried to drink and drive or ran away at 17 to marry her first boyfriend. Eventually, Kimmy confessed her co-dependent feelings for D.J, which actually made sense because D.J. is the only person (including Michelle) who didn’t viciously berate her. It’s sad to hear she still hangs out with the Tanners on Fuller House.
The Three Faces Of Steve Urkel
Being a teenage genius who builds functioning cyborgs seems like a dream come true, but if you were anything like Steve Urkel, it’s just part of the waking nightmare that is your life. Urkel had to worry about his hobby ventriloquist dummy coming to life and trying to suck the soul out of his body, and the clone he made of himself causing a bizarre love triangle between him, Laura, Stefan Urquelle and Myra. Once, he and Carl went back in time and almost had to walk the plank on a pirate ship. It’s sad enough that Urkel was so beaten down by Carl’s constant insults and Laura’s rejections that he created Stefan, but he also once had his punch spiked and walked off a building. It won’t be surprising if there is no Family Matters reunion because Stefan took over and grew up to be a smooth supervillain with an army of evil robots.
Nothing is more screwed up than finding about your parents’ sexual likes and dislikes, a lesson Nate and Robin Parker should have remembered on The Detour when they had to have their own heartfelt talk with their soon-to-be screwed up kids, though at least they’re offering more than an Al Bundy “blah blah” when explaining the birds and the bees with an assist from Judge Reinhold.
You can catch The Detour on Mondays at 9/8c on TBS.