The 1990s were a weird time for TV viewers and it’s notable how some shows in this decade were just weird. They had strange set-ups, and the execution was even weirder. The attempts to mingle CGI (which was in a very rough stage in the mid-1990s) could make things look even worse.
Some 90s kids’ shows had good concepts but fell apart in execution while others were so strange, it’s amazing they were even green-lit. Even some shows that ended up being good hits still had pretty weird premises and presentations. It showcases how this decade was filled with ideas so unique, viewers have to wonder how some of these concepts were created in the first place.
Updated on May 15th, 2023 by Casey Coates: Thi list has been updated to include videos for some of the strangest 90s kids shows to exist.
20 Where In The World Is Carmen Sandiego?
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? is a beloved franchise that inspired numerous entertaining and educational spin-offs. Fox had an animated show with Carmen always getting away. However, PBS had a unique version of an offbeat game show. The opening theme by an acappella singing group set the tone as the kid contestants were “gumshoes” recruited to find Carmen.
Each episode had the Chief (Lynne Thigpen) explaining the crime in a wonderfully overdramatic voice laced with alliteration and wordplay. The “senior agent” host, Greg Lee, would lead the “gumshoes” with geography and history questions to narrow down where the suspect was hiding. The offbeat nature is something viewers just don’t see anymore, and the 90s kids’ show won a Peabody award.
19 Big Bad Beetleborgs
Like the popular Power Rangers, this Saban series utilized old Japanese superhero TV footage with new American actors. A trio of kids investigating a haunted house accidentally frees the ghost Flabber. He gives them superpowers and the ability to become their comic book heroes, the Beetleborgs — but he also brings the comic’s villains to life, who begin to attack the town.
The second season had brand-new villains and new “Metallix” armor. It also amped up the comedy antics of the mansion’s band of nutty monsters getting into their own wacky adventures. The slapstick won fans over and the show is remembered as one of the better PowerRanger copies of the time.
18 WMAC Masters
This show had real-life martial artists take on pro-wrestling-inspired characters in a competition hosted by Bruce Lee’s daughter, Shannon. The winners faced off in a huge “electrified” dome with guys dressed as ninja attacking. The goal was to get enough ki symbols to challenge the Dragon Star champion in a bout atop a rotating platform.
The second season of this 90s kids show got even stranger by turning into a complex storyline of a sinister group trying to destroy the WMAC amid the fighting. There could be light humor, but the fact the whole thing was played straight made it even nuttier. It was canceled on a cliffhanger but has a cult audience who enjoy its strange attempt at a live-action video game.
17 A.J.’s Time Travelers
Trying to mix education with sci-fi, this syndicated show was just very, very weird. Teen AJ gets a disc that allows him to board a time machine whisking across space. The crew includes a super-hyper aide who speaks in sound effects, a half-dog, a fly with a human face, a living computer, and the female captain, who’s the only reasonable person.
Villain Warp wants the ship for his own purposes but can only get it if the crew can’t answer three historical questions. They use the ship to bring people in from that time period to provide the answers. The educational touches were okay, and some stories could be surprisingly frank. The bizarre edutainment series became infamous for being part of a complex lawsuit.
16 Adventures In Wonderland
The classic fairy tale got a wild makeover by the Disney Channel in the early 1990s. The concept was Alice (Elisabeth Harnois, better known today for CSI) would use a magical mirror to enter a much more modern Wonderland. The Red Queen was imperious, but not the “cut off your head” type. The White Rabbit got around on rollerblades, while Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum were hip-hop dancers. They would do comedy bits and break into songs to teach some life lessons that Alice would use.
It makes sense that Wonderland made little sense. The rapping could be wild, but the show had touches with teaching lessons on tolerance and even addiction. The unique 90s kids show featured some big guest stars like Marlee Matalin as the March Hare’s deaf cousin. Taking the classic characters into a hip-hop world could have been messy, but the show’s heart made it an actual Emmy-winning success for the time.
From Robin Hood to Edmund Dantes to D’Artangan, Wishbone the dog plays the central role in numerous literary masterpieces. Thus, viewers have the sight of a dog dressed in human clothing with others treating him like a real person amid these adventures.
Wishbone was a major hit with critics. It won a few Emmys and even a Peabody Award. More than a few ’90s kids admitted being hooked on some major novels thanks to this show. The sheer offbeat nature of a dog starring in scores of major novels and using them as life lessons made this show a weird sight, but it worked into a big success for lovers of books and dogs alike.
14 Mystic Knights Of Tir Na Nog
In the ancient kingdom of Kells, the evil Maeve uses her dark magic to create monsters in her attempts to conquer the land. A young cleric, the royal princess, a thief, and the prince of a distant land band together to find special weapons to fight her off. Aiding them is a quirky fairy and the king of a leprechaun-like race.
Among the 90s kids’ shows running, Mystic Knights Of Tir Na Nog had offbeat humor that could draw viewers in. The battle scenes were rough, yet there was a charm matching the land. Maeve herself was a compelling villainess, and the show had wild turns with her connection to hero Rohan and the addition of a new Knight. It’s strange, but it actually works to provide one of the more unique Fox shows of that decade.
13 The Mighty Ducks
As part of the cross-promotion for the cartoon, The Mighty Ducks, Disney created this rather strange cartoon show. On the planet Puckworld, hockey is literally a way of life. The planet is invaded by an alien race that can hide under cloaks. During a battle, six of these duck-like aliens crash their ship in Anaheim. They end up posing as a costumed hockey team while fighting the alien invaders.
The show actually plays this nutty set-up totally straight. It uses the hockey motif totally from the team’s suits to their weapons and the “Pond” arena their headquarters. The voice cast included a then-unknown Brad Garrett and Dennis Franz as their policeman ally.
12 Skeleton Warriors
Part of a push by CBS in 1994 to get back into exciting Saturday morning cartoons, this series focused on the world of Luminaire. A battle causes the Lightstar Crystal to be split in half. The evil Baron Dark gets the dark half, allowing him to transform himself and others into living skeletons. The other half belongs to Prince Lightstar, who forms the Legion of Light to fight off Dark’s forces.
Unlike most 90s kids’ shows, Skeleton Warriors could be as dark as the villain. After all, the bad guys were literally evil skeletons who relished how they could be broken apart and put themselves back together again. Some of those bad guys could be freaky (one was a cyborg skeleton) and the animation enhanced their disturbing qualities.
11 Bucky O’Hare
Originally a comic created by Larry Hama and Michael Golden, Bucky O’Hare attained a cult following by the 1990s that led to an animated series. In an alternate future, sapient mammals from different worlds defend their galaxy against the evil Toad Empire who want to dominate the universe.
Bucky O’Hare is the courageous leader of a band of heroes who take on the most dangerous missions. Aiding them is a young boy from Earth who got sucked into this weird galaxy. It only lasted 13 episodes, but the character has lived on by being linked to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and is still remembered as one of the more fun space shows of the time.
10 Wild West C.O.W.-Boys Of Moo Mesa
A meteor crashes into an Old West territory, transforming all the animal inhabitants into bovine-like humanoids. They took on the trappings of the time, with gunslingers and some steampunk elements. A trio of these “Cow-Boys” kept law and order in the town against a band of ruffians led by the town’s corrupt mayor and sheriff.
There were odd elements, like the sight of cows riding horses and some of the villains could be downright weird. Yet the show had a fun humor to it with how the cows will try to emulate humans while not totally understanding their ways. Interestingly, this 90s kid show even inspired a successful arcade game.
9 Tattooed Teenage Alien Fighters From Beverly Hills
It’s hard to say if this USA series was meant as a parody of the Power Rangers franchise or a serious take. An evil warlord sends his agents to attack Earth and a wise creature recruits four Beverly Hills teens, giving them tattoos to transform into giant-sized warriors. On the one hand, there was some comedy potential of the rich kids saving the world, but the production was rough.
This show made the cheapest Power Rangers episode look like an MCU movie. It was laughable seeing the fights on huge miniature sets that would be reused with bad martial arts moves. The cheapness was all over the place. The actors did their best, but it was impossible to salvage this series. Even as a parody, it fell flat, yet its sheer awfulness makes it strangely compelling to view.
8 Yo Yogi
A weird bit throughout the 1990s was how studios would take classic cartoons and try to give them a “modern youth makeover.” No character suffered from that more than Yogi Bear. This 1991 cartoon had Yogi and Boo-Boo with some other Hanna-Barbera characters dressed in loud outfits, going around on skateboards, and solving mysteries while doing bad rap songs.
The series has not aged well with its “hip hop attitude,” and the mysteries were a far cry from Scooby and his gang. Trying to make these characters “hip” for the ’90s made for a laughable cartoon and a shame these characters had to be thrown in what amounted to a bad extended ’90s music video.
7 Space Cases
Acclaimed sci-fi/comic book writer Peter David co-created this Nick series. A group of young cadets are put together, as they’re basically a band of screw-ups. They’re checking out a spaceship when its robot guide sends it halfway across the galaxy. The group (with two reluctant teachers) have to make their way back home while running into various threats.
This 90s kids’ show could be fun packed with the usual David humor and sharp plotting. There were slews of sci-fi stars as guests such as George Takei as a space pirate and Mark Hamill as a wacky alien aide. The show got a bit darker in its second season, with hints the robot was less a bumbling fool than a manipulator who had set this whole journey up. Still, it’s notable for letting David cut loose with an original space story.
6 Ghost Writer
One can’t blame PBS for wanting to put some education into entertainment, but this is a pretty weird way of doing it. A group of young kids in New York are brought together as they make friends with a strange ghost. Known only as “Ghostwriter,” the spirit communicates via rearranging signs and books into letters only the kids can see. He aids them in investigating various mysteries.
The show was smart using comprehension skills, yet still revolved around a bunch of kids talking to a ghost who only spoke through lettering. The series was much stranger than most 90s kids’ shows, and that’s without plots that involve time-traveling. Some stories could be dark, with kidnappings and a prankster threatening fires as well as a scary thief in a mask. The series was successful yet still has a weird vibe.
5 The Pirates Of Dark Water
The aquatic world of Mer is being slowly devoured by a mysterious “dark water.” A young man named Ren discovers he’s a prince and is on a quest to find the Thirteen Treasures that can stop the dark water. He joins with a pirate and a sorceress to combat an evil pirate who wants the Treasures for himself. The world was populated by strange characters and a truly alien setting.
While it seemed like other light-hearted 90ds kids shows, The Pirates of Dark Water could push some dangerous storylines. The dark water was made out to be a huge threat and the idea of a world under siege added a layer of darkness to the tale. The thrills were great with some good animated sequences and engaging characters.
4 Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes
This series is based on the sequel to Attack of the Killer Tomatoes, as Dr. Putrid T. Gangreen is using his various evil scientist plots to rule the world. That involves turning a potato into the beautiful Tara, who joins a rebellion against him. The show lovingly leaned into the wild storyline and had fun with it.
Characters would address the audience during the action and a “Censor Lady” would step in if things were getting too violent. The animation made the monster vegetables look even better. Like the movie that inspired it, this series was one of a kind in terms of working a bizarre concept.
3 Street Sharks
The evil Dr. Luther Paradigm creates a machine that can splice humans and animals together. He uses it to turn his partner, John Bolton, into a monster. When Bolton’s four sons investigate, Paradigm uses the machine to splice them with sharks. Now, the quartet can turn into super-muscled half-shark beings to take on Paradigm and his bevy of villains while looking for their dad.
The attitude of the teens made the TMNT look subtle. Their allies include a rock star turned into a bull shark and a teen genius. The animation was rough and amazing the show lasted three seasons. Viewers saw a lot of TMNT copies in the ’90s, yet this stands tall as one of the more obvious take-offs.
2 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation
The Heroes in a Halfshell have gone through a lot of shows in their history, but the lowest point is easily this 1997 live-action Fox series. The idea of the Turtles in live-action is already a bit off, as they work much better in animation than people in suits. To no one’s surprise, it was astounding how bad this was. There’s no April or Casey, and Shredder takes a back seat to a new villain.
The fight scenes are a mess of slapstick, not the cool battles fan expect from the Turtles, and the writing is pretty bad. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles creator Peter Laird hates the show so much that he won’t even allow it to be mentioned in his presence. If anything, this 90s kids show proves that the Turtles are much better suited for animation than a live-action mess.
This series had four teens who work at a junkyard. One night, a falling meteor hits the junkyard and turns cars and trucks to turn into automotive vampires that suck the fuel out of everything they can find. The kids are also affected by the meteor to transform into robotic cars. Aided by their mentor Van Hell’Sing, a bizarre hippie, they fight to defend the world from the Van Pires.
The fact that the opening credits list Hell’Sing as “playing himself” lets viewers know they’re in for a trip. The CGI is outrageous while the live-action sequences feature some odd acting. Hell’Sing is just strange and the attempt at “environmental” messages amid the fights is laughable. The whole thing is a wild ride from start to finish.
NEXT: 23 Great TV Shows That Ended Too Soon
#Weirdest #90s #Kids #Shows #Ranked