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Welcome to the 1990s, again

The millennial generation is pulling us back to the not-so-distant past.

The Kansas City Star

It might be 2012, but interest in the 1990s is so hot the decade is trending on Twitter.

From “Beavis and Butt-Head” and “Men in Black 3” to “Kenan & Kel” and “Titanic 3D,” you can’t swing a Beanie Baby without striking something two decades old.


’90s nostalgia!


Boy bands are back. Alicia Silverstone is in a hit sitcom. And TeenNick is rebroadcasting shows considered “classics” by young adults, including “Doug,” “Rugrats” and “All That.” A Facebook page dedicated to reviving the shows — “I Want My ’90s Nickelodeon Back” — has 1.2 million “likes.” More than 15 million fan pages are devoted to the toons, execs say.

Marketers know what’s going on.

“Millennials are coming of age in one of the worst economic slumps we have seen, and it’s making them nervous,” writes Melanie Shreffler, editor-in-chief of Ypulse, a marketing firm that studies young people.

“Instead of getting rewarded for their hard work, they find themselves unemployed or underemployed. Those who are lucky enough to have jobs spend every day trying to keep them. … They miss the time when everything was easy, when they felt safe and secure. In particular, they pine for their (younger) years and want to be emotionally transported back to that time.”

As if.

For them, the ’90s are the good old days. While there weren’t any smartphones or social media, there also wasn’t a war on terror or a historic recession.

More evidence of ’90s nostalgia?

  • In addition to the “Men in Black” sequel opening Friday and the return of “Titanic,” Hollywood just revived the “American Pie” franchise with “American Reunion.” A remake of the 1990 sci-fi thriller “Total Recall” arrives in August.

  • “Full House” reruns thrive on TeenNick. (And star Bob Saget brings his stand-up gig to Voodoo Lounge on Friday.)

  • Fresh off 2010’s pairing of ’90s heartthrobs the Backstreet Boys and New Kids on the Block, new boy bands, including One Direction and the Wanted are storming the beaches of teenage fandom. (Hurry! Tickets are on sale now for One Direction’s Sprint Center show on July 19, 2013! )

  • This year’s concert scene is loaded with ’90s survivors: Fiona Apple (July 17 at the Midland), Tenacious D (July 26, Uptown Theater), Counting Crows (July 31, Starlight Theatre), Garbage (Aug. 8, Berkley Riverfront Park), Train (Aug. 10, Starlight), Phish (Aug. 22, Starlight) and Red Hot Chili Peppers (Oct. 27, Sprint Center).

  • “Beavis and Butt-Head” are back on MTV, now aiming their snarky comments at “Jersey Shore” and its ilk.

  • VH1 revived “Pop-Up Video.”

  • Alicia Silverstone, who played Cher in 1995’s “Clueless,” has reunited with co-star Jeremy Sisto (who played Elton) in the cast of ABC’s “Suburgatory.”

  • The ’98 cult classic “The Big Lebowski” is still going strong, as thousands flock to “Lebowskifests” around the country. (The Screenland Crossroads and Armour theaters still draw crowds for occasional screenings.)

  • ’90s icon Alanis Morissette was a mentor on NBC’s “The Voice.”

  • Scholastic has revived “The Baby-sitters Club” books.

  • Courtney Love returned to the stage last month in New York with several band mates from Hole, marking their first live performance together since 1995. “Hit So Hard,” a documentary about the band, opened at Screenland Crossroads on Friday.

  • The ABC sitcom “Melissa and Joey” pairs Melissa Joan Hart from the ’90s shows “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” and “Clarissa Explains It All” with Joey Lawrence from “Blossom.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Pop-culture nostalgia is nothing new. In the ’70s and ’80s baby boomers began to look back at the “Happy Days” of the ’50s and ’60s. In the ’90s and 2000s, GenXers longed for the ’70s and ’80s (as in “Transformers”).

But this current wave of nostalgia is different. With hundreds of TV channels and millions of Web pages, it’s as if time is compressing, causing nostalgic feelings to hit faster.

Nick Shore, MTV’s senior vice president of strategic consumer insights and marketing, tabbed the phenomenon “instant nostalgia.” In other words, this is the first generation to have instant access to the entire history of its pop-culture youth. It’s not buried in books or archived in a museum. It’s readily available on the Internet, a click away.

Including the toys of the ’90s.

DeAnn Warren, 20, of Kansas City is nostalgic for Mr. Bucket.

“The balls popped out of the bucket, then you collected them and put them back in,” she said. “I loved it!”

Enough to buy one today?

“Heck yeah!”

She’s in luck. Milton Bradley re-released the ’90s toy last year.

Kayla Craig, a 23-year-old fund accountant from Independence, is nostalgic for Furby, a fuzzy, robotic gremlin that created a craze in 1998.

Guess what, Kayla? Hasbro is releasing a new Furby this fall.

Brittany Davis, an 18-year-old student at Penn Valley Community College, fondly remembers watching Barney. Now, the purple dinosaur is flying off store shelves again.

“I love you. You love me …” she sang. She’d buy Barney products today, including key chains: “It would make me feel young. When I was watching Barney everything was good. I had no worries in life.”

You go, girl!

There are more than 100 million so-called “Millennials,” also known as Generation Y. Born after 1980, they’re the largest generation alive. They’ve also been called “The MTV Generation,” “The Babied Boom” and “The Nickelodeon Generation.”

No wonder TeenNick brought back a late-night block of ’90s favorites (called “The ’90s Are All That”).

“There was an audience out there just waiting for this,” said Keith Dawkins, senior vice president and general manager of NickToons and TeenNick. “The network added the shows after noticing buzz on social media and having interns propose it.

“It was like a bat across the head. It was like yeah, let’s do this!”

The shows exploded.

“There are times ‘The ’90s Are All That’ will be trending worldwide on Twitter,” Dawkins said. “That’s amazing to me! But it’s not us. It speaks to the passion of that audience, to their deep emotional connection to those shows, and to their interest the ’90s in general.”

The world changed in significant ways that decade as computers and video game systems came into their own, and cable television flexed its muscles. Millions of children of the ’90s grew up with Nickelodeon.

“Think about it,” said Dawkins. “They had an entire network devoted to being a kid. … They got cartoons anytime they wanted. All day long! That never happened before, and it made a huge impression.”

Jonathon Russell, a 19-year-old Johnson County Community College student from Spring Hill, loved the shows so much he’s now rewatching them on Netflix.

“They have ‘Rugrats’ on there,” he said. “I just watched ‘Rugrats’ the other day with my girlfriend for, like, three hours. I don’t know why, but I did. It’s just one of those things that you do. You look back and you say, ‘Holy cow! I’m actually old enough to look back and remember something fondly.’ ”

Russell also enjoys watching old cartoons such as “Doug” and “Recess.”

“Anytime I’m with my group of friends and you mention one of those shows you go on these tangents about all these cartoon shows and how much better they were than this generation’s cartoons,” he said. “Those were the type of shows you could watch as a kid and say, ‘I wish my life was like that.’ But now you watch these shows and you say, ‘This is a nightmare! I don’t want any part of this!’ ”

Joe Campbell, 26 of Paola, doesn’t connect with current TV shows.

“They’re no good,” he said. “Like “16 and Pregnant” and all the reality TV. I don’t need to watch that.”

Alex Hernandez, a 23-year-old JCCC student from Stilwell, pines for “Pokemon” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (which will return in a live-action reboot from Michael Bay).

“Did you ever pretend you were one of the Turtles and go out and fight with your brother with a stick?” Russell asked.

“Dude, of course!” Hernandez said.

“Kids don’t do that anymore,” Russell said. “They get on Facebook now. … They don’t go outside.”

“It’s that younger generation,” Hernandez said. “They’re always losing something!”

Ah, childhood in the ’90s.

“That was when I didn’t have anything to worry about,” said Brian Reynolds, 30, a Raytown computer programmer currently between jobs.

“No recession, no layoffs, no responsibilities. Just happiness from my childhood. That’s why I just can’t wait to see what they’re going to bring back from the ’90s next. I’ll bet there’s a lot of things that are in the works. And I say bring it on, ’cause I love it all.”

It’s all good.

To reach James A. Fussell call 816-234-4460 or send email to jfussell@kcstar.com.


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