nostalgic drama to watch
December 20, 2021 2:40 PM   Subscribe

Looking for suggestions for a nostalgic drama along the lines of My So-Called Life or Felicity to watch next

Would like the show to be:
nostalgic, centered on relationships and emotions, well-written
not deeply violent or traumatic
sad or melancholy is fine and even preferred, but not too depressing
along the same lines as Felicity and My So-Called Life
(does not have to be about teens/young adults)
contemporary shows with nostalgic feel okay, does not have to be from a specific era
best if streaming on Hulu, Netflix or Amazon Prime (but I'll take other suggestions in case they become available later)

Would "this is us" or "parenthood" fit the bill?

thanks :)
posted by bearette to Media & Arts (46 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
this is us is immensely depressing and traumatic, in my opinion
freaks & geeks is on hulu!
posted by quadrilaterals at 2:47 PM on December 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

Dawson's Creek! Currently on Netflix in the UK, not sure about elsewhere.
posted by FifteenShocks at 2:53 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

The Wonder Years (original not remake, which I’ve never watched) for supreme nostalgia.
posted by cultureclash82 at 2:57 PM on December 20, 2021 [6 favorites]

I think you might enjoy Sisters.
posted by brookeb at 3:03 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

I will once again recommend Ghost Whisperer as a tv show that's far better than it has any right to be. I don't know if it's too soon to be nostalgic for the augties, but the technology and costuming--the COSTUMING--is 😗👌

It is also just ugh SUCH a nice show. Jennifer Love Hewitt has just got married to her smart, handsome husband, and she is SUPER into being married but has kept her own name, her own interests, and her own life that's totally independent from her spouse. And unlike every other show with a lady who has weird stuff happen to her, she tells her husband and he's completely on board. Believes her immediately, is concerned for her safety and well-being, but doesn't get in her way, just wants to know how he can help. She's nice to her friends and wants to help everyone, but she's not a pushover. It's just a surprisingly good show for being such a stupid premise.

If you need explanation for nostalgia.

posted by phunniemee at 3:16 PM on December 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Freaks & Geeks.

This is Us fits the bill pretty well too.
posted by mekily at 3:35 PM on December 20, 2021

Northern Exposure or Thirtysomething.
posted by Jubey at 3:36 PM on December 20, 2021 [10 favorites]

The producer of This Is Us, Ken Olin, starred in Thirtysomething, which explains why they have a similar vibe. But there are some quite traumatic issues explored in This Is Us, albeit in a deeply sentimental way at times. As This Is Us has evolved, the implausibility of some of the plotlines have made it more like a soap opera, but the first three seasons are excellent.
posted by essexjan at 3:47 PM on December 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Party of Five used to be one of my go-tos for this purpose, but I haven't seen it in a while and I'm not sure how it holds up these days.

I watched Parenthood a while back and I do think it fits the bill for you, but while I enjoyed it while watching, I can't remember anything about it except that Lorelei Gilmore and Casey McCall were in it.

I really liked This is Us but after a while it did get sort of grim and eventually I bailed out on it. Still - very very good show.

You might also consider Brothers & Sisters - it's heavier on the family drama than the nostalgia but I still really liked it while I was watching it.

Gilmore Girls was a bit quirkier than nostalgic, but could also fit your preferences if you're into warm-hearted stories and unrealistically snappy (but fun!) dialogue.

I watched all of these on streaming services at some point but couldn't swear to where they are now. Though I'm pretty sure This is Us is still on Hulu and Gilmore Girls on Netflix. :)

Oh, and - maybe off in left field, but 9-1-1 and spin-offs on Hulu might also do the trick - there's one starring Peter Krause (Casey McCall!) and one with Sam Seaborne (::kof:: Rob Lowe, sorry, couldn't resist) and they've also got that family-drama feel to them, without always being actual blood family. They do have a bit of violence in that they're based around fire stations responding to 911 calls but you can pretty much just close your eyes for most of that.
posted by invincible summer at 3:50 PM on December 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Maybe Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon? It's more of a period drama than nostalgic though. It takes place in the 1960s.

I enjoy This is Us, and it's got a good amount of nostalgia. But it's definitely created to amp up the drama and be a tearjerker. Try the first few episodes. If you like those, then keep going. If you're turned off by the initial trauma in the first episode, then pass. (CW/mild spoiler: stillborn baby)
posted by hydra77 at 4:24 PM on December 20, 2021

Lorelei Gilmore and Casey McCall were in it made me laugh; Peter Krauss played Casey McCall in Sports Night, which is no longer free with Prime, and not nostalgic, but is very good
Gilmore Girls is on Netflix and is comforting.
If you've never watched Friday Night Lights, it's very good and only nominally about football.
I enjoyed Medium
Parenthood is pleasant to watch.
I re-watched Dutchess of Duke Street, set in WWI London, enjoyed it.
How I Met Your Mother and Mad about You are worth consideration.
posted by theora55 at 4:28 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Off the top of my head, but caveat I haven't seen them since they aired so not 100% sure how they hold up
Party Of Five
Seventh Heaven
Parenthood would fit I think, so would Brothers and Sisters.
Abby McBeal
Maybe Private Practice (Grey's Anatomy spin off, but slightly less... grey's like? Hard to explain. Maybe not be old/nostalgic enough though. If this scratches the itch though, I might try something like ER or Chicago Hope for nostalgia.)

And maybe slightly off topic, but I can't have a list with dramas from this era without mentioning The West Wing. Still holds the spot in my head for best drama ever, but when you watch it you need to pretend the Trump era never happened.
posted by cgg at 4:30 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Joan of Arcadia is really good. IMDB also suggested Wings, Dharma & Greg- though those are more sitcoms. Saving Grace is really good (Well, seasons 1-2; I skipped season 3 because it wasn't as good.) In Plain Sight is about a U.S. Marshal, but focuses on personal relationships and family.
posted by lawgirl at 5:06 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Picket Fences is weird, but extremely enjoyable and really hits those 90s nostalgia strings. On Hulu in the US.
posted by General Malaise at 5:08 PM on December 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Maybe The Americans, if you haven't seen it? It wasnt made in that era but is set in the 80s and has a slightly nostalgic, melancholy feel, though the central plot line is about spy stuff and the cold war. It is very character driven though.
posted by jojobobo at 5:14 PM on December 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: General Malaise: Oh, that's so awesome! I totally remember watching Picket Fences in the 90s and enjoying it. I will check it out!

Also, just want to add that "nostalgic feel" can be shows from the felicity/my so-called life era, but also shows that are contemporary but feel like they would make someone from the future nostalgic...if that even makes sense :/

thanks for suggestions!
posted by bearette at 5:26 PM on December 20, 2021

Detectorists 100%.
posted by janell at 5:30 PM on December 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

I just learned that St. Elsewhere is on Hulu. (For the youngsters: Hospital drama from the mid-80s, sort of ER or Grey's Anatomy but much less soapy.)
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 5:35 PM on December 20, 2021 [5 favorites]

OK, this is going to sound weird at first, but ... Degrassi: The Next Generation (etc.). Yes, it's a lot of TEEN DRAMA! (although the first few seasons involve more of the adults) but it's also ... weirdly good. Yes, some of it goes into preposterous places (especially in the later seasons) but there is still something so kind and sweet about it overall. (I believe it's all still on Tubi.)

I ended up in a Degrassi rewatch group last year (although I'd never seen it!) and it was such a stabilizing factor in a really weird year. Clearly, your mileage may vary but also don't count it out.
posted by edencosmic at 5:40 PM on December 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

The Kennedys *streaming on Amazon). It's not about the American politician family. It's set in early 80s England and it's based on the autobiography of the main character. It's very funny.
posted by jonathanhughes at 5:45 PM on December 20, 2021

Not sure I am properly attuned to your taste. But perhaps M*A*S*H?
posted by MollyRealized at 5:49 PM on December 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Six Feet Under, tender portrait of familial dysfunction
posted by Press Butt.on to Check at 6:06 PM on December 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Detectorists is the greatest show of the last twenty years and I will fight anyone any time on this.
posted by aramaic at 6:43 PM on December 20, 2021 [3 favorites]

Absolutely seconding Detectorists. Please watch it! It is so gentle and lovely, with plenty of low-stakes drama and portrayals of loving relationships that nonetheless have some conflict and angst. It was one of the best things I watched this year.

I will also second Freaks and Geeks. It is a perfect and complete story (only lasted one season) filled with fantastic characters (it's a little lighter than MSCL, but there's a sort-of Angela Chase and a sort-of Jordan Catalano and a sort-of Rayanne Graf). It will even make you feel nostalgic twice, because it's set in ~1980 and was made in ~2000, so you're kind of having warm fuzzies about a period of time 40 years ago and 20 years ago.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:53 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Oh! Oh! Also, Sex Education. It's set in a contemporary time but has a definite nostalgic feel. It has Gillian Anderson!! I love how diverse it is in terms of age/race/sexuality/gender identity. Another favourite from this year, and there are 3 seasons to binge.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 6:56 PM on December 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Agree about The Detectorists being a great show. I would have gladly watched 20 seasons of it.
posted by akk2014 at 7:33 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

PEN15 on Hulu. It’s about being in 7th grade, on the verge between childhood and adulthood, and how new pressures and urges can stress your relationship with your best friend. It’s primarily funny but also devastating at times. Check it out!
posted by ejs at 8:27 PM on December 20, 2021 [2 favorites]

Seconding Friday Night Lights so hard. There is a traumatic event in the first episode, but it is 100% in this category.
posted by bluloo at 9:01 PM on December 20, 2021 [4 favorites]

Boy Meets World! My all time favorite show, still.
posted by madonna of the unloved at 9:38 PM on December 20, 2021 [1 favorite]

Normal People
posted by vunder at 10:47 PM on December 20, 2021

I think you want Judging Amy!
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 1:27 AM on December 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

My rec would have been Freaks and Geeks, as pretty much THE solution to what you’re looking for, but Joan of Arcadia is also a good call. Sex Education isn’t a bad rec either! Veronica Mars and Red Band Society might both be too traumatic (the latter might also be hard to find, as it flopped hard).

Try Dash & Lily on Netflix. It’s maybe a little lighter than Felicity, but it hit a similar spot for me, the stakes are mostly just whether or not a teen couple will get together, there’s a lot of cute family and friends stuff around them, and I really enjoyed it.
posted by verbminx at 1:27 AM on December 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Friday Night Lights. I know nothing about American football but this show moved me deeply, and made me sob with sheer joy at times. It took me months to watch the finale because the nostalgia ache was too deep and I couldn't bear to leave Dillon, Texas behind. It is beloved by many others in much the same, intense way. And I am not usually that intense about TV shows.
posted by guessthis at 2:48 AM on December 21, 2021 [5 favorites]

Dispatches from Elsewhere is the best thing I watched on Prime this year. It has an amazing cast, a very weird storyline, and it's immensely hopeful.
posted by night_train at 4:42 AM on December 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

I started Gilmore Girls as a hate watch with my spouse, but it won me over by the end. Lorelei wants everyone to think she's trashy, and the show is the same. But they both have hidden depths. Dumb fun on the surface, real stuff about generational trauma and gender roles beneath. Can't recommend highly enough.
posted by rikschell at 6:14 AM on December 21, 2021 [2 favorites]

Rosemary & Thyme. British show about two middle-aged female gardeners who also solve mysteries. I just finished the series and it gave me some good cozy, nostalgic vibes for the 00’s.
posted by scantee at 6:47 AM on December 21, 2021 [3 favorites]

I remember liking Once and Again, back in the day. No idea about streaming availability, tho.

+1 for Six Feet Under

Maybe Olive Kitteridge? Great cast, but she's an ornery, difficult character to like.
posted by Bron at 7:44 AM on December 21, 2021

Putting in a plug for the new Wonder Years remake - it's excellent and has very much the same mood/vibe as the original.
posted by tangosnail at 7:55 AM on December 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Gilmore Girls is my ultimate cozy nostalgic show and fits your parameters! Last I checked it was on Netflix. (My other cozy shows are various Star Treks, which might actually work if 90s visions of the future evoke nostalgia in you.)
posted by esoterrica at 8:41 AM on December 21, 2021

Broad City on Hulu currently. It's funny and somewhat contemporary, but also has some deep stuff (I've cried during at least 1 episode haha). It reminds me of close friendships and awkwardness that spontaneously happen in your 20s. And if you have a soft spot for NYC, it's set there too.
posted by watrlily at 10:05 AM on December 21, 2021 [1 favorite]

Detectorists reminds me of the recent BBC “reboot” of Worzel Gummidge. There are a handful of episodes, no series, and it’s mainly aimed at kids, but it has a lovely, golden nostalgic atmosphere, plus a few good jokes. Good comfort viewing.
posted by fabius at 10:14 AM on December 21, 2021

I totally feel this way about how I met your mother.
Some episodes (the girl next door, how your mother met me, the finale) have me downright weeping.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:16 AM on December 21, 2021

American Dreams was really good- it takes place in the 1960s so not sure if that's an interest, but it focuses on family relationships.
posted by lawgirl at 6:23 PM on December 21, 2021

Six Feet Under is a terrific idea and yes, if you can find Northern Exposure, absolutely that. (There do seem to be some DVDs of Northern Exposure on sale-- maybe check your local library.)

Dead Like Me is awesome.

Last winter I really enjoyed Spinning Out on Netflix. It's schlocky compared to most others that have been listed though.
posted by BibiRose at 6:56 AM on December 22, 2021

Does Buffy The Vampire Slayer count?
posted by Captain Fetid at 8:25 AM on December 26, 2021

Because it's marginally on topic, General Malaise *salutes*.
posted by MollyRealized at 2:50 PM on December 26, 2021 [1 favorite]

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