On Sunday, National Geographic joined the millennial nostalgia race with its premiere of the three-part miniseries The ’90s: The Last Great Decade? (If you have to ask, the answer is probably “no.”) To its credit, this network’s version leans toward more newsworthy events and serious takes than VH1. It does get into some pop culture, although placing the same emphasis on race riots and Jerry Springer feels tone-deaf. But the biggest problem is that The ’90s doesn’t ever say anything that we don’t already know. If you already knew about Monica Lewinsky and OJ Simpson and Vanilla Ice, then there is absolutely no reason to watch this miniseries.
The most enticing thing about The ’90s: The Last Great Decade? is the panel of commentators who, thankfully, aren’t all comedians. National Geographic has actually assembled a nice mixture of people, most of whom are primary sources for the subject at hand. In the premiere episode, Courtney Love discusses Nirvana, James Carville chats about Clinton, and a few tech engineers/developers talk Microsoft and computers. Yet none of them provide any illuminating details. We learn that Roseanne was a groundbreaking show and that Bill Clinton played the saxophone. Who knew! It’s less of an informative and entertaining take on the news and more of a cursory glance at a Wikipedia article.
That’s the main takeaway from the never-ending onslaught of decade-specific programming: It’s now completely unnecessary. We’ve exhausted all the main topics of each era, and if there’s any niche ’90s fad VH1 (or National Geographic) glossed over, a quick Internet search will likely pull up hundreds of people waxing nostalgic about that same thing. These shows outstayed their welcome in the mid-2000s, and now they’re nothing but another fad that should end.