A definitive list of the best nostalgic TV shows of all time—made for cozy viewing
Need to escape into some comfort telly? Here's our list of the best nostalgic TV shows—from 'Friends' to 'Gilmore Girls'
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Sometimes when a rainy weekend strikes or your long day at work just felt that tad bit too grown up, you need to snuggle up and escape into some of the best nostalgic TV shows that make you feel all warm and fluffy inside. Whether you're seeking a trip down memory lane or you want to fall back in love with your favorite heartthrob, we've put together a guide of all the best titles to either revisit or discover for the first time.
Thanks to streaming giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime, we have what feels like a never-ending library of all the best teen movies and 90s TV shows at our fingertips—and while this is great and all, it can make the hunt for what to watch pretty exhausting. Especially with new shows like The White Lotus and Ginny & Georgia hitting our screens.
So we've done the hard work for you and picked out all the very best shows to satisfy whatever content you're craving. From the autumnal vibes of Stars Hollow to the hubbub of cozy Central Perk, these are the best nostalgic TV shows to escape into...
The best nostalgic TV shows
While there are so many incredible new shows out there, sometimes you're just in the mood for something familiar, even if it's your 100th rewatch. There's something about shows we watched as teens or were made way back in the 80s that just makes them such easy viewing.
And when it comes to these TV shows, our obsession with nostalgia knows no bounds...
Seasons: Seven (plus four-episode limited series) | Episode run time: 40 mins approx. | Original release date: 5th October 2000
First stop, Stars Hollow! As it 'tis the season, we couldn't not start this list with Gilmore Girls. It's the ultimate 2000s nostalgic feel-good show, which pretty much inspired the whole TikTok/Tumblr 'fall-girl' aesthetic—thanks to the copious mugs of coffee consumed throughout its seven-season run, not to mention all the chunky knitwear and seemingly constant autumnal setting.
For anyone who's not seen the show, it follows independent, single-mum Lorelai and her teenage daughter Rory, as they navigate their relationship, Rory's adolescence and, of course, men. It's got everything from witty characters, drama and romantic pairings that—despite the show being over—will still cause arguments, to deep explorations of parental relationships and the cutest little hometown. Plus it's got a killer theme song...
Seasons: Ten | Episode run time: 23 mins approx.| Original release dates: 22nd September 1994
The one where it's everyone's favorite TV show—yes, obviously Friends had to be high on this list because it's synonymous with nostalgic viewing. It's the show that made will they-won't they relationships a modern-day TV cliche and is probably the most pinned show on Pinterest for its 90s fashion inspo. Especially when it comes to Rachel Green's outfits, namely Rachel's green dress.
The show follows six friends—Rachel, Monica, Ross, Chandler, Pheobe and Joey—as they live out their 20-somethings in their neighboring New York City apartments. We see them fall in love, go on 'breaks', get fired and eventually settle down.
The show is funny, sometimes romantic and overall just easy, happy watching and—like Gilmore Girls—the intro is so catchy.
Seasons: Six | Episode run time: 45 mins approx. | Release date: 20th January 1998
Dawson's Creek is another easy watch that will take you right back to your teenage years. The show begins with two childhood BFFs Dawson and Joey as their boy-girl friendship is tested when new girl Jen moves to town. We see them try to navigate first loves, sex and their looming futures—all the while living in a quaint town with, you guessed it, a creek.
There are six seasons, where you will see all new dramas and romantic pairings unfold, along with some serious '90s style inspo from Joey!
Sex And The City
Seasons: Six | Episode run time: 25 mins approx. | Release date: 6th June 1998
Sex And The City is another New York City-based classic. The iconic show follows sex-columnist Carrie and her friends, Samantha, Miranda and Charlotte, as they date in their 30s. The series, as you'd expect, features a whole lot of sex and very relatably portrays how hard dating can be—especially in Manhattan.
If you have a very romantic idea of the Big Apple, SATC is the perfect viewing, as we watch Carrie strut her stuff through the Upper East Side. If you're having relationship struggles, it's also pretty therapeutic...
The OG series and its new prequel series And Just Like That are also just a few of the many shows you can find on HBO Max right now.
The Vampire Diaries
Seasons: Eight | Episode run time: 29 mins approx.| Release date:10th September 2009
The Vampire Diaries is the series that posed the ultimate question to viewers 'Damon or Stefan?'—and yes, there is a correct answer.
The series follows high schooler, Elena, as her life is turned upside down by the arrival of vampire brothers, Stefan and Damon. The discovery of what they are opens her world up to a whole host of supernatural dangers, all the while being torn between Stefan and Damon—whose appearance in her hometown of Mystic Falls was no coincidence...
The series has adventure, horror and a whole load of romance—if you haven't seen it, we definitely recommend it for a bit of cozy but enthralling viewing! Plus one of social media's most-loved nostaligic show, so that's something!
Seasons: Nine| Episode run time: 23 mins approx. | Release date: 2nd October 2001
Scrubs is a hospital-themed sitcom, which stars JD, a fresh new doctor that is starting his residency with best friend/surgeon Turk. The pair arrive but soon discover that medical school is nothing like the real thing.
While providing you with plenty of laughs, the series will also bring you to tears, as your favorite characters encounter heartache and sometimes joy during their training journey to becoming fully-fledged doctors.
Sabrina, The Teenage Witch
Seasons: Seven| Episode run time: 22 mins approx.| Release date: 27th September 1996
One for all my 90s babies—does anything put you in those nostalgic feels more than Sabrina, The Teenage Witch? Not only is it the perfect watch if you love fall and Halloween (because hello, she's a witch), the 90s hairstyles and clothes are everything.
Sabrina lives with her two aunts, Hilda and Zelda, when, on the morning of her 16th birthday she discovers that she and her whole family are witches and warlocks—that includes her cat, Salem.
After she learns of her magical abilities she begins her training—as well as High School—where she meets Harvey and as you can imagine, she gets in all sorts of trouble.
Seasons: Two| Episode run time: 22 mins approx.| Release date: 12th January 2001
Lizzie McGuire was the Groovy Chic of TV—she was always repping all the y2k beauty trends, while the series itself was cool, relatable and full of teenage struggles, like annoying parents and friend fall-outs.
The series revolves around a clumsy middle schooler Lizzie, whose parents and little brother drive her mad. She has two friends, Miranda and Gordo—the latter of which is desperately in love with Lizzie. The trio fall out, make up and just try their best to navigate their time at school. If you need a blast from the past, this is a good series to start with.
We'd also just like to add that there's also a Lizzie McGuire movie with a very iconic soundtrack...
One Tree Hill
Seasons: Nine| Episode run time: 42 mins approx. | Release date: 23rd September 2003
Like The O.C., One Tree Hill is a series that embodies all things teenage drama—from first loves to sports championships—with a cast that includes some major names like Chad Michael Murray, who was the ultimate 00s heartthrob. You’ll recognize him from the likes of Freaky Friday and A Cinderella Story, which if you ask us is reason enough to try out this show.
Story-wise, One Tree Hill centers on two half-brothers—Lucas and Nathan—and their friends, as they go through their high school years in ‘Tree Hill’ (a fictional town in North Carolina). The pair begin as rivals, as Lucas joins the basketball team, where Nathan is the star player. Over time we see their relationship develop, as they navigate relationships, breakups, and endless drama.
Seasons: Four| Episode run time: 60 mins approx. | Release date: 5th August 2003
The O.C. revolves around Ryan, a troubled teen adopted by an upper-class couple in Orange County. Much like the reality show Selling the OC depicts, it’s a very affluent area, with Ryan thrust into the world of the social elite, along with his not-so-popular foster brother, Seth. While they settle into their newly-changed lives in Newport beach, they also find themselves surrounded by rich high-schoolers and a whole load of teenage angst.
If high school dramas tend to bring on nostalgia for you, this series is definitely worth a watch!
The Office US
Seasons: Nine| Episode run time: 22 mins approx. | Release date: 24th March 2005
The US Office (like its UK predecessor) is filmed as a documentary that follows a group of dysfunctional employees working 9-5 at Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, under the bizarre and eccentric management of Michael G Scott—and let’s just say it’s never a quiet day in the office for this bunch.
This sitcom will make you cringe, laugh out loud, root for every single one of its many office romances (especially between Jim and Pam)—it may even make you shed a tear. It’s one of those series, like Friends, that you can binge-watch over and over and whether it’s episode one or 104, it will never fail to give you those all-important warm and fuzzy vibes.
Seasons: 19 | Episode run time: 43 mins approx.| Release date: 27th March 2005
While Grey's Anatomy is actually still going, the first few seasons are very nostalgic—especially if you're a McDreamy fan *guilty*.
The show follows Meredith Grey as she trains to become a surgeon at Seattle Grace Hospital. However, the night before her first day of residency she sleeps with a handsome man named Derek—who turns out to be her boss.
We then see Meredith befriend fellow interns, Christina, Izzy, Alex and George as they try to keep up with the demand and pressures of medicine, while also navigating a very complicated on and off again relationship with neuro-god, Derek Shepard (aka McDreamy).
The series is an intense but good watch—in one episode alone you'll cry over one of the romantic pairings or the death of a beloved character, you'll cover your eyes during a gruesome surgery and you'll laugh over the quick-witted dialogue. It's a real classic and it's still going, so your evenings are covered for the foreseeable future.
Naomi is a Lifestyle News Writer with the Women's Lifestyle team and has recently earned her Gold Standard diploma in Journalism with the NCTJ. She has a background in design, having studied Illustration at Plymouth University but has taken a leap into the world of journalism after always having a passion for writing. She currently writes pieces on beauty, trends, fashion, and entertainment for GoodTo and My Imperfect Life. She also tests and reviews beauty and skincare products and tries out the latest TikTok hacks for My Imperfect Life.
Before working for Future Publishing’s Lifestyle News team, she worked in the Ad production team. Here she wrote and designed adverts on all sorts of things, which then went into print magazines across all genres. Now, when she isn’t writing articles on celebs, fashion trends, or the newest shows on Netflix, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping.
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