(In no particular order.)
It’s time to show some love for the unsung heroes of your favorite 90s/early 2000s kids TV shows. The best friends, sidekicks, frenemies, and even the straight-up villains. They always kept things interesting, kept those plots rolling, and kept us laughing.
1. Phoebe Heyerdahl from Hey Arnold!
She was Helga G. Pataki’s best friend, which was honestly such a thankless job. She deserves more recognition for her service. You might also have forgotten that she was pretty handy with a fencing sword. Phoebe had an adorable crush on Arnold’s best friend, Gerald, and I was today years old when I found out they have a shipping name: “Geroebe.”
2. Stuart Minkus from Boy Meets World
I couldn’t make a list of nostalgic TV shows without including Boy Meets World. While it’s hard to forget any character from this show, Minkus didn’t get as much screen time as the main crew. Did you know he was actually axed after season one because Disney was worried he was too similar to the character Urkel? But they brought him back in later seasons, with just one epic, bordering-on-meta, near fourth wall break of a scene to explain his four year absence from the show:
3. Gretchen Grundler from Recess
Why did TJ get all the glory when Gretchen was really the one holding everything together?
4. Larry Beale from Even Stevens
He was Ren’s nemesis who broke out into song that one time she got an “F” but weren’t they also kind of secretly in love? Also, did you know Christy Carlson Romano (who played Ren) has a Youtube cooking channel where she often features other former Disney Channel actors? You’re welcome. ALSO Also, is anyone going to talk about how terrifying Ty Hodges’ (who played Larry) Disney Channel Original Movie Don’t Look Under the Bed was? I still dug it though, and honestly in retrospect I respect how Disney used to have chutzpah.
5. Cynthia from Rugrats
I know she’s technically a doll and not a character but my list, my rules. Also what did Angelica DO to her to make her hair look like that? The lifeless stare of her eyes feels fitting for anyone under Angelica’s care.
6. Judy Funnie from Doug
Judy was Doug’s not-at-all melodramatic older sister. You could tell she was into drama and theater because she always wore a beret and rarely removed her sunglasses, like all great artists.
7. Sam Anders from Clarissa Explains it All
Likes: Second story windows, skateboarding, and neon. Dislikes: Utilizing front doors.
8. Macy Lightfoot from As Told By Ginger
As Told By Ginger was one of the most underrated TV shows of the 2000s. Macy always stood by Ginger’s side, no matter what. She was quiet, but she had spunk. Also, can someone please explain to me why I still remember ALL THE WORDS to her talent show performance song, “Little Seal Girl”?
9. Larry Tudgeman from Lizzie McGuire
Lizzie, Gordo, and Miranda understandably get all the love on this show, but despite Tudgeman’s serious lack of hygiene, he actually had what most junior high schoolers (including Lizzie herself) lack in droves: self-confidence. Anyone who wears the same shirt every day since fourth grade doesn’t care what other people think of them. Side note: did Lizzie McGuire lowkey foreshadow the Coronavirus pandemic?
10. Krumm from Aaahh!!! Real Monsters
First of all, I would give anything to have been in the pitch meeting for this show. “So it’s a show about monsters, eh? What do we call it?” Second of all, what even IS this creature and why the hell did my parents let me watch this show? Thirdly, I really miss Nickelodeon’s weird, dark days. Kids nowadays are missing out.
11. Maria Wong from Braceface
One of those “best friend” characters who was honestly way more interesting than the show’s main character. Maria excelled at every sport, had awesome hair, and wasn’t afraid to tell it like it is, even when her friends didn’t want to hear it.
12. Vicky from The Fairly Oddparents
Timmy’s babysitter and arch nemesis. Definitely would have been kicked out of The Babysitter’s Club, if she’d been in one. Also, enjoy having this song stuck in your head for the rest of the day:
13. Ray Alvarado from The Secret World of Alex Mack
Sure, Alex could turn into Capri Sun goo and slip under doors or whatever, but Ray was the unsung hero of the show. He was one of the only people who knew about Alex’s powers and kept it a secret in addition to rescuing her from peril on countless occasions.
14. Wade Load from Kim Possible
Graduated college before 10 years of age, possibly an agoraphobic, and the creator of all Kim’s fun spy gadgets so you could call her, beep her, if you wanna reach her. Wade’s the one who kept everything under control.
15. Chelsea Daniels from That’s So Raven
Raven might have been able to see the future, but Chelsea had a hard time seeing the present. She was Raven’s air-headed best friend and what she lacked in common sense, she made up for with loyalty.
16. Dee Dee from Dexter’s Laboratory
Destroyer of experiments, lover of puppies, and owner of a bizarrely proportioned body.
17. Tito Makani from Rocket Power
He hailed from Hawaii and co-owned the Shore Shack with Ray Rocket. Tito was a master grillman, who always served up burgers and fries with a side of ancient Hawaiian wisdom.
18. Filburt Shellbach from Rocko’s Modern Life
The Eeyore of Rocko’s modern world.
19. Jack Phillips from So Weird
So Weird was another one of the most criminally underrated shows of the late 90s/early 2000s. It was The X-Files meets Almost Famous… but for kids, I guess? While Jack and his sister Fiona toured around with their rockstar mom, Fiona investigated paranormal activity. Jack was a staunch skeptic who didn’t believe in any of that nonsense, but always protected Fiona no matter what kind of trouble she got into. Erik von Detten might been the show’s “heartthrob” (Disney sure did love them some Erik von D back in the day), but Jack was the guy you’d want to take home to Mom.
20. Winslow from CatDog
I get that it was a show about a literal CATDOG, but I’m still not totally sure what kind of animal Winslow was supposed to be. The internet says “mouse” but I’m dubious. His Brooklyn accent was pretty cool though, so maybe I could buy that he was a rat.
21. Pim Diffy from Phil of the Future
Phil’s annoying younger sister who dreamed of world domination and loved to prank people.
22. Morgan Hudson from The Jersey
Move over Mary-Kate Olsen, there’s another tomboy in town. Morgan was fearless, loved sports, and always kept her guy friends in check.
23. Daggett from The Angry Beavers
The Angry Beavers was another one of those kids shows that pushed the boundaries of actually being a show for kids and kids loved every second of it. Did you know that the show’s series finale never actually aired because the creators wrote it as a giant, meta F-U to Nickelodeon for trying to cancel them? Google “Bye Bye Beavers” for a wild ride.
24. Morris “Mo” Tibbs from Smart Guy
Mo was Marcus’s best friend and the foil for TJ “Smart Guy” Henderson. He might not have been the sharpest knife in the drawer, but he had a heart of gold and bottomless pit for a stomach. He helped give the show some gravitas.
25. Carey Martin from the Suite Life of Zack and Cody
Was she the most fun character on the show? Of course not! She was a single mom raising two rowdy twin boys on a lounge singer’s salary while living in a hotel suite. Give her a break. But Carey was the voice of reason and acted as mom to pretty much everyone who worked in the Tipton Hotel. She was sassy, too.