In the '90s, toys based on TV properties were big business. Toys lines based on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and X-Men flew off the shelves, as every two-bit toy company in the world scrambled to find the next big TV show to give the plastic treatment to. This period gave rise to plenty of beloved TV shows-turned toy lines (Street Sharks!) and some not-as-beloved (we bet we can count on one hand the number of people who remember Stone Protectors). But between the good toy lines and the bad toy lines existed the weird; the TV shows that really had no business getting the toy treatment, but still popped up in the aisles of your local Toys 'R Us all the same.
We're talking sitcoms, obscure cartoons, and plenty of teen dramas that became dolls, action figures, and playsets. Back in the '90s, it seems as thought just about every TV show got the toy line treatment, giving us plenty of head scratching, eyebrow raising, and just plain old confusing TV toys. So join CBR as we take a look back to the decade of Surge and Pogs to bring you 20 90s TV shows we can't believe got toy lines!
20 BEVERLY HILLS, 90210
Debuting in 1990, Beverly Hills, 90210 followed beautiful people in the titular zip code of Beverly Hills, California as they dealt with drama, backstabbing, and generally swapped spit with one another like they were taking saliva tests. The show's tried-and-true "pretty people with pretty problems" formula was a smash hit, and the teen drama ultimately ran for an impressive 10 seasons. But this wasn't the kind of show you would think to get a line of dolls. Yet here we are.
As Beverly Hills, 90210 became a runaway success, a line of dolls were rushed to shelves, allowing kids to finally live out their dreams of having Barbie hook up with that Beverly Hills hunk Dylan. The core cast all got the doll treatment, but the line proved middling, as only a single line was ever produced, squashing fan's hopes of ever receiving dolls of Brandon and Brenda's parents. Truly a great loss.
19 TALES FROM THE CRYPTKEEPER
Pop quiz, hotshot: You need a new TV show for kids, and it needs to be adapted from a popular franchise! What do you pick? If you picked the notoriously blood soaked, profanity laced, and all-around only-for-adults Tales From The Crypt, well, that would certainly be an odd choice, but you wouldn't be the first to opt to adapt this not-at-all-for-kids show for the ankle biter crowd. Enter the thoroughly weird Tales From The Cryptkeeper, and its even weirder accompanying toy line.
Debuting in 1993, Tales From The Cryptkeeper took the spooks and scares of Tales From The Crypt, lost all that pesky blood and guts, and made it kid-friendly. Running for three whole seasons, the series received a line of toys, which gave various monsters that cropped up in the cartoon the plastic treatment. Unfortunately, the kiddies didn't SCARE for the toys, and only eight figures were produced before the line, and the accompanying cartoon, were AXED to leave, leaving the toy company wondering why the toys couldn't HACK it. Hey HBO, if you need a new Cryptkeeper pun writer, give us a call.
18 ANGELA ANACONDA
You may not remember the name Angela Anaconda, but you may remember this cartoon as "that one show with the scary photo-realistic faces that continue to haunt my nightmares." Yes, Angela Anaconda wasn't what you would call a "nice looking" show, which likely contributed to the cartoon fading into relative obscurity. But, despite its terror-inducing art style, the show still managed to spawn toys.
During the three season run of Angela Anaconda, a talking doll of the titular eight-year-old girl was produced, which, when squeezed, would rattle off various catchphrases and jokes. The doll apparently flopped harder than the Angela Anaconda short in front of The Digimon Movie, and the toy line was swiftly discontinued.
You'd be hard pressed to find a more '90s TV show than Clueless. Spinning off from the popular valley girl movie, the series followed superficial teens Cher, Dionne, and Amber as they dealt with high school, boys, and generally being fashionable. The show was chock full of '90s slang, plenty of unnecessary guest stars (NSYNC! Melissa Joan Hart! Warren G!), and more crop tops and giant hats than you could shake a designer handbag at. Despite this, the Clueless TV show is largely forgotten these days, but this didn't stop the show from receiving a toy line.
The show's three main characters received dolls, complete with fashionable outfits and a range of accessories that could be swapped out. In a bid to stand out from the far-more-popular Barbie line, the Clueless dolls also came packaged with wearable bracelets, which, the box promised, allowed kids to "be as fashionable as the girls!" While the fashion merits of a bracelet packaged with a Barbie knock-off are debatable, this gimmick couldn't save this toy line from slipping into obscurity.
Baywatch was not a show that people tuned into for good writing. Heck, people didn't even tune into Baywatch for passable writing. No, Baywatch found success on one thing: its cast of beautiful lifeguards, who spent most episodes slowly running beautifully down beautiful beaches. Considering the fact that the show was basically a basic cable excuse to watch Pamela Anderson in a swimsuit, you wouldn't think there would be many toy companies gunning for show rights. But this brings us to the Baywatch Barbie toys.
Yes, Baywatch, purveyors of more shots of shirtless David Hasselhoff than any show should really have, teamed up with Hasbro to crank out a line of Baywatch branded Barbie dolls. The line, which saw Barbie and Ken donning skimpy lifeguard gear (seriously, check out those short shorts on Ken), even received a Baywatch jeep and coloring book. The team-up was certainly successful, but the fact that these toys exist still leaves us scratching our heads.
Blossom might be best known these days for blessing the world with the smoldering mug of Joey Lawrence, but back in the day, the show was a bonafide teen phenomenon. The show's titular plucky protagonist became an overnight style icon, and fans everywhere worked to copy Blossom's quirky outfits. But despite the show's runaway popularity, Blossom wasn't the kind of sitcom that screamed "this needs a toy line." But that didn't stop Blossom from receiving a line of dolls.
At the height of Blossom-mania, toy company Tyco released dolls of Blossom Russo, brother Joey Russo, and Blossom's best friend Six. Each doll came packaged with a variety of interchangeable clothes, finally allowing kids to realize their style aspirations with Blossom, who, with the benefit of hindsight, totally looks like she dressed herself in the dark. We can understand the popularity of Blossom, but a Blossom toy line? In the immortal words of Joey Russo, "Whoa!"
14 HERCULES: THE LEGENDARY JOURNEYS
These days, when you think "cheesy '90s syndicated fantasy action show," you probably think of Xena: Warrior Princess. But not so fast! There was another muscle-bound, sword-swinging hero on basic cable in the '90s: Hercules! Yes, the Kevin Sorbo-starring Hercules: The Legendary Journeys was a moderate hit in the '90s, even managing to spawn a largely forgotten toy line.
Much like the TV show it was inspired from, the Hercules: The Legendary Journeys action figures were cheap and generally shoddy, featuring ridiculous sculpts and flimsy clothes. For kids itching for plastic versions of Hercules and Iolaus, the toy line scratched an itch, but for everyone else, the toys, much like the TV show, were just a little too lame to get into.
13 THE GOLDEN GIRLS
So, a sitcom about a catty collective of geriatric ladies doesn't exactly scream "toyetic," but that didn't stop The Golden Girls from being a massive success throughout the '80s and into the early '90s. Fans tuned in for seven seasons to hear the over-the-hill dames trade quips and insults, and the show would go on to become a cult favorite in later years. But apparently kids weren't clamoring for "Dorothy with eyebrow raising action!" action figures, as the show didn't receive any tie-in toys while on the air. But, thankfully, this grave injustice was fixed years later.
As The Golden Girls became a cult favorite among the millennial crowd, everything from collectible dolls to full-blown 3 3/4-inch action figures began to hit the shelves. With Golden Girls board games, Golden Girls bobble heads, and even Golden Girls vinyl toys, it seems as though people can't get enough toys of these saucy seniors. But if you had told us in 1990 that people would have been playing with Golden Girls action figures, we wouldn't have believed you. Hell, we've seen the Golden Girls action figures and we still can't believe it.
12 ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES
The early '90s were a strange time. As we transitioned from the go-go '80s to the grungy new decade, cartoon companies struggled to figure out what kids wanted. Did they want fresh new cartoons? Or did they want cartoons based on R-rated monster film spoof flicks? Apparently, cartoon companies opted for the latter, leading to the creation of Attack of the Killer Tomatoes and accompanying toy line.
Debuting in 1990, Attack of the Killer Tomatoes attempted to adapt a film in which a black disguise artist dressed up like Hitler, to understandably mixed results. Turns out, kids weren't chomping at the bit for a cartoon about evil tomatoes, and the show was canned after one lousy season, but not before a line of toys pitting small rubber characters against tomato monsters made it to shelves. Like the cartoon, the toy line tanked, leaving people scratching their heads over how this cartoon and toy line got the green light.
11 HOME IMPROVEMENT
There are shows from the '90s that have the kind of comedy and nuance that allow them to transcend time and be funny for all of history, aging perfectly, like a fine wine. Home Improvement is not one of those shows. Still, the Tim Allen-starring sitcom was huge hit in the '90s, as people tuned in to watch man's man Tim "The Toolman" Taylor grapple with raising a family and generally grunt and make caveman noises. But despite the show's success, people weren't exactly clamoring for toys of the Tool Time gang. But that didn't stop Home Improvement from getting the Hot Wheels treatment.
The not-at-at-all-accurately-titled "Action Pack" from Hot Wheels found Tim and his perennial sidekick Al getting the souped-up car treatment. Well, at least Al did: while Tim's bearded co-host got a snazzy '53 Ford Convertible, Tim got the short end of the stick, getting stuck on a lawnmower. Apparently, the venn diagram of "people who buy Hot Wheels" and "people who really like Home Improvement" was smaller than Hot Wheels anticipated, as this "Action Pack" sells for less than five bucks these days, leaving us wondering just who this toy line was for.
Bibleman was one of those TV shows that no one seemed to watch, but everyone was aware of its existence. Every Blockbuster in America was guaranteed to have at least one or two tapes of this Christian kids show, but you'd be hard pressed to find many '90s kids who remember sitting through Bibleman. But despite this apparent universal ambivalence, Bibleman continues to chug along to this day, and even briefly received a toy line.
Following the soul-saving adventures of the titular superhero, Bibleman fought to teach kids good moral lessons across five seasons and dozens of episodes. The straight-to-video TV show eventually spawned a line of toys, ranging from your standard action figures to a handful of LEGO knock-offs that allowed kids to construct vehicles such as the Biblevan. Bibleman toys continued to pop up to this day, leaving people as confused as they are impressed over the existence of this line of '90s TV show toys.
9 SAVED BY THE BELL
You'd be hard pressed to find a more popular teen sitcom in the early '90s than Saved By The Bell. The escapades of a group of gorgeous young people (and also Screech), viewers couldn't get enough of Zack Morris and the gang. But despite the show's immense success, it was still just a sitcom about teens getting into wacky antics. Toy-etic, this show ain't. But that didn't stop the beautiful people of Bayside High (and also Screech) from getting the plastic treatment.
At the height of the show's success, a line of dolls were churned out, which, while only vaguely sorta kinda maybe resembling the actors and actresses they were based on, still managed to sell like hot cakes. The defining feature of the dolls is that every figure came with a stamp bearing the actor's signature, which could then be used to allow kids to pretend that Zack and Jessie had signed their yearbook. The toy company was likely hoping this accessory would be "cute" and "novel," but it ended up more "kinda sad" and "sort of weird," further cementing these toys in the annals of weird '90s TV toys.
8 MARRIED... WITH CHILDREN
When Married... With Children debuted in 1987, the show proved a lightning rod of controversy, as concerned groups spoke out against the sitcom's crass humor and portrayal of blue collar family life. But that didn't stop the sitcom from becoming a massive success in the '90s, allowing the show to run for an impressive 11 seasons. But considering the controversy of the show, we're surprised by the amount of toys this adult-aimed sitcom received.
Over the years, Married... With Children has received everything from board games (in which players competed to best answer questions as the Bundy family) to a line of premium marquette statues. The show would even receive a line of Mego-style dolls, in which collectors could take Al, Peg, and the rest of the Bundy clan home to do battle with their Captain America Mego. The fact that this is a sentence that we can write really establishes how strange these toys are.
Remember VIP? No? Well, we don't blame you; we'd be surprised if star Pamela Anderson even remembers this snoozefest of a late '90s syndicated action show. But, once upon a time, it was thought that Anderson's, ahem, assets would help propel the show to success, leading to a line of toys being cranked out.
With a relatively small cast, VIP didn't have many characters to give the action figure treatment to, but that didn't stop Pamela Anderson's eye-rollingly named Vallery Irons and her fellow buxom bodyguards from getting both action figures and dolls. We imagine our even mentioning VIP has trigged Anderson's "Someone actually remembers I exist" sense, so let's never speak of this awful '90s show or toy line again.
6 WALKER, TEXAS RANGER
Walker, Texas Ranger! Your one-stop-shop for roundhouse kicks and dad jeans! Yes, Walker, Texas Ranger was pretty much the pinnacle of '90s daytime action television, delivering weekly episodes of Chuck Norris kicks and explosions. So when it came time to make Walker toys, surely they opted for action figures of Walker or his Texas Ranger buddies? Nope; they just made a truck.
In Walker, Texas Ranger, Norris would drive around in a Dodge Ram truck, traveling the great state of Texas while dispensing kung-fu dad jeans justice. There wasn't anything particularly special about the Dodge Ram, and it wasn't very important to the show. But that didn't stop model car toy company Johnny Lightning from producing an official miniature Walker, Texas Ranger Dodge Ram truck. You'd be hard pressed to find a more boring (and strange) '90s TV tie-in toy than this.
5 THE DENNIS MILLER SHOW
The '90s saw a sudden boom in the doll industry, as kids everywhere clamored for the latest Barbie figures. Sensing opportunity, just about every toy company under the sun rushed to pump out collectible dolls of their very own. Some of these dolls were normal, and generally made sense. And some... didn't. Which brings us to The Dennis Miller Show doll.
In 1992, Dennis Miller departed SNL and began to host a syndicated late-night talk show, fittingly dubbed The Dennis Miller Show. As late-night TV was red hot, Miller had stiff competition in the form of Jay Leno and Arsenio Hall, but the show was expected to pull big numbers, leading to a talking doll of Miller being released to drum up interest in the show. Unfortunately, the show, much like the talking doll, proved to be a dud, and The Dennis Miller Show was canceled after a scant seven months on the air. This weird '90s toy bombed so hard it's not even funny, kinda like Dennis Miller these days.
4 THE NANNY
These days, the concept of building an entire sitcom around a character who's entire gimmick is "being very loud and shrill" might sound absurd, but back in the '90s, this proved to be ratings gold. The Fran Drescher-starring The Nanny ran for an impressive six seasons, and remains a cult favorite to this day. But despite this pedigree, there wasn't anything about the show that really screamed "this needs toys," but that didn't stop one toy company from trying to jump on The Nanny money train.
At the height of the show's success, a pair of The Nanny dolls hit shelves, allowing kids to bring protagonist Fran Fine's colorful fashion sense and nails-on-a-chalkboard voice home. Perhaps the only memorable feature of the dolls are the fact that Drescher's distinctive laugh is referenced on the back of the box, and is spelled phonetically as "Uh haaannnnhhhhhhh!" So if you want packaging that makes you feel like you're having a stroke, maybe The Nanny dolls are for you, but everyone else should be perfectly fine avoiding these word '90s TV tie-in toys.
Mego Dolls have proven to be a timeless toy classic, as collector's around the world continue to scoop up these '70s staple toys at ridiculous prices. But while Mego's brand of 8-inch dolls certainly peaked in the era of disco and bell bottoms, this was a brand that refused to die. In 2018, the Mego Corporation roared back to life, bringing with it a brand new line of dolls. But these weren't Captain America or Superman dolls; no, Mego knew what the people really wanted: Norm from Cheers!
Largely considered one of the greatest sitcoms of all time, Cheers provided weekly bar shenanigans from 1982 to 1993, and remains a beloved TV show to this day. But Cheers is about a bunch of people sitting around in a Boston watering hole; not exactly the stuff to inspire an exciting toy line. But that didn't stop Mego from giving Cheers the plastic treatment, releasing dolls of beloved lush Norm and pathological-liar mailman Cliff. Collectors are glad Mego has returned, but Cheers isn't exactly the most exciting (or least strange) way to relaunch this infamous toy line.
2 FULL HOUSE
Full House is the kind of show so unoffensive and sweet, it almost comes back around to offensive. Filled with family hugs, catchphrases galore, and plenty of Bob Saget, Full House was a family-friendly hit, running for eight whole seasons before being revived for a sequel series at Netflix. Like a saccharine zombie, Full House just refuses to die. But despite the show's popularity, we're still left scratching our heads over who signed off on the Full House dolls.
In 1993, Full House mania hit the toy shelves, as an avalanche of tie-in products arrived. A set of dolls were released, packaging the show's respective families together in sets of four, promising kids "family fun from the hit TV show!" Additional dolls were released, which was soon followed by a plus-size talking doll of Michelle, allowing frustrated parents to hear "You got it, dude" repeated dozens of times a day. We know Full House was huge, but whoever thought Full House dolls were a good idea should, in the immortal words of Uncle Joey, "Cut. It. Out!"
1 THE ROSIE O'DONNEL SHOW
These days, you might best know Rosie O'Donnel as the shrill, combative talking head on The View. No, not that one, the other one. No, the other one! But before she made a public career of burning bridges via daytime TV shouting matches, O'Donnel was a talk show staple, hosting the wildly popular The Rosie O'Donnel Show in the late '90s. O'Donnel was so big, she even got the Barbie treatment.
As O'Donnell reigned as the de facto daytime talk host, toy company Mattel gave the excitable comedian the doll treatment, releasing the Rosie O'Donnel Barbie. Coming packaged in a recreation of The Rosie O'Donnel Show set, the dolls also included an activity book, which urged kids everywhere to test their mettle as a talk show host. Knowing public opinion on O'Donnel these days, looking back at the Rosie Barbie makes you realize just how strange this '90s TV tie-in toy is.