The 10 Best '90s TV Shows that Should Have Gotten Action Figures

By Rob Bricken in Daily Lists, TV, Toys
Tuesday, June 16, 2009 at 8:00 am
By Adrian Beiting

The '90s were a great time to be a toy fan, and TV did its part to act as source material for some of the greatest toys to be minted back when Ricky Martin was still she bangin' on MTV.  From syndicated fare like Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, to network mainstays like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The X-Files, and animated classics like X-Men and Batman: TAS, it seemed like just about every license imaginable was getting its representation at the local Toys R Us.  Despite this toy renaissance, there were shows out there that didn't get their ticket punched to the Christmas Tree Express, for one reason or another.  Whether just for laughs or for serious, plastic campaigning, these 10 TV shows from the 1990s should have gotten the toy treatment.

10) Nightman

The Show: Not to be confused with the Nightman who faced Dayman, Champion of the Sun, and loosely based on a Malibu comic book, Nightman was the so-bad-it's-good tale of Johnny Domino, who was just your everyday pumped up jazz musician from California until he got struck by lightning and gained the power to telepathically be "tuned to the frequency of evil," an ability that gave him an edge for catching the bad guys. As soon as Nightman's porno-tastic sax-blastin' intro music started and those purple letters graced your TV screen, you knew you were in for something...well, something. Like so many '90s shows, everything past the sweet intro was kind of disappointing, but hey, that depends on whether you find a show about a dude who likes to answer the phone with his shirt off and fights crime while a hologram of himself plays the sax at a night club disappointing. Others might have another word for that kind of show, and that word is AWESOME.

The Toys: As fantastically lame as the show was, it was still surprising not to see some form of Nightman action figure attempted, which could at the very least have been used as a 12 inch conversation piece before you and your friends began another long night of Mountain Dew and Dorito-fueled Goldeneye 007 one-upmanship. Nightman really triple underlined the 90's as a decade that really didn't get much right in terms of superhero comic-to-screen adaptations, and thus deserves its shot at plastic immortality. The Nightman action figure would feature a mask with a sweet light-up lens like Nightman wore (and shot lasers out of) in the show, temperature activated color changing camo armor, a cape and that metal thing on his belt that was probably just a piece of audio/visual equipment Johnny Domino used to dim the lights and hit the right tune to serenade the ladies during his sets. Items sold separately would include a Johnny Domino figure, packaged with free weights, ill-fitting, black T 's (removable for phone answering purposes), Johnny D's trademark sax, and teeth whitening strips. Arch nemeses Kieran Keyes, and a nightclub for Johnny to play his sax in would also be available.

9) Samurai Pizza Cats

The Show: Pizza power! Speedy Cerviche, Polly Esther, and Guido Anchovy comprised the animated cyborgian feline trifecta known as the Samurai Pizza Cats, a team formed by Al Dente, commander of the Palace Guard, to defeat the evil Prime Minister Seymour "Big" Cheese in Little Tokyo. When not busting chops, the trio served pizza as their 9 to 5. The show even had a self-aware narrator, adding tongue-in-cheek humor to the series. Released in Japan and Europe, the toys sadly never made it stateside. Not giving these toys a U.S. release was perhaps one of the most grievous oversights of toy makers during the '90s, as the show was basically a hybrid of Power Rangers, Hello Kitty, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and we all know how those toys sold (very well). Besides that, the characters just looked awesome, each with their own unique robo-samurai armor design and weaponry, especially Speedy, whose design would compliment a Mac-oriented, IKEA-furnished workspace very well (hint, hint, toymakers). Did I mention the show also featured giant mecha robots? Oh, the possibilities.

The Toys: Watching this show just made you want to get your hands on one of these bad boys-the design was just that action figure fly. Each Samurai Pizza Cat would come with customizable armor, weapons, changeable helmet emblem, and part of a platform stand that would connect the three main characters. Items sold separately would include the Pizza shop and Little Tokyo playsets, General Catton, Jerry Atric, Bad Bird, the Ninja Crowes, Big Cheese, and the SPC mecha bots.

8) The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air

The Show: Street smart, pre-king of July 4th weekend box office Will Smith is sent to live with his wealthy relatives in Bel-Air after getting jumped playing b-ball outside of da school in West Philadelphia, where he was born and raised, mind you. Class-clashing culture shock brand hilarity ensues for the next six seasons. The show was actually pretty hilarious most of the time, for all of the right reasons. It's hard to really come up with a good reason why no company picked up the rights to create toy merchandise for The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, especially since even the most annoying sitcom character of the '90s got one.

The Toys: It would be pretty much impossible to stay in a bad mood with these toys around, as recreating all of your favorite hilarious Fresh Prince scenarios, including "Will Makes Uncle Phil Mad" "Will Hits On Girl" and "Carlton Shows Will the Gun He Bought to Protect Himself After Will Takes a Bullet For Him" would be possible at any time, anywhere! The 1:6 scale Fresh Prince doll would come with a boom box, high tops and some form of neon 90's apropos attire, including Will's prep school outfit. He would also have to talk, as Will's gift was his gab. Recordings such as "Girl you look so good I wish I could plant you and grow a whole field of y'all!" "Momma no!" the Will Smith trademark shriek of horror, and the immortal opening theme song would all have to be available for playback at the press of a button. Items also available would include The Bel-Air Mansion playset, complete with audience laugh track and "whoooo!" functionality, Uncle Phil plus family, (including Carlton with dance moves and peacemaker), Geoffrey the Butler, and that fake Jazz doll that always got thrown out the front door.


7) Sliders

The Show: While working on an antigravity device, Jerry O'Connell's Quinn Mallory accidentally created a machine that allowed people to travel to alternate realities at will (how embarrassing for him) and eventually got himself, his physics professor, love interest, a soul singer named Rembrandt Brown and others lost in a web of alternate dimensions, typically sliding to one new version of Earth per episode. The concept of the show, while not the most original thing in the world, did have a strange way of drawing you in and making you really care about the fate of Quinn Mallory and his Slider pals, as they were the only real consistency from one episode to the next. The show's a slide away (see what I did there?) from having a very solid cult following, so there would definitely be a market for toys.

The Toys: These would have to be pretty vanilla by nature, since the characters didn't do much that could be reflected in an action figure besides wear clothes pretty well. That being said, the figures would come with a base that says "Sliders" on it that they could stand on, along with miniature slider remotes. A built-to-scale slider remote that would beam an image of the Slider portal on any lonely man's wall at the press of a button would also be available.

6) Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century

The Show: Even though Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century usually got stuck being broadcast in those early morning hours before the good cartoons came on, it was pretty solid for being played during the old 7:00 am timeslot of shame. The story was absurd, (Sherlock Holmes is brought back to life to battle it out with the clone of his former nemesis Moriarty), but there was something cool about seeing Sherlock solve some of his most well-known cases on the shiny streets of New London. The show managed to maintain what many would associate with the "feel" of Sherlock Holmes (a gentleman detective cracks cases in a gentlemanly way, while being unable to resist the temptation of dropping gentlemanish puns) while at the same time, keeping the futuristic feel created by the show's setting in tact. That, and good luck getting the theme song out of your head. Besides ol' Sherlock, the show featured plenty of things that should have inspired action figure treatment, including a compudroid version of Watson and those sweet flying cars that we thought we'd be driving by now.

The Toys: The Sherlock Holmes action figure would come packaged with his extendable cane and journal. Giving him a punch action feature would also make sense since Sherlock did get down when he had to in the show. The toyline would also include Moriarty, Inspector Beth Lestrade, Watson, scale Sherlock Holmes extendable cane, flying car and New London playset to solve mysteries in, complete with monorails! Oh Holmes!

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