If you were of a certain age in the '90s, you'll remember that block of American teen TV shows that used to air on Channel 7 on a Saturday morning.

The likes of Saved By The Bell, California Dreams ("Surf dudes with attitudes, kind of groovy, laid-back moods"), USA High, Hang Time, Sweet Valley High and, of course, Saved By The Bell: The College Years.

There was something about the simplistic cheesiness of those Saturday morning shows that you could never capture in their more "sophisticated" evening counterparts like Buffy, 90210, Daria and My So-Called Life.

And it's always a red tray. Photo / Netflix
And it's always a red tray. Photo / Netflix

They were glimpses into a magical world, a world of corridors filled with full-length lockers, homerooms, indoor full-sized basketball courts with cheerleaders bouncing on the sidelines and cafeterias where they ate sloppy joes off red trays. What the hell is a sloppy joe, anyway?

Advertisement

It seemed like there was a special dance every second month — a Spring Fling here, a Homecoming Dance there. And the kids always had a diner they could hang out at after school every day.

In contrast, the New Zealand high school experience seemed so vastly different, despite our many cultural similarities.

So, for Kiwis, Netflix's '90s homage series Everything Sucks isn't so much reliving the experience of our teenage years as reliving the experience of watching American teen shows during our teenage years.

Gwen Stefani junior, which probably makes him Gavin Rossdale ...? Photo / Netflix
Gwen Stefani junior, which probably makes him Gavin Rossdale ...? Photo / Netflix

(See also, the Canadians and the original Degrassi — don't you ever wonder if The Zit Remedy would've found fame in the YouTube age? Technically, Degrassi was the '80s but we got things so late in New Zealand.)

Centred on two disparate groups — the nerdy AV Club and the "freaky" drama club — at Boring High School in a small Oregon town, the kids are thrown together in a joint project, forced to work as one.

Set in 1996, it was a different time, a pre-Columbine time when high school boys in long trench coats don't equal school shootings — they were just "cool" and wanted to put on Chekhov plays. And slapping a bindi on your forehead wasn't cultural appropriation — you were just copying Gwen Stefani.

If you are looking for that '90 wistfulness, there's plenty of that in Everything Sucks — be prepared to play Cornflake Girl on loop, just like the show did with Ace of Base's It's A Beautiful Life. From Tori Amos to Oasis to Ini Kamoze's Here Comes The Hotstepper, the soundtrack will give you the feels.

Because nothing says '90s more than a half-up sideways ponytail in a scrunchie. Photo / Netflix
Because nothing says '90s more than a half-up sideways ponytail in a scrunchie. Photo / Netflix

Even Deep Blue Something's Breakfast At Tiffany's is played for laughs as the daggy but kind-hearted principal's (hello, Mr Belding!) favourite tune.

Advertisement

The callbacks roll in fast and heavy: Star Wars: The Phantom Menace! Phat! Scott Wolf is a hunk! Alanis Morissette doesn't know the definition of "ironic"!

But more than just a collection of references, what Everything Sucks does well, and what those actual '90s teen shows couldn't get away with then, was to anchor its story on a young girl discovering her same-sex attraction.

Kate (Peyton Kennedy) starts off as the poster child for a sensitive teen — overlooked by her classmates, burdened by a sad backstory and dressed in a baggy jeans and flannel shirt ensemble. In certain angles, she even looks like Claire Danes did circa My So-Called Life.

By the end of the first episode, the real heart of the series — Kate's journey — emerges and the show honestly deals with the confusion that comes with the territory. That is Everything Sucks' strength.

Prepare to relive the '90s. Photo / Netflix
Prepare to relive the '90s. Photo / Netflix

The streaming giant will be hoping that Everything Sucks can do with the '90s what the nostalgia-fuelled Stranger Things did with '80s pop culture.

It probably won't reach fever-pitch phenomenon.

Advertisement

Everything Sucks is a perfectly amiable series with charming young actors in familiar scenarios. And the kids who play the leads — Jahi Winston and Kennedy — are definite stars in the making.

But it doesn't have the stickiness, energy and obsession-making bite Stranger Things did. Everything Sucks is just kind of pleasant. It's got the beginnings of something great, which will hopefully emerge down the track if it gets a second season.

Everything Sucks will be available to stream on Netflix tonight.