If you want to feel some crazy nostalgia for days gone by, look no further than TV. While there are plenty of present-day-set series on the air, there are also so many great period shows to choose from. And we’re not just talking about stuffy historical dramas either! There’s a wealth of comedies, dramedies, and – okay – a few dramas set in different decades. And it makes us seriously want to time travel.
Whether a show is set in the roaring ’20s, the crazy ’80s, or even the 1800s, we have one main thought: we want to go to there. Let’s be honest — today’s world is kind of a mess. Social, political, and economic factors are turning the 2000s into the bleakest century yet. So why not turn back the clock to yesteryear? Here are some great period-set shows that we wish we could live in for just a little bit!
1. The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
This may be a totally unrealistic account of womanhood in the ’50s, but we wish it was real so badly. Midge Maisel (Rachel Brosnahan) is a well-off housewife and mother in New York City. Then one day her husband leaves her, confessing to an affair, and turns her entire world upside down. In the wreckage of her predicament, she discovers a hidden talent: stand-up comedy. She finds herself performing in underground clubs and cellars, all to get her career off the ground. From housewife to comedy maven in 0 to 60, Midge is a sterling example of independence in a time where women didn’t have a whole lot of that. The ’50s may have been strict for women as a whole, but we wouldn’t mind traveling to Midge’s life and doing it all our way.
2. Everybody Hates Chris
Everybody loves a heartwarming tale of youth. Buuuut that’s not what this is. Chris Rock produced and narrated this dramatization of his childhood growing up in 1980s Brooklyn. The show follows young Chris (Tyler James Williams) as he navigates unpopularity, his annoying siblings, and crazy family. It brings us right back to our own very much not perfect childhoods. The show even ends with Chris dropping out of high school to become a comedian, which Rock had actually done himself! It’s a look at teen years without rose-colored glasses and it’s in a Brooklyn that wasn’t yet overrun with hipsters. And for that, we’d definitely take a trip to this time period.
3. I’m Dying Up Here
Before the internet made it easy to go viral and get famous, you had to work for your fame. This show explores the world of stand-up comedy in the ’70s when playing clubs and traveling the country was the only way to get any kind of acclaim. And it looks way better than today. You had to get by on your raw talent and not by how many likes you got on social media. That sounds a whole lot better than every joe schmoe who thinks he’s the funniest thing in the world because he had a Twitter blow up. Some stand-ups bombed, and some were funny but forgotten by time. And this show makes us want to embrace it all just so long as we can put our phones down for a little bit and laugh during a simpler time.
Anyone who has had a mild obsession with serial killers will want to time travel directly to this show. C’mon, don’t lie, we’ve all spent way too many hours researching Charles Manson. It’s easy to be fascinated with what makes these dangerous killers tick. And that’s exactly what this show is about. In the late ’70s, two men begin delving into the psychology of murder and how a serial killer can do what they do. Color us intrigued. This may not seem like the ideal show to make someone want to hang out in the ’70s, but we’re not gonna lie, ’70s cops and FBI agents are always painted as cool guys in TV and film. We would totally want to be those cool guys who also happen to get to talk about serial killers all day.
5. Fresh Off the Boat
This TV series, based on chef Eddie Huang’s life, is a totally lived-in view of the ’90s. Eddie’s (Hudson Yang) childhood is bookended by the immigrant experience of his family trying to live out the American dream. It’s culture clash in the best ways. Eddie’s family tries to preserve their Asian heritage, all the while Eddie falls in love with hip-hop. It’s a fact of life that the ’90s were the best decade. So says every ’90s kid ever. And to be transported back to that era of childhood, when things were a wee bit simpler, would be bliss.
6. Halt and Catch Fire
Halt and Catch Fire zeros in on the time in the early ’80s where the computer industry boom was just beginning. And we can’t think of a more exciting time to which we’d like to time travel! Being on the forefront of computer technology sounds like a thrilling moment in American history. The race to nail personal computing ramped into high gear in the ’80s and changed everything. Living in an era where computers — and cell phones — aren’t constantly at the forefront of our minds seems like a foreign world. The show has all kinds of shadiness, espionage, and awesome tech and we’d be all in for some crazy computer hijinks.
7. Wet Hot American Summer: 10 Years Later
After the hilarity of Wet Hot American Summer the film, and the prequel film that followed, the camp gang fast forwards ten years to 1991 in this companion TV series. It’s a total caricature of life in the ’90s, which makes us love it. The crazy hair, the weird sweaters, and the stereotypical lingo all created an idealized version of the decade we know and love. It’s a truly romantic, silly look at this time period a.k.a the way we all tend to remember the decade. So much ’90s grunge, so much awesomeness.
8. Peaky Blinders
Hear us out on this one. Yes, the show is about a British gang called the “Peaky Blinders” who run the streets in the wake of World War I. While that might not sound outwardly glamorous, there’s some real history to explore here. Britain in the ’20s was a totally different world as the country tried to rebuild after the war. The gangland culture that cropped up may not have been legal but, according to the show, it was also pretty fun. The type of escapism via crime this show provides is exhilarating. Maybe we want to time travel to a time where there were few rules and a whole lotta chaos! A little insanity keeps things from getting boring!
9. That ’70s Show
A lot of people say they wish they could live in the ’60s, or maybe relive the ’90s. But if we’re being honest, the ’70s sound like the most fun. The music and the fashion alone are enough to make us want to go to the decade and never come back! This show centers on a group of friends in the ’70s and is ripe with bellbottoms and still-relatable suburban hijinks. The retro vibe is a whole lot of fun and, on some realness, we’d rather be using the AquaNet that caused the hole in the ozone layer than having to clean that mess up during this generation!
10. Masters of Sex
Set in the ’50s and ’60s, this series explores the onset of the sexual revolution. So, yeah, obviously we’d be cool with living through the free love era. The series is based on two real-life sex researchers and, uh, where can we get that job? These two were highly responsible for the knowledge and acceptance of human sexuality that we have today. Being around for beginnings of huge revolutions or contributing to things that changed the world is undeniably appealing. We’ll take one time machine now, please!
11. Everything Sucks!
Every single ’90s kid will want to be transported directly into this TV show. Everything Sucks! explores the life of middle-schoolers in the ’90s as they navigate the ups and downs of puberty in a simpler time. Those of us who grew up in the ’90s know the insane things we’ve been exposed to throughout the years: Cell phones, personal computers, same day shipping — just some of the things that barely existed when we were kids. So going back to our middle school years, a time of wild unpopularity but also no Facebook, sounds like a dream. Plus: no bills, no responsibility, and no adult BS. Growing up was tough, but being grown feels even tougher some days. Let us relive the acid wash-stained, nerdy days of our youth.
12. Downton Abbey
If you’re a history buff, this is the era for you. This series follows the aristocratic Crawley family in the early 1900s as they navigate great events in history. The series tackles The Titanic, World War I, Spanish influenza, Teapot Dome, and much more. It’s basically your history book come to life. And while that may seem boring for some, it has the potential to be highly fascinating for others – especially considering all the love and drama between the esteemed family and the servants working for them. We’ve read about the scandals and tragedies of the past, but to actually live it would probably put a whole lot in perspective. Plus — the fashion. The hats! The gowns! The jewels! We’re so willing to give up crop tops and booty shorts for the classy fashions of the past.
13. The Goldbergs
Every single crazy, zany, colorful thing about the ’80s is crammed into this series based on Adam Goldberg’s real life growing up during the decade. It takes the finer things about the decade of excess (like how the family was way too well-off for having a stay-at-home-mom and a dad who owned a small furniture store) and basically makes it look like the best time ever. There are references to hot ’80s pop culture and fashion trends and we’ve never seen a decade look more fun. The bright neons and crazy hair may seem ridiculous now, but anyone who’s ever dressed up for a costume party knows it’s surprisingly liberating to take those fashion risks!
This is yet another TV show set in the ’80s, but it encapsulates the more unique parts of that era. The show takes a look at the wrestling craze of the decade and it’s all about the ladies! Even better! A bunch of Hollywood misfits and wannabe actresses find themselves looking for stardom in an unlikely place: women’s wrestling. High-cut leotards and more spandex than one person can take are just a few of the defining parts of the series. It’s about girl power in the best ways and not just ladies doing “lady” things. They’re kicking butt and taking names! While the wrestling is like an acting job, they’re actually learning the moves and becoming more empowered along the way. The TV show is based on the real GLOW ladies (Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, FYI) and we would love to hang with them for a day!
15. Red Oaks
All the best nostalgic TV shows are set during the summer at a camp or country club. It’s just a fact. And this is one of the best of those type of shows. Red Oaks is set at Red Oaks Country Club in the summer of 1985. David (Craig Roberts) begins working at the country club in the summer before he goes off to college amidst all the angst he has about going to school and dealing with his future. Those summer jobs during the high school and college years can be frustrating and low paying — but we would kill to go back to them again. The lack of seriousness we had to put into it (bussing at a restaurant would, hopefully, not define our futures) and the predictable drama that came with working with a bunch of young adults is exhilarating. We would take those care-free, mostly-hungover days rather than this “career” stuff any day!
16. Freaks and Geeks
Back to the ’80s we go! This is one of the most realistic examples of ’80s teendom that we’ve seen on TV, so it has to be included. Most teen shows focus on the popular kids, but everyone knows that life for many isn’t defined by popularity. This show focuses on, well, the freaks and geeks that populate high schools everywhere. Most people don’t fall neatly into some archetype and this show explores the nerdy, geeky, freaky, and mistake-ridden lives of normal teens. Messy high school lives lead to more fulfilled, complex adult ones and we wouldn’t trade our high school experiences for anything. So we would totally go back to the complex minefield that is being a freak or geek in high school – especially if some of these characters were in our company!
17. Stranger Things
Last ’80s show, we swear! But can we help it that the decade is full of such wholesome nostalgia?! When it comes to nostalgic childhoods, we wish we could live in the gang in Hawkins, Indiana – though maybe minus the Upside Down and Demogorgons. We’re pretty jealous of the tight friendship between these kids. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re fighting the supernatural at 12 years old! The intrigue, reliving Ghostbusters for the first time again, and having the most loyal buddies sounds like a perfect time to us. We’d also not say no to a date with Steve Harrington, either!
18. Mad Men
The 1950s and 1960s were a crazy time in this country’s history. Workplaces were a boys’ club, but women were slowly starting to break through. Cigarettes and booze were part of a healthy diet. And affairs were more common than divorce. While it may not sound super glamorous, we’d kill to be their during the heyday of the advertising industry when companies were just starting to come up with classic ads for companies like Hershey and Coke. At least just for a visit. And we’d kill to live out life like Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss), the secretary turned ad superstar who rose up the ranks to become a strong, career-driven woman in an era where those were rare. Give us a time machine and let us break that glass ceiling a few decades early!