We’ve been living in the age of reboots for so long that it’s easy to forget that we can actually derive joy from some of them. In the best of circumstances, a studio takes a property we once loved and puts a fresh new spin on it, but let’s face it— that’s the exception, not the rule. Happily, that’s happened more than once this year, and the old shows in question (The Baby-Sitter’s Club and the Saved by the Bell reboot) also happen to be from the late ’90s—aka your millennial childhood heyday.

Rewatching Zack Morris in 2020 (even grown up into a not-so-great person) has been strangely comforting in the way nostalgia always is, but for a person of a certain age, it transports you to a time of Saturday morning programming. Zack was your people, even if he sucked in retrospect. While the new series picks apart the old series with fresh faces and snappy dialogue, I come alive in a different way when I see the faces of the original cast.

Over on Netflix, the return of The Baby-Sitters Club is pulling off a similar feat, albeit in a much more wholesome way. With characters so young, I worried there wouldn’t be enough for me to relate to, but the show transcends the age barrier—particularly if you read the entire series before the age of 12. You might have more in common with the moms now, but watching Claudia, Mary Ann, and the rest of the gang come to life is like putting on a warm, cozy blanket.

On the other end of the tonal spectrum, PEN15 is the ultimate nostalgia-watch for anyone who came of age in the early 2000s. Creators Maya Erskine and Anna Konkle are 30-somethings, but they play the middle school versions of themselves, and it works. The references are a thrill for millennials (JTT! AIM!), while the awkward feelings are familiar and timeless. It might be painful at times, but watching PEN15 is akin to popping in a VHS of you and your best friend trying to film a skit in your backyard.

It goes without saying that these feelings of comfort are welcome right now, and these shows in particular are a reminder of the Before Times. But these settings are the real Before Times—not just pre-pandemic, but pre-parenthood, pre-adulthood, pre-real-world problems. Watching them feels like a salve. It’s a lovely place to be invited back to, even just for an hour or so.

Where to Watch:

  1. The Saved by the Bell Reboot: streaming on Peacock
  2. The Baby-Sitter’s Club: streaming on Netflix
  3. Pen15: streaming on Hulu