1995 – “Houston, we have a problem.”

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The above quote, one of the most famous from 90s films, comes from Apollo 13. Uttered by Tom Hanks, the iconic quote was actually paraphrased. What was said during the real Apollo 13 mission was, “Um, Houston, we’ve had a problem.” Not that it matters. Consider that the movie starred Tom Hanks who was coming off two consecutive Best Actor Oscars with Apollo 13 being the vehicle to earn an unprecedented third in a row. Unfortunately, while the movie was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Hanks did not receive a Best Actor nomination. Despite that, Apollo 13 was a big box office success, earning more than $330 million worldwide.

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As successful as Apollo 13 was, it wasn’t even Hanks’ biggest of the year. That honor goes to Toy Story, in which Hanks voiced Sheriff Woody. Not only was Toy Story the top box office movie of ’95 with more than $375 million worldwide, it was a landmark film in the industry for two reasons: It was the first computer-animated feature-length movie as well as Pixar’s first feature-length film. To this day, it is often in the discussion for one of the greatest animated features of all time.

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1995 may have been Hanks’ year at the box office but Bruce Willis fared quite well with the third installment in the Die Hard franchise: Die Hard With a Vengeance. It pulled down more than $366 million worldwide. Another third installment of a franchise fared well too with Batman Forever earning more than $335 million as Val Kilmer took over the role of Batman from Michael Keaton. Disney continued its steak of successful animated features with Pocahontas taking in more than $346 million while James Bond returned with thunder from a six-year hiatus, taking in more than $355 million with Pierce Brosnan as Agent 007 in Goldeneye.

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Rounding out the top ten box office movies of ’95 was the fantastic thriller, Seven, starring Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman in the seventh spot. The friendly ghost, Casper, took eighth place at the box office while the Robin Williams fantasy movie, Jumanji ended up in the tenth spot. The ninth spot belonged to Waterworld, which infamously had the largest production budget at the time, costing $175 million. It received mixed reviews but wound up turning a profit after video sales. One bright side to the movie is that it added $35 million dollars to the economy of Hawaii during its filming there.

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R&B continued to thrive in 1995 with TLC, Boyz II Men, and Mariah Carey finding their way onto the Billboard Hot 100 charts. TLC scored the second and third biggest hits with “Waterfalls” and “Creep” while Seal’s song for Batman Forever, “Kiss From a Rose” finished at number four. The biggest single of the year was also from a movie as Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” took the top spot and remains more memorable than Dangerous Minds, the movie it was recorded for.

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Hootie and the Blowfish scored the year’s best selling album with Cracked Rear View although the album was released at the end of 1994.  While Hootie may have had the biggest album of the year, Alannis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill was the most successful album of 1995 in terms of overall album sales to date with 33 million units sold.

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Jagged Little Pill was one of five albums from 1995 that would wind up selling more than 20 million albums. The second biggest album from that year is What’s the Story? (Morning Glory) by British pop band Oasis. Shania Twain’s second studio album, Come on Over was a huge hit with audiences as was Mariah Carey’s Daydream. The final album from 1995 that would sell at least 20 million units is Michael Jackson’s HIStory: Past, Present and Future. In conclusion, who can forget Jewel’s debut album, Pieces of You, which, to date, has sold more than twelve million copies. That makes it one of the most successful debut albums of all time.

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In the television world, the usual suspects were again at the top of the Nielsen ratings for 1995. Seinfeld, ER, Home Improvement, and Grace Under Fire were the top four shows with NYPD Blue, Murder, She Wrote, Friends, and Roseanne among the top ten. Other shows that remained popular were Mad About You, Ellen, Frasier, and Murphy Brown.

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While it was not a series, the biggest television viewing of the year belonged to the live coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial. According to the Orlando Sentinel Times, Simpson’s verdict was the most-watched television event in history at the time, drawing in 150 million viewers (excluding those that were watching it outside of their own homes). David Poltrack, CBS’ top audience researcher at the time, estimated that 75% of American adults watched the verdict. That is simply insane.

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There were many notable debuts on TV in 1995. The History Channel launched on the first day of the year and is now one of the more popular cable channels. Other noteworthy networks to debut were the Golf Channel and The WB Television Network. While many WB shows faltered after one season, there were successful ones such as The Parent ‘Hood and The Wayans Bros, both of which lasted five seasons.

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Ending their run on television, quite a few popular shows would say goodbye to TV in 1995. Arguably the most popular show to end would be Full House, with audiences sadly watching the Tanner family bid farewell. Two wildly popular game shows ended in ’95 as The Love Connection and Family Feud called it quits although Family Feud would return in 1999. The world of hip hop would see the iconic Yo! MTV Raps end its run while two big casualties of the cartoon world were The Ren & Stimpy Show and Tiny Toon Adventures.

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What was 1995? The Year of Tom Hanks? The Year of Toy Story? As someone who remembers this year vividly, it was truly The Year of the OJ Trial. If you lived through 1995 in America, you recall the television nearly becoming the OJ trial. Every time you tuned in, there were updates about who was on the stand, what they said, how they looked, and how they were questioned. One could even go argue that the OJ trial paved the way for celebrities having their own reality TV shows. Whether you agreed with the verdict or not, the truth of the matter is that it was the most significant subject in American pop culture during 1995. Nothing else even comes close.

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Published by aaronpkahle

I like a lot of things but 90s American pop culture is my jam.

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