By Kate Ward
Updated August 31, 2011 at 01:45 PM EDT
Credit: Everett Collection

As a young teenager, I tuned into Step By Step every single week. And when the series — a 1990s version of The Brady Bunch — became syndicated, I watched the show every single day after I returned from school. But despite having dedicated countless hours of my life to the Lambert-Fosters, I must admit: With the exception of a fuzzy memory involving Carol’s beauty salon being burned down, I cannot recall one single episode of Step By Step.

Now, that’s not to say I don’t remember the Lambert-Fosters. Rather, I spent far too much time thinking about the fictional family. Yes, Carol (Suzanne Somers) and Frank (Patrick Duffy) were great headliners for the series, but for any fan of ABC’s TGIF, Step By Step was all about the kids. And I desperately wanted to be Dana (Staci Keanan). The eldest of Carol’s daughters, Dana was a feminist, outspoken, and just downright cool. Her confidence was unmatched — it was rare to see a female character so secure in her appearance and intellect, and this young TV watcher definitely took note. Why would I want to be model wannabe Karen (Angela Watson) when I could be respected for my brains? After all, it was Dana who ended up with a cool, bleach-blonde ’90s hairdo and a Prince Charming (Rich, played by Jason Marsden. And, no, not James Marsden. Jason Marsden. Sorry).

Of course, I never thought she belonged with Rich. Like I’m sure many out there, I always thought the derision she felt for J.T. (Brandon Call) was really love. Come on, you’re with me, right? There was no way Dana despised the lazy, big-mouthed J.T. as much as the show seemed to indicate. But I’m not suggesting the two loved each other in a stepbrother-stepsister-ly way. These two hormonal teens wanted to knock boots throughout the entire series, just like Brady Bunch‘s Greg and Marcia. At least, they did in my Step By Step fan fiction, which I composed in a gorgeous Lisa Frank notebook picturing a neon kitten. Ah, the ’90s.

But I’d be remiss to write about Step By Step and not mention the show’s break-out, Cody (Sasha Mitchell). Frank’s nephew was a mix between Cosmo Kramer, Joey Tribbiani, and Keanu Reeves, and represented all that was good about the ’90s. He has an awesome haircut fit for 90210. His shirts were horrendously ugly. And he owned generic catchphrases that no TV character should actually own, like “Dude!” and “Ch-yeah!” Like individual episodes, I do not remember Cody’s purpose in the show, but, for a few short years, I thought he was the best thing to happen to comedy since Dana Carvey. Again, ah, the ’90s.

Now, even if we can’t remember Step By Step episodes or individual cast members, I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t remember the series’ catchy theme song and opening credits, set atop a roller coaster. And since the series starred adolescents and ran from 1991-1998, we got to watch the cast become progressively hotter every year. Carol transformed from frumpy mom to glamorous beautician. Frank transformed from harried dad to silver fox. Dana transformed from a Stacey-from-Babysitter’s-Club look-a-like to a ’90s-era Christina Aguilera look-a-like. J.T. transformed from bratty kid to alluring bad boy. Karen transformed from a girl with model looks to a woman with model looks. Mark (Christopher Castile) transformed from a little nerd to… a slightly bigger nerd? Alicia (Christina Lakin) transformed from ratty tomboy to ridiculously, ridiculously, ridiculously hot jail bait. (Seriously, EW’s Darren Franich is currently watching her section in the opening credits on repeat.) And Brendan (Josh Byrne) transformed from a precocious little boy to… a precocious little girl named Lilly (Emily Mae Young)? Wait, seriously, where did the disappearing Brendan go?!

But before we go searching the Lambert-Fosters’ basement for a poor, chained up Brendan, watch the Step By Step opening credits for season 1 and season 7 and vote in the poll below. Which cast member got the hottest over the course of seven seasons? Also: Keep in mind that Lakin starred in The Hottie and the Nottie, and, even as the Nottie, she is ten times more attractive than Paris Hilton. Also: Share your memories of Step By Step in the comments below!

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