Wikipedia is a very useful resource for information that isn’t generally considered useful. For example, without Wikipedia, I wouldn’t have been able to link to a chart showing ABC’s TGIF lineup for each season of the programming gimmick’s existence. Actually, the chart has been up for a while, but I didn’t link to it because it was inaccurate for a while (including shows that either weren’t part of the lineup or weren’t regularly there); someone seems to have corrected it now.
For people who are in a certain age group, “TGIF” stands as one of the great TV marketing gimmicks: the proof is that virtually everybody referred to (and still refers to) ABC’s Friday night lineup as “TGIF,” meaning that we all accepted and adopted the marketing slogan. (“Must-see TV,” by contrast, was adopted ironically; people called it “Must-See TV” to point up the fact that some of the shows clearly weren’t must-see.) And it allowed ABC to stay strong on Friday nights well into the late ’90s, even as Friday night was becoming harder and harder to program. They finally lost their touch when they fell out with the Miller-Boyett gang in 1997-8 over the then-recent ABC/Disney merger: Miller-Boyett and their parent company Warner Brothers felt they were going to be out in the cold now that ABC was going to show favourtism to Disney product, so they took Step By Step and Family Matters over to CBS, where both shows died. Meanwhile ABC filled the gaps on Friday with Sabrina clones, leading to a mostly desperate, gimmicky lineup. It was the end of the line not only for TGIF but for the whole concept of major-network TV that appealed to viewers under 18: kids and teens, after all, are just as much outside the 18-49 sweet spot as senior citizens, and if anything the big networks want their viewership even less.
So, that said, for those of you who remember watching these shows on Friday night, what was your favourite lineup of the ones listed on that site? My favourite is, inevitably, the first I can remember watching. Which happens to be a lineup that wasn’t actually under the TGIF banner: the 1988-89 lineup. (The TGIF slogan was introduced officially the following year.) I think, to be perfectly honest, that I usually tuned out after Full House, because my memories of the other two shows are much vaguer (even though Just the Ten of Us was the best of the lot), but I remember being glued to virtually every Perfect Strangers that year. That’s why I’m not well-adjusted. Anyway, I lost a certain amount of interest in the lineup the following season because they moved Perfect Strangers to 9:00, though that was the season Family Matters arrived to really cement the TGIF gimmick in the minds of my fellow kids.
Quality-wise, though, the best lineup was probably 1996-7. You had to get through a long-in-the-tooth Miller-Boyett show at 8 (Step By Step, it says, though an earlier version said Family Matters was there), but after that you had really strong shows by any standard: The first, wonderful season of Sabrina; the first season of the TV adaptation of Clueless, with much of the film’s cast (including Wallace Shawn) and crew; and the fourth and best season of Boy Meets World, which was none too happy about being moved to the end of the lineup: