Remember When Network TV Stars Were Forced to "Host" Other Shows On the Same Network?

Oh, this is a trip back to the glorious days of the first Bush presidency (just before the first recession that started during the Bush era and continued into the next administration): Eleven different nights of Larry and Balki from Perfect Strangers “hosting” ABC’s Friday night lineup. You may recall that in the late ’80s and early ’90s it was common for actors to film, in-character, some introductory segments for other shows on the same network, to give the lineup the feeling of being one continuous, connected block of programming. I remember, as a kid, seeing actors from 227 and other NBC shows doing wraparounds for the network’s Saturday morning lineup, and ABC launched its “TGIF” lineup with segments like this (featuring a terrible laugh track that sounds like high-pitched tape hiss)

Lame as these segments were, they actually did work — not so much on Saturday mornings, where kids were likely to wonder who the hell these actors were, but in prime time, where the presence of two or more popular characters might keep you watching for longer than you otherwise might. I think if a network tried it today, it still might work. If you had, say, Michael Scott, Jim and Pam film wraparounds where they’re watching NBC’s popular Thursday night shows (and when they get to their own show, Michael might say something like “here’s this show… I don’t get this one, is it a documentary, a drama, or what? Oh, well, I like the boss, he’s funny”), it could provide a sense of continuity and unity for the whole lineup. Sure, it’s cheesy, but no cheesier than most network gimmicks.

Side note: The Going Places plot they describe is stolen from an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show. That show must be tied with I Love Lucy and The Andy Griffith Show for the largest number of plots that have been ripped off or “paid homage to” by other shows.