TGIF (ABC)

TGIF (ABC)

"TGIF" was the slogan of a family-friendly prime time programming block on the ABC network. The slogan comes from the initials of the popular phrase "Thank God It's Friday". However the initials actually stood for "Thank Goodness It's Funny" (which is backed up by a 1989 TGIF block hosted by Perfect Strangers cast members Bronson Pinchot & Mark Linn-Baker)

History

Early success

Before ABC experienced fame on Friday nights, its Friday night schedule consisted of hit comedies such as "Webster", "Diff'rent Strokes", and "Benson".The block of predominantly family-friendly situation comedies was inaugurated with the following sequence of shows in the 1988-89 season: "Perfect Strangers", "Full House", "Mr. Belvedere" and "Just the Ten of Us". The first hosts were Larry Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) and Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot), who had been doing interstitials since the 1987-88 season on the "Perfect Strangers" set commenting on other Friday night shows, before the family-friendly concept on that night took effect. An opening sequence for the Friday lineup was introduced in fall 1988, featuring animated mice against a gray background holding up title cards containing the theme lyrics. At the end of the intro, a tall mouse breaks a grandfather clock with a mallet. Pinchot and Linn-Baker would remain the sole hosts of the lineup throughout the 1988-89 season and into the first few weeks of the next season. Over the summer of 1989, ABC began experimenting with names for the Friday lineup, using "The Friday Fun Club" as a frequent branding during that time.

On Friday October 13, 1989, definitive changes occurred when the "Perfect Strangers" stars began using the "TGIF" name on-screen, which they explained meant "Thank Goodness It's Funny" (this tagline was taken from the "mouse/clock" theme lyrics). Balki and Larry also announced during the evening that a new policy, in which stars from the other three "TGIF" programs would rotate in hosting along with them, would begin. With the "TGIF" moniker permanently in place, more changes in presentation were ahead as the lineup grew even more popular. At the start of the 1990-91 season, the animated mice opening and accompanying theme music was dropped, in favor of new graphics which used the new "TGIF" name in them officially for the first time. With these new visuals came the "classic" "TGIF" theme ("It's Friday night/and the mood is right, gonna have some fun show you how it's done, TGIF..").

In subsequent years, "Perfect Strangers" spin-off, "Family Matters" and the "Brady Bunch"-inspired "Step by Step" joined the line-up.

During the most successful years of "TGIF", the main characters of one of the Friday prime-time sitcoms would "host" the two-hour block of episodes for that week. Always in character, they would introduce each show and comment on the proceedings afterward (sometimes, characters from a sitcom that did not air on a Friday night would appear); occasionally they would find a common thread between each show, e.g. dog riding. In the late 1980s-early 1990s Fall Seasons, various casts would host "Saturday Morning Preview Specials", which previewed much of new Saturday morning programming which would air the following day prior to the Disney acquisition of ABC Saturdays.

TGIF was promoted with a series of trading cards featuring publicity shots from "Perfect Strangers", "Full House", and "Family Matters".

"I Love Saturday Night" - The "TGIF" Spinoff

The runaway success of "TGIF" led to an early off-shoot lineup on Saturday nights, which ran from February 1 to July 4, 1992. Titled I Love Saturday Night, it launched to provide a new night and time for three of ABC's aging sitcoms, "Who's the Boss?", "Growing Pains" and "Perfect Strangers" (which was still highly rated, but moved to Saturday to help the declining ratings of "Boss" and "Pains"). The newcomer that rounded out the original lineup was the Steven Bochco cartoon "Capitol Critters". The latter show was the first to get cancelled, in March; this caused the remaining three shows to switch slots in order to provide a choice time period for a mid-season sitcom, the "Head of the Class" spinoff "Billy", which moved to the lineup ("Billy" had previously been a part of "TGIF" from its January 31, 1992 premiere until March). "Boss" and "Pains", meanwhile, had announced the end of their runs in the spring of 1992, but both would remain a part of "I Love Saturday Night" until summer reruns. These shows aired their finales on Saturday April 25, 1992, along with the series-ending 2 hour episode of "MacGyver", airing on this night just once. Both "Perfect Strangers" and "Billy" would stay with the lineup after "Boss" and "Pains" relocated.

Two new sitcoms joined "I Love Saturday Night" that spring and summer, "Julie" starring Julie Andrews (with a future "TGIF" star, Rider Strong, as Andrews' stepson), and the David Lynch-produced comedy "On the Air" with Ian Buchanan. The failure of these programs, along with ABC's decision to not renew "Billy" for a second season and the announcement that "Perfect Strangers" was going on a long hiatus, meant an early demise for "I Love Saturday Night".

Like "TGIF", "I Love Saturday Night" had its own set of branding graphics and a theme song. The intro to the evening began with a red ABC logo encased inside an animated heart, which bounced around, and then off, the screen. Set against various-colored backgrounds (but most commonly blue), the lineup's title was then spelled out in the opening alongside views of animated suns, moons and palm trees. The theme song itself even had a calypso sound to it, with Jamaican-style male vocals. The lyrics were as follows:

"S-A-T-U-R-D-A-Y..""Saturday Night!""I Love Saturday""Saturday Night"

The last two lines were often sung over the show bumpers that led into the last commercial break of each show.

pecial events

In 1995, ABC scheduled a music special for "The Beatles Anthology". To promote the special on the previous Friday, all of the TGIF sitcoms' opening theme songs were each replaced with Beatles songs, regardless of the individual shows' plot with the exception of "Boy Meets World". From the "Boy Meets World" Wikipedia guide: "The writers of "Boy Meets World" twisted the concept around, by instead using a "Monkees" song and having that week's episode feature the Monkees as guest stars."

"20/20" always occupied the 10 p.m. spot following TGIF, and because of its positioning and the popularity of the TGIF shows before it, "20/20" would be watched by many children who had been watching the TGIF programs. This led to some common and unfortunate jokes among children, such as when "20/20" devoted an entire hour to the Lorena Bobbitt saga that was watched by many children and teens.

Change

In 1997, "Family Matters" and "Step by Step" left TGIF and aired on CBS for the same night (which would be the final season for both). Both shows appeared on "CBS Block Party", a similar sitcom programming block with four sitcoms, but failed with both the lineup and shows only lasting one season. As their Friday evening programming evolved, ABC retired the traditional "TGIF" logo and phased out the theme song.

ABC began to see sagging ratings in the "TGIF" lineup. Popular programs such as "Boy Meets World" and "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" started experiencing declining ratings. New shows joined the lineup, including the likes of "Teen Angel" and "You Wish", which lasted only a season (or less) before they were dropped.

On November 7, 1997, Salem from "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" appeared on all four shows in the TGIF lineup and caused the characters in each show to travel back to a different point in time. The former four TGIF lineup episodes were non-canonical because supernatural did not exist in those programs. On a later episode of "Boy Meets World", Melissa Joan Hart made a second cameo, as an aside, due to the episode in question involving a coven of witches being thwarted from taking the soul of one of the characters. The cameo features "Boy Meets World" character Eric describing the event and swearing off witches, not realizing that Sabrina is one.

Musical group Hanson hosted "TGIF" leading up to their special "Meet Hanson". Between the shows it showed them in the studio, "commanding" the shows to come on, and at one point even incorporating TGIF into their mega-hit song "MMMBop".

Return

By 2000, ABC had discontinued the Friday prime time programming block entirely, with the exception of a "Working Comedy" comedy block during Fall 2000/01 of fading comedies: "Two Guys and a Girl", "The Trouble With Normal", "Madigan Men", and "Norm". This lineup only lasted one year; ABC then reverted to dramas and reality shows like ' (which only lasted three weeks). By then Friday nights were the weakest rating night of the week, with only a few shows receiving attention, such as CBS' ', which premiered on Friday.

"TGIF" returned to the air in Fall 2003 with heavy promotion. This included a promo spot employing the pop tune "YMCA" (sung as T-G-I-F), featuring all four family comedies’ casts seated on a living-room couch. However, although the night was once again branded as TGIF, it did not include the "hosting" segments of the past incarnation. That season’s lineup met with only moderate success, seeing a consistent second- or third-place showing against a popular CBS lineup that included "Joan of Arcadia" and "JAG". By early 2005, ABC had stopped actively promoting the "TGIF" name, and once again dropped the "TGIF" block in the fall of 2005.

In Fall of 2005, "Hope & Faith" continued to air on Friday nights, "Less Than Perfect" was renewed for midseason 2005-2006 airing (April 2006), and "The George Lopez Show" was moved to a Tuesday comedy block, then back to its original night of Wednesday. CBS cancelled both "Joan" and "JAG" in May 2005.

Today

In Spring 2006, "Hope & Faith" moved to Tuesday's lineup. Today, Friday nights are primarily used to air encores of popular dramas, such as Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives. Even if Friday sitcoms would return on ABC, it is presumed that they would be similar in tone to the other nights’ offerings, and not match those 1990s sitcoms targeted specifically at families and children.

In 2000, when "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch" moved to The WB, it also debuted on Friday nights. This was seen to invigorate that network's similarly-targeted Friday sitcom block lineup. The WB's lineup featured the hit shows "Reba", "Grounded for Life", and "What I Like About You".

After finishing syndication periods, remnants of "TGIF" now occupy the daytime and afternoon lineup on ABC Family. The cable network airs hour long blocks of the sitcoms "8 Simple Rules", "Full House", "Sabrina, the Teenage Witch", "Family Matters", "Step by Step", and "Boy Meets World".

Today, ABC's sitcoms are geared toward adult audiences, and not necessarily families. Child oriented sitcoms air on the Disney Channel, which are the most similar to TGIF sitcoms, and often rerun on ABC Kids on Saturday mornings to fulfill E/I requirements.

TGIF lineup history


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