Television pilots are tough to make. It’s hard to introduce the concept and entire cast of characters of a show in one episode and still have that episode hold up on it’s own. But just because something’s hard doesn’t make it any more excusable when you fail spectacularly at doing it. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to The Black Box, where we check out pilots that crashed and burned to see exactly what went wrong.
This week, we get some background on one of the most historically significant programming blocks in television history.
One day from today begins a new month and there’s only one thing I have to say: Thank God It’s February!!! Because all month long, I’m going to be looking at the original run of TGIF branded shows to air on ABC with the intention of seeing if they hold up and how good they actually were. During the nineties, TGIF owned the airwaves every friday night with hit after hit after moderate failure. But when viewed together, there’s no denying the unbelievable success of the programming block.
TGIF was envisioned by ABC writer and producer Jim Janicek with the intention of being a family-targeted block of shows. Man, “Family-targeted” is one of those phrases that, while it sounds FAR more sinister than it actually is, still represents something sinister.
Janicek grabbed ahold of four family-oriented sitcoms (the four we’re gonna be talking about this first year of Thank God It’s February, in fact) and convinced network president Bob Iger to give the block a shot.
TGIF started in the 1988-1989 television season with a lineup of Perfect Strangers, Full House, Mr. Belvedere, and Just The Ten Of Us, and ending with an hour showing of 20/20. 20/20, in fact, remained the ending to the block for the entire history of TGIF.
The shows contained in TGIF changed, but the name stuck around until 2000, when it finally fell out of use. There were many attempts to do for other nights what TGIF did for Fridays, all with failing results. The best has to be the attempt to rebrand Wednesday night as “The Hump” which has to go down in history as one of those “they had to KNOW, right?” things.
Another attempt was made to revitalize Saturday mornings under the name “More Cool TV”, which I literally only mention because it featured the cartoon Hammerman starring M.C. Hammer and that information needs to be spread as far and wide as possible.
I’m actually more confused now than I was before I looked it up.
And so, throughout the month of February, I will be taking a break from bad failed tv pilots to break down one of the biggest success stories in sitcom history. So if you’re asking me “are you sure you’re ready to do this?” I got only one answer:
You got it, dude.