While in a previous series of articles/recaps I hit all the major shows that aired on TGIF (well, and Camp Wilder), there were a lot of shows that didn’t take off on the programming block. Here are the forgotten TGIF shows that ran for only one or two seasons that nobody remembers.
In the primordial soup that was the unofficial early TGIF configuration from 1986 to 1988, there were some shows that became anchors and mainstays to the lineup, such as Perfect Strangers and Full House, while others…well, didn’t.
I Married Dora (September 22, 1987 to January 8, 1988) 1 season, 13 episodes
A single father and architect based in Los Angeles apparently can’t keep up with his zany life, so he becomes dependent upon his housekeeper Dora to pull it all together. But wuh-oh! Turns out she’s an illegal alien and the US government is going to deport her! The solution? The guy marries her in a sham marriage so he can keep her in the country and, more importantly, keep her taking care of his kids.
Of course, this practice is wildly illegal, and in fact the first episode started with a disclaimer warning the audience that they “should not try this in their own home.” You know your family-friendly TV series is in trouble when you have to start your first episode that warns the audience not to break federal law, which is the premise of the entire series.
Anyway, Dora has the ALF-like problem of evading detection by the authorities that may uncover their sham marriage while the show revolved around both the guy’s kids (a 13-year old Juliette Lewis(!) and an 11-year-old nobody) and possibly falling in love with the guy for realsies. Unsurprisingly, I Married Dora–you know, the show revolving around a sham marriage and breaking federal law–only lasted for 13 episodes before being deported from the TGIF lineup.
The Thorns (January 15 – March 11, 1988) 1 season, 12 episodes (5 unaired)
There’s very little information available about this unbelievably obscure series online. In fact, its Wikipedia page is one sentence long: “The Thorns are a dysfunctional married couple trying to climb their way up the social ladder in New York while dealing with their children and a grandmother moving in.” Its IMDB page has a few more details, including that the patriarch is a publicity agent and that his family are nouveau riche and trying to climb the social ladder. Apparently they’re very pretentious, as are their children, and even the maid is pretentious. Sounds like a lot of laughs.
Since there are no clips online, or photographs, or stills, and what’s been related here is as much information online that could be found about The Thorns, one can only guess that this show was terrible– especially since only 7 of the 12 episodes that were produced ever aired.
The Pursuit of Happiness (October 30, 1987 – January 8, 1988) 1 season, 10 episodes
Unbelievably, there’s even less information available for The Pursuit of Happiness online, whose Wikipedia page is even shorter than The Thorns: “A history professor gets a job at a small college in Philadelphia.” And that’s it. Sounds like a barrel of laughs for the whole family.
IMDB fleshes out the premise slightly: “An idealistic young law professor clashes with the old bully of the faculty while developing an attraction to a shy colleague.” Somehow this sounds even worse than The Thorns. There were no kids in this show? It was about a college professor and the faculty at a college? Who could care less? Nobody, apparently: it ran for 10 episodes before being expelled from the TGIF lineup.
However, unlike The Thorns, there’s actually an episode available online. For the sake of verisimilitude, this intrepid journalist (if that’s what you can call a grown man who writes about obscure TV shows that haven’t been on the air for over 30 years) watched the episode.
Or rather, watched about five minutes of one, which consisted of 1) the opening scene where the law professor/protagonist stands alone in his apartment kitchen at breakfast, where he finds that instead of the milk, the cereal has gone off, 2) one of the most unmemorable and bland opening credit sequences and songs ever created, 3) a bunch of middle-aged professors sitting in a living room bored while discussing upcoming proposals from the school board, and 4) a depressed old man sitting in his study mourning the death of his wife and arguing with his daughter about potentially dating again.
And then, as if by magic, the stop button worked on the YouTube video and the window closed. So maybe it’s not so surprising that this show only lasted 10 episodes in 1988 when barely 5 minutes could be withstood watching it online in 2020.
Family Man (March 18 – April 29, 1988) 1 season, 7 episodes
You know why you rarely see TV shows about TV writers? Because despite assumptions, what TV writers do isn’t very exciting. It mostly involves sitting in a room with a bunch of other writers and pitching out story ideas and dialogue, punctuated by frustrated silence and hours working alone trying to knock a script into shape. But whatever: Family Man decided to take this premise and run with it.
Focusing on a middle-aged comedy writer who has a much younger wife and the various difficulties they face raising stepchildren and a biological child together, it seems like a big pile of “who cares?”
This was a mid-season replacement slotted into the TGIF lineup while ABC was still trying to figure out what would work on that programming block. This did not and lasted only 7 episodes before being cancelled, making it by far the briefest show run to ever air on TGIF.
TGIF Prime Failures
By the early 1990’s, TGIF was ratings powerhouse that pulled in millions of viewers a week. And while stalwarts like Fully House and Family Matters kept the status quo, there was the need for some new blood as older shows began to get phased out. This led to hits like Boy Meets World and quickly forgotten shows like the ones detailed below.
Baby Talk (March 8, 1991 – May 8, 1992) 2 seasons, 35 episodes
Look Who’s Talking–that movie that featured babies whose thoughts were audible to the audience and had celebrity voices for some reason–was once adapted to a TV series, and it was known as Baby Talk. Amy Heckerling–who has had a solid career as a writer and director–did the adaptation, and considering she both wrote and directed the original movie, she was the best person for the job.
But did anyone really need a Look Who’s Talking sitcom? Especially one where Tony Danza was the voice of the baby? Based on the 30 seconds this intrepid journalist could stand, the answer is no. This low-quality, frankly ugly-looking, sitcom starred George Clooney, of all actors, who somehow looks older in this show from 1992 than he does today. A midseason replacement in 1991, this show survived for two seasons before growing up and being kicked out of the TGIF programming block.
Billy (January 31 – May 30, 1992) 1 season, 13 episodes
A spin-off of sorts from Head of the Class, Billy was a vehicle for comedic actor Billy Connolly, who–while a talented performer–is not exactly a household name in America. In a weird echo of the long-ago failed show I Married Dora, this is yet another spin on the sham marriage for a green card, this time with Billy being a college professor at Berkeley who lives in the basement but must also keep up the appearance that he and his sham wife are actually married. Oh, and he’s a fish out of water, of course.
You could imagine the kind of wacky shenanigans that may arise in this situation bathed in comedic potential. But after 13 episodes, it wasn’t invited back to the TGIF lineup. Based on this list, it seems mid-season replacements really never took off on TGIF. But hey, at least some people got a good paycheck for a short time!
Getting By (ABC: March 5 – May 21, 1993, NBC: September 21, 1993 – June 18, 1994)
Hacky setups seem to have been de rigeur for ABC sitcoms in the 1990’s. And here’s the hacky setup for Getting By: two best friends and single mothers, one white and one black, are inadvertently sold the same house and both decide to live there with their families. Wackiness ensues?
So anyway, that’s the show. It was actually a big hit on TGIF for the half-season it aired, from March to May 1993, but when it was renewed by ABC with the caveat that it would be moved to Saturday nights, the kings of TGIF, Miller-Boyett Productions, said nuts to this and sold the show to NBC as a bit of a screw you to ABC. It lasted a full season on NBC but couldn’t get its mojo back and was then cancelled. TGIF in the 1990’s, drunk on power, both giveth and taketh away.
Where I Live (March 5 – November 20, 1993)
While TGIF was a relatively forward-thinking programming block when it came to portraying minorities on television, it had just as many misses as hits in its minority-driven sitcoms. For every Family Matters there was a Getting By, and for every Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper there was a Where I Live.
Starring Doug E. Doug as a Trinidadian American teen living in Harlem with his hard-working parents and younger sister, the show was focused on him and his best friends and their misadventures. Based on Doug E. Doug’s childhood, this was a mid-season replacement, which of course spells doom for a TGIF show. And while it received positive critical reviews for its realistic portrayal of life in the inner city, its ratings were very low.
But Bill “Ruined Forever” Cosby stepped in to make sure it was renewed for a second season, so it returned that summer on Tuesday nights before being bounced yet again to Saturday nights, and it was cancelled after only three episodes of its second season aired. With just 21 episodes produced and only 15 aired, Where I Live seemingly sunk before it got started.
Aliens in the Family (March 15 – August 31, 1996) 1 season, 8 episodes
Listen: high-concept shows and movies are usually pretty popular. High-concept ideas, if you’re unaware, are easily understood concepts that tell the audience everything they need to know about a show or movie in one sentence or phrase. Some examples: Planet of the Apes is about a planet run by apes instead of humans; Toy Story is proposes that toys come to life when humans aren’t around; Snakes on a Plane is about snakes on a plane, etc.
So Aliens in the Family is about a blended family, half of which are aliens. A single alien mom meets a human Earth dad, they get married(?) and try to make it work on Earth. Sounds good, right? I mean, Out of This World was about a girl whose dad was an alien, so this could work, too.
Only–and here’s the problem–half of the family were literally weird-looking aliens. Built by Jim Henson’s Creature Shop, these freaky-looking characters were jarring enough to see on-screen, but even weirder: everyone else on Earth is totally fine with them. Even odder, at least one of the characters–the alien baby, nonetheless–is actively plotting to destroy all humans. It’s fucking crazy.
And you know that your show’s fucking crazy if you have Jaleel “Urkel” White vocally complaining in the press about the addition of your show to the TGIF lineup. But this late-season replacement only lasted 8 episodes before being cancelled, so I guess Urkel’s iron fist wielded more weight than anyone would have originally assumed.
You Wish (March 15 – August 31, 1996) 1 season, 13 episodes
Hey, remember I Dream of Jeannie? Where a genie is found in a bottle by an astronaut and they have wacky adventures because of her powers and his, uh, squareness? Well, instead of that, a family buys a rug from a…rug shop..and there’s a genie inside one of them that’s been imprisoned for 2000 years. Just writing that description was exhausting.
Anyway, a genie lives with a family and wackiness ensues. Not enough wackiness, apparently, since it was cancelled after 13 episodes with one unaired. You Wish did its thankless job as a mid-season replacement that ran through the summer, so ABC had its temporary placeholder series wish fulfilled.
These last few shows I call “doomed shows” simply because they began in the last two years that TGIF as a traditional family lineup existed. They all only lasted one season but would have only had two potential seasons max anyway since by 2000 TGIF would go bye-bye forever.
Teen Angel (September 26, 1997 – February 13, 1998) 1 season, 17 episodes
For more supernatural shenanigans, which seemed to be a trend in late-stage TGIF shows, Teen Angel follows as high-schooler Steve receives his recently deceased best friend Marty as his guardian angel. On top of this, angel Marty has a detached head that follows him around to give him advice that is apparently God’s cousin (what?).
Anyway, that’s a hat on a hat to give a guardian angel a guardian angel for himself, and there’s no way a show like this could ever work for that long. And it didn’t! 17 episodes later, Teen Angel was sent to the heaven where TV shows go after they’re cancelled.
Two of a Kind (September 25, 1998 – July 9, 1999) 1 season, 22 episodes
The Olsen Twins made a mint for TGIF over the years, and after Full House finished its run, ABC decided, “ennh…more Olsen Twins?” and they were given another show. Guess what, though? Now they played on-screen against each other as (what else?) identical twins!
But there’s a twist! One’s a tomboy and the other’s a girly girl! And they have a single father! And they scheme to get him together with one of his older college students! And who cares!
The answer is: nobody. The show ran for one full season but that was it because this show’s concept came out of a nap a TV writer had after a heavy lunch and realized the Olsens were still under contract to ABC.
Brother’s Keeper (September 25, 1998 – May 14, 1999) 1 season, 23 episodes
Because The Odd Couple proves that audiences loves mismatched pairings (at least in 1970) and because TGIF was winding down and everyone ate too much at lunch at the network and were feeling logy, stuff like Brother’s Keeper was cobbled together.
So whatever, it’s about some fucking square who is contractually forced(?) to move in with his irresponsible pro-football playing brother. Their lifestyles clash and the square tries to keep his party animal brother in check while also trying to raise his brother’s son because his brother is apparently out of control. This sort of “who cares?” concept ran for one season and was put out to pasture by May 1999 because again, who cares?
Odd Man Out (September 24, 1999 – January 7, 2000) 1 season, 13 episodes
One of the final nails in TGIF’s coffin came in the form of Odd Man Out, which focused on a 15-year-old kid in a house fulla woman. Oh, the horror! He has a lack of privacy, lack of male companionship, and lack of understanding about his personal male-centered problems in his home. So, humor?
But yes, this was the last-ditch effort to save the now in-decline TGIF block after The Walt Disney Company bought ABC in 1997. It didn’t work and only ran for 13 episodes. By Fall 2000, TGIF was wiped clean off the slate, finishing off the once hugely successful evening of programming and shifting to more adult TV shows like Norm and 2 Guys, A Girl, and A Pizza Place.
To paraphrase T.S. Eliot, this is the way TGIF ended: not with a bang but a whimper. Reigning supreme for well over a decade on Friday nights, once Disney bought ABC it spelled doom for the durable programming block. But, as you can see from this list, not everything that aired on TGIF was gold. At least after this article, if you didn’t remember these shows, you do now.