ABC’s TGIF lineup is one of the most inspired pieces of corporate invention in television history. The idea came from an ABC producer named Jim Janicek, who fondly remembered watching a Disney comedy block when he was a child. As such, he recommended that ABC bundle a few family sitcoms they were working on together in order to incentivize viewers to not change the channel for a few hours. The idea was a tremendous success, and it resulted in shows like Dinosaurs, Full House, and Family Matters becoming hit shows as well as cultural institutions.
For as successful as TGIF was, the uber-family friendly nature of the programming block meant that ABC had to work to ensure that every series (and most of each show’s principal cast members) maintained the proper public image. As such, there were many facts about the most infamous of TGIF shows that we were not privy to during their initial run. While it’s true that there are many facts about many series that we the audience are generally unaware of, there’s something particularly disturbing about learning what dark things were occurring behind the scenes of some of the most infamous family programs in television history.
Check out these 15 Dark Behind-The-Scenes Secrets Of TGIF Shows.
15. John Stamos Tried to Get the Olsen Twins Fired
The extent of Full House’s popularity is best captured by the sudden stardom of the Olsen twins. If ever you’re wondering just how big the series was during its heyday, simply look at how many movies Mary-Kate and Ashley starred in as a result of their work in that show. (Just don’t look at how many good movies they starred in as a result of their work in that show – you won’t likely find what you’re looking for.)
What’s truly remarkable about the Olsens’ rise to stardom is how easily it was almost stopped before it began. There’s a long-running rumor which states that John Stamos tried to have the Olsens fired during the show’s first season, as he felt they were too difficult to work with. The studio brought in a pair of redheaded twins to replace them, but ultimately found that they just weren’t as capable. Stamos relented, and the rest is history.
14. ABC Seemingly Hated Sabrina The Teenage Witch
Sabrina the Teenage Witch was one of the last true hits of the TGIF lineup. Actually, it’s very much worth noting that the series barely worked its way into the lineup. ABC thought that Clueless – the TGIF show based on the hit film – was going to be the programming block’s newest hit. As such, they devoted most of their resources to it, and barely promoted Sabrina at all.
While that’s somewhat understandable, many still struggle to explain why ABC decided to sell Sabrina after only four seasons. The official story states that ABC didn’t want to pay Viacom the money they were asking for the series, but keep in mind that Sabrina was the highest-rated show in the TGIF lineup during its fourth season. This has led many to believe that ABC simply hated the show.
13. Harriette Winslow Left Family Matters Because She Was Tired of Urkel
There are many, many reasons an actor or actress might leave a show during the height of its popularity. Some demand more money and don’t get it. Others decide to parlay their stardom into other opportunities. Some just want to do something new. It’s rare, though, that a star leaves a series simply because they cannot stand what it has become.
By all accounts, however, that is the reason that Jo Marie Payton left Family Matters. You may remember Payton as the Winslow family’s matriarch, Harriette Winslow. Payton left Family Matters midway through the filming of the show’s final season. Why wouldn’t she just stick it out? Apparently, she was tired of how much attention the series’ writers devoted to Steve Urkel. Tired of being a bit player in the Urkel show, she packed her bags and headed off. In recent years, Payton has tried to downplay this story.
12. The Boy Meets World Cast Attended School On-Set to Decrease Downtime
The subject of child actors attending school has always been a controversial one. There are some who think that taking a child actor out of school for a long period of time means dooming them to an awkward social life. Others say that it’s impossible to expect them to learn when half of their classmates are gawking at them and looking for autographs.
So what did ABC do to ensure the young cast members of Boy Meets World got an education without getting too much-unwanted attention? Well, they kept them on-set an unusual amount of time. Yes, the famous classroom set from Boy Meets World doubled as an actual classroom that the actors would attend between shoots. Having to spend that much time in such a small area seems like a different kind of child labor.
11. The Very Existence of Aliens in the Family
When you think back on the TGIF lineup, your mind no doubt drifts towards such hits as Step by Step, Full House, and Boy Meets World. The success of these series may lead you to believe that the TGIF block was a magical network creation that resulted in nothing but hits. Well…that’s far from the truth. There were many, many mediocre to bad shows that nonetheless became an official part of the TGIF lineup.
The worst of these shows by far was a little program called Aliens in the Family. This Jim Henson production followed a human man and an alien woman who fall in love and settle down in the suburbs. It was indescribably awful. It was so bad, in fact, that ABC quietly pulled the show from the TGIF lineup after only two episodes. In an effort to preserve their relationship with Jim Henson, ABC aired the rest of the season during a quiet Saturday morning time slot with a decidedly less demanding audience.
10. Angela Watson’s Parents Stole Most of Her Step by Step Money
By all accounts, being a child actor is kind of a drag. You might think that child actors are just people who happened to have figured out what they are going to be doing with the rest of their lives at a very young age. More often than not, however, the most notable child stars tend to fall off the face of the Earth sometime after the show that made them famous is taken off the air.
Angela Watson can certainly tell you all about how rough it is to be a child actress. After the cancellation of Step by Step, Watson learned that the money she had made playing Karen Foster (roughly $2.5 million) had been grossly misspent by her parents. While Watson hasn’t’ been cast in many acting roles in recent years, she did start an organization – Child Actors Supporting Themselves – designed to help child actors and athletes manage their money.
9. Sasha Mitchell Was Written Off Step by Step Because of Domestic Assault Allegations
The TGIF shows were notorious for giving many young actors their first real break. They also gave many journeyman actors their first notable steady role. Sasha Mitchell is an example of the latter. Aside from a brief run on Dallas, Mitchell mostly worked as a bit player in B-grade action and horror film productions. That all changed when he was cast as Cody Lambert on Step by Step.
Then, for apparently no reason at all, Mitchell’s character just stopped appearing on the show. While casual viewers had no idea what was happening, those who followed the tabloids knew that Mitchell had been charged with domestic abuse, and Step by Step’s writers decided to write him off the show in order to avoid a scandal. Later on, the charges were dropped, and Mitchell made a brief appearance towards the end of the series’ run.
8. Tom Cruise Tried to Pay Bronson Pinchot Not to do Perfect Strangers
While more and more major actors, writers, and directors are migrating to the small screen in order to get in on the golden age of television dramas, there was a time when TV was seen as the second-class citizen of the entertainment world. Many film actors felt that a move to television constituted a step backward. There were some exceptions, but that was the general sentiment.
One ‘80s star who believed that film actors shouldn’t work on television shows was Tom Cruise. He warned Cocktail co-star Bronson Pinchot to not do a television show. In fact, he went so far as to offer to loan Pinchot money if it meant he would turn down ABC’s offer to star in a show called Perfect Strangers. Pinchot told Cruise he appreciated the offer, but reminded him that he, Pinchot, was not Tom Cruise, and he couldn’t afford to turn down offers. Considering that the show ran for 8 seasons, it’s safe to say that Pinchot made the right move.
7. Mr. Belvedere’s Production Was Frequently Stopped Due to Testicular Injuries
Mr. Belvedere wasn’t part of the TGIF block when it debuted. Actually, the TGIF block wouldn’t begin in earnest until after the show’s final season. Still, Mr. Belvedere was the prototypical TGIF show. It was a family friendly sitcom that aired on Friday nights and focused on a wacky yet lovable family.
There is, however, one part of Mr. Belvedere‘s history which doesn’t adhere to the TGIF formula. In the years that followed the show’s cancellation, numerous reports emerged which suggested that Christopher Hewett (who played Mr. Belvedere) kept sitting on his own testicles during production. That sounds funny – it kind of is – but these instances were apparently so common and so serious that the show had to stop production several times while Hewett recovered.
6. Step By Step’s Famous Intro Was Full of Lies
It may not be an easy pill to swallow, but it’s hard truth that many TGIF shows were kind of awful. However, there will always be a place on television for bland, inoffensive, marginally funny shows. If there’s one thing that remains truly memorable, and still entertaining, about even the lowliest of TGIF shows all these years later, it’s their theme songs and credit intros. There is just something iconic about these credit sequences that has helped them outlive the notoriety of individual episodes in many respects.
Sadly, the Step by Step intro is a complete lie. Seriously, it’s amazing how much of that intro was a complete fabrication. First off, that theme park the family is at isn’t actually in Wisconsin as the credits suggest. It was filmed at Magic Mountain in California. Even worse, that iconic ocean shot at the end of the intro was actually just a CG image used to cover up a parking lot. Then again, that’s far from the biggest lie in that intro…
5. A Child Actor Was Written Off Step by Step Because His Hair Confused Audiences
If the above entry inspired you to go back and watch the Step by Step intro…well, we can’t blame you. While you’re getting your daily dose of nostalgia, however, be sure to keep a close eye on the number of children in the Lambert/Foster family. When doing so, you may notice that there is an extra child who seems to believe he is part of the family. Was he an enthusiastic extra? A mistake on the editor’s part?
Actually, he was originally a member of the show’s main cast. The child’s name is Jarrett Lennon, and he was supposed to play Mark Foster. Step by Step’s producers changed their mind about this casting decision when they found that test audiences were confused regarding why Foster’s hair color didn’t match the rest of his family’s. As for why he’s still in the credits…well, that remains a bit of a mystery.
4. The Olsen Twins’ Fake Teeth
Did you ever wonder why so many family sitcoms employed twins to play the same – or similar – roles? Well, it’s widely believed that studios did this in order to get around some rather strict child labor laws. A young actor could only work so many actors, so studios would get two young actors that looked roughly the same in order to “double” the amount of time they could film that character.
It was a brilliant technique that required some equally brilliant management. For instance, when the Olsen twins started to teethe in different ways, the Full House producers had identical sets of false teeth made so that both could maintain the twin magic illusion of playing the same character. We shudder to think what they would have done if the pair grew up looking slightly different.
3. The Full House Set Cursed Around Child Actors All the Time
One of the more amusing things many of us who grew up watching Full House had to learn later in life is the comedic stylings of Mr. Bob Saget. Now, at the time of Full House’s peak, Bob Saget was known to millions as either the charming – if corny – host of America’s Funniest Home Videos or for being the dad on Full House. As it turns out, Saget was also one of the raunchier stand-up comedians of that era. Go figure.
Years after Full House ended, some videos containing behind the scenes “bloopers” appeared online. These blooper videos included many moments of Saget – as well as his fellow adult cast members – cursing or making lewd comments following a misread. The thing that bothered some people was that these comments were often made right in front of the show’s many child actors.
2. The Forgotten Youngest Daughter of the Winslow Family
Quick, name all the members of the Winslow family on Family Matters. If you’re a big enough fan of the series, you may be able to recall every member of the show’s star family. More likely than not, however, you will forget about the youngest Winslow daughter, Judy. That’s because Judy left the show during the fourth year of its nine season run.
That much is known. What is less known are the circumstances and aftermath of her departure. It seems that the actress who played Judy, Jaimee Foxworth, demanded more money than the studio was willing to pay. Quite hilariously, they decided to write her off in an episode where she walked upstairs and never came back down. Some years later, Foxworth returned to acting. This time, however, she chose roles in the adult entertainment industry.
1. Steph Tanner’s drug problems
Jodie Sweetin scored the child acting role of a lifetime when she was hired to play Stephanie Tanner on Full House. Sure, nobody knew that Full House was going to become a hit series – critics were especially unkind to the show during its earliest seasons – but by the time that Full House became a cultural sensation, Sweetin had established herself as an irreplaceable member of the cast.
Unfortunately, the young actress soon found that success doesn’t bring you everything you need to live a happy life. After Full House ended, Sweetin admitted that she found herself dreadfully bored towards the end of Full House’s run. She soon turned to alcohol, cocaine, ecstasy, and other drugs to stave off her boredom. By the time she was in her 20s, Sweetin was battling a meth addiction. Thankfully, she seems to have fully recovered from her struggles.
Do you know of any other dark secrets the TGIF block has stashed away in the closet? Let us know in the comments.
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