For much of television history, Friday night has been looked at as a night for largely disposable programming. Most people go out, and if they do stay in they’re probably watching a movie rather than TV shows. In fact, it’s often seen as the kiss of death when a show is moved to Friday from another night, a place to put a failing show as it gasps its dying breaths.
One of the biggest exceptions to this began in the late ’80s, when some executives at ABC had the idea to design a programming block for Friday nights specifically aimed at families. Attached to the branding of “TGIF“– in this case, an acronym for “Thank Goodness Its Funny!“– it was a lineup of light sitcoms that generally revolved around a family, with a big focus on younger characters and their interactions with their parents or other authority figures.
TGIF launched and/or included a number of shows that continued to be watched and beloved to this day– some so much so that they’ve returned in reboot form– such as Full House, Mr. Belvedere, Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, Step By Step, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Boy Meets World. But among the nearly 30 shows that passed underneath the TGIF umbrella in its original 1989-2000 run, there are some that people haven’t kept up much nostalgia for (and probably won’t be joining the others on Hulu anytime soon).
Here are 15 TGIF Shows You Completely Forgot About.
The 1996-1999 Clueless TV series is based on the 1995 movie Clueless, which was based on the 1815 Jane Austen novel Emma. Confused? As if!
Getting back a surprising amount of the movie’s cast– the biggest absentee is Alicia Silverstone, though Rachel Blanchard’s Cher is a pretty solid substitution– the Clueless series even managed to get cameos from Paul Rudd, Brittany Murphy, and Breckin Meyer.
The show itself is no better or worse than you’d expect it to be, but its quality did take a bit of a hit in the transition from ABC to UPN– Clueless movie writer and director Amy Heckerling was involved in the first season but didn’t stay on board through the network jump for the second and third seasons.
That said, the people who do remember this show more likely remember it as a UPN show or during its time on afternoon syndication rather than being aware that its debut season was on ABC as part of TGIF.
14. Two of a Kind
Though just babies when Full House first began, the Olsen twins eventually became the show’s breakout stars, going on to be at the center of a huge media empire, comprising books, movies, toys, video games, clothing, and more. But now that they are fancy fashion designers, they are too busy to make an appearance on Full House reboot Fuller House— and chances are pretty good that they wouldn’t show up on a reboot of their second show Two of a Kind, either.
Although it only lasted a single season, Two of a Kind saw quite an extended life in syndication, running for years on ABC Family in the U.S., and Nickelodeon in Europe. In addition, the Two of a Kind “universe” saw surprisingly big success as a pre-teen book series, with a whopping 40 individual books written within the series (including some books that were just novelizations of episodes of the show).
13. Baby Talk
At first glance, Baby Talk— a show where a toddler character has an inner dialogue that only the audience and other toddlers can hear, done in the voice of an adult– might have seemed like a shameless rip-off of the hit movie Look Who’s Talking. In actuality, the show was originally pitched as a Look Who’s Talking TV show, and was co-created by Amy Heckerling, who wrote and directed the movie.
However, with the second Look Who’s Talking film set to be released just before the debut of the series, Heckerling and show co-creator Ed. Weinberger worried that there would too much confusion in trying to promote a TV series and film of the same name at the same time. So the title was changed to Baby Talk, and Heckerling came up with original characters for the show, loosely based on those from the movie.
The cast of the show included TV veteran Scott Baio, Tony Danza as the voice of the baby (and his biological father in the first episode), and dependable ol’ George Clooney in one of his many dues-paying TV roles before his E.R. breakthrough.
12. On Our Own
On Our Own was a show that starred the six real-life Smollett siblings– Jussie, Jurnee, Jojo, Jake, Jocqui, and Jazz– as the six fictional Jerrico siblings– Jesse, Jordee, Jimi, Joc, Jarreau, and Jai, respectively. Kudos to the creators of the show for managing to come up with six completely different J names than any of the kids actually had.
If any of those names sound familiar to you, that’s because Jussie Smullet has recently appeared on the TV show Empire and in the film Alien: Covenant, and Jurnee Smullett-Bell– who, astonishingly, married another, completely different J, named Josiah Bell– has been on a number of shows, including True Blood, Parenthood, Friday Night Lights, and Grey’s Anatomy.
As for On Our Own, it was a show about the six aforementioned Jerrico siblings who lose their parents and are being raised by oldest brother Josh (another J!), who had to dress in drag and pretend to be Aunt Jelcinda (we’re not making this up, honest) to keep the kids from being split up.
11. Aliens in the Family
After the success of Dinosaurs, a show about an anthropomorphic dinosaur family featuring costumes and puppetry from Jim Hensen’s Creature Shop, ABC tried to emulate that formula with 1996’s Aliens in the Family.
This time involving creatures interacting with non-costumed actors, Aliens tells the story of a human man who is abducted by aliens, and then falls in love– and has children with– one of the alien females. The result is a mixed-species family of humans and aliens – and the wackiness that follows.
One of the interesting things about the show was its breakout character, Bobut, the baby of the family who had genius-level intelligence and was always plotting ways to kill his family. Sound familiar?
Only eight episodes of the show were ever made – a far cry from the 65 that Dinosaurs reached during its run. Interestingly, fellow TGIF actor Jaleel White had complained that shows like Aliens in the Family and Dinosaurs had hurt TGIF’s credibility.
10. Teen Angel
Teen Angel is a show about a high schooler who dies from eating a rotten hamburger on a dare and then returns to be his best friend’s guardian angel.
It had a strong pedigree behind it, being created by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who at the time were prominent “former” Simpsons producers who would both eventually return to that show following several failed attempts at a lasting series of their own (the other was the short-lived The Critic).
Among the more notable cast members were the late Ron Glass (Firefly‘s Shepherd Book)– brilliantly cast as God– Maureen McCormick (Marcia from The Brady Bunch), and Jerry Van Dyke (Coach).
While we may have poked a little fun in the previous entry at Jaleel White complaining about TGIF losing its integrity, it is true that the programming block started to get a bit more gimmicky in the latter half of the ’90s in an attempt to combat flagging ratings.
9. Going Places
For its time, Going Places had a pretty impressive cast of then-big name stars: Alan Ruck (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Heather Locklear (Dynasty), and Jerry Levine (Teen Wolf). It also starred Hallie Todd, who would later be best-known as the mom from Lizzie McGuire, and featured appearances by eventual TGIF alums Rider Strong (Boy Meets World) and Staci Keanen (Step By Step, and formerly of My Two Dads).
Going Places was initially a case of art imitating life, as it was a show by young television writers working on a new show about young television writers working on a new show. Ratings weren’t too hot, but instead of cancelling the show, ABC completely retooled it.
The second half of the debut season featured one shark-jumping trope after another: major career changes, moving the setting to a different city, the departure of a key character, and the additions of not one but two new kids to the show.
8. Where I Live
While most of his career has been that of the “silly friend” character, Doug E. Doug got a chance at front-and-center stardom as the lead in the TGIF sitcom Where I Live. While ratings weren’t particularly strong, the show garnered praise for its realistic portrayal of black, urban life and was partially based on Doug’s own upbringing.
Although it’s uncomfortable to mention him now, it is still noteworthy that Bill Cosby was such a fan of the show that he used his clout to help get the show renewed for a second season it likely wasn’t going to get otherwise– and even became a consultant for the show. Cosby was also such a fan of Doug himself that he later gave him a major role on his own CBS sitcom Cosby.
However, while Where I Live initially got a boost by having Full House as its TGIF lead-in, the show was later moved to Tuesdays where it followed the ill-fated George Foreman sitcom George.
7. Odd Man Out
Odd Man Out is a show about teenager Andrew having to navigate being the only male in a house full of girls and women. Andrew was played by Erik Von Detten (best known as the voice of bully Sid in Toy Story), the matriarch of the house was played by Night Court‘s Markie Post, and Andrew’s Aunt was Jessica Capshaw – a decade before her breakthrough as Arizona Robbins in Grey’s Anatomy.
Debuting in 1999, Odd Man Out was one of the last attempts to save TGIF from the ratings freefall that would lead to the whole programming block being given the ax the following year. So even if Odd Man Out had been exceptionally good, it was thrown onto an already-sinking ship and destined for failure.
Von Detten has the distinction of being one of the only people to be part of both TGIF runs, also having a starring role in Complete Savages, which aired during ABC’s short-lived attempt to revive the TGIF branding between 2003 and 2005.
6. You Wish
As mentioned earlier, You Wish joined Teen Angel in an effort to capitalize on the supernatural success of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. In this case, the show more directly replicated the magical elements of Sabrina, being about a family who finds themselves living with a genie named… Genie. The show was considered to be to I Dream of Jeannie what Sabrina was to Bewitched, reinventing a magic-based sitcom from the ’60s as a hip teen show for the ’90s.
In addition to Jerry Van Dyke oddly also appearing on this show– and also as the primary characters’ grandpa– the only other “recognizable” actor in the ensemble is Genie performer John Ales, who you might know as Professor Klump’s nerdy colleague in Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor movies.
Ratings for You Wish were so abysmal that only seven of the thirteen produced episodes were initially aired, with ABC opting to show reruns of Sabrina during that time slot instead.
5. Brother’s Keeper
In a premise that seems like it’s ripped out of a Simpsons parody of outlandish sitcom premises, Brother’s Keeper is about a professional football player with a wild streak who is contractually obligated by his team to move in with his mild-mannered brother, himself a struggling single father. And wouldn’t you know it: hilarity ensues when this odd couple is forced to cohabitate!
Another single-season show put out near the end of TGIF’s run, Brother’s Keeper actually had pretty decent ratings. Still, ABC pulled the plug on the show in 1999, likely due to their growing discontent with TGIF as a whole. The show was also a bit of an anomaly as it was a slightly more adult- and family-focused show at a time when TGIF had largely shifted to targeting the young teen demographic.
4. Getting By
In its prime, TGIF was so big that a side character on one show could be made the lead of another show, even co-headlining with someone like Laverne & Shirley vet Cindy Williams. That’s what happened when Family Matters‘ Telma Hopkins walked away from her role as Aunt Rachel in order to star with Williams in a new show called Getting By.
While initially a ratings success, Getting By ended up being the victim of corporate politics between ABC and the show’s producers, Thomas L. Miller and Richard L. Boyett. After ABC wanted to move the show to Saturday night, Miller and Boyett balked and decided to take the show over to NBC instead.
NBC gave the show what it thought was a prime spot, following Saved By the Bell: The College Years on Tuesdays– but that ended up being a ratings disappointment and, as a result, so did Getting By.
Most Americans got their first exposure to the great Scottish actor and comedian Billy Connolly in 1991 when he took over as the teacher in the fifth and final season of school-based sitcom Head of the Class. The final season of one sitcom ended up being something of a stealth pilot for another, and Connolly and his fictionalized counterpart moved over to a new show on TGIF called Billy the following year.
Taking the setting out of the classroom, Billy was a very different type of show that focused on the titular character marrying a woman in order to get his green card, with the comedic tension coming in from both Billy’s relationship with his wife and her children, and in his having to constantly finesse immigration officials who doubted the validity of the marriage.
Billy never really found an audience, despite ABC moving the show around several times during its six-month run in an attempt to see where it might fit in.
Fortunately for Connolly, his film career was about to take off anyway with prominent roles in Indecent Proposal and Pocahontas, so he likely didn’t mourn the loss of this forgettable sitcom for very long.
2. Just the Ten of Us
While three of the initial TGIF shows were existing series that ABC had already been airing on Friday nights prior to the branding, the fourth was the first show to debut as a TGIF show.
Just the Ten of Us— its title and premise a throwback to Eight is Enough— was a spin-off of Growing Pains that focused on a family with eight children. As the show progressed through its three-season run, the focus began to move away from the original “main character”– patriarch Coach Lubbock– and more towards the family’s eldest four daughters.
Soon, the second of the TGIF-born shows, Family Matters, would become one of the programming block’s biggest breakout successes, and Just the Ten of Us was quickly forgotten. The final half-hour of the block, where Just the Ten of Us resided, always proved the hardest slot for TGIF to fill.
Built around being a two-hour comedic lead-in to serious news magazine 20/20, TGIF couldn’t just end after 90 minutes– so the final half-hour chunk ended up becoming a revolving door of shows, both to test out new series and to burn off the remaining episodes of failing ones.
1. Camp Wilder
It’s hard to think of another failed show that featured so many current and future celebrities than Camp Wilder. Among its cast were Jerry O’Connell, Jared Leto, Jay Mohr, Hillary Swank, Seth Green, and a 6-year-old Tina Majorino– all appearing on a show that only lasted for six months and 20 episodes.
What might be even more surprising than how much talent Camp Wilder had was who ended up being the breakout character– and that was Dorfman, played by Jay Mohr. As an actor who seems to have spent much of his career being just on the cusp of a huge mainstream breakout role, it has to be frustrating that he’s been a “next big thing” going all the way back to 1992.
What isn’t surprising is that Jared Leto played the show’s token hunky bad boy, often appearing shirtless for no particular reason. Too young for that, you say? Actually, Leto was already 20-years-old on Camp Wilder, still two years away from playing a high school kid on My So-Called Life.
Is there any show in television history that would make for a more interesting cast reunion than Camp Wilder?
What other forgotten TGIF shows do you remember? Let us know comments!
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