How 'TGIF' pulled families to their televisions 30 years ago

Posted at 7:23 AM, Jan 14, 2019

It was a block of sitcoms so popular with television viewers, it has been revived three decades after its 1989 debut.

"TGIF" — or, "Thank Goodness It's Funny" — was the brainchild of the ABC network and included prime-time TV shows that have since become nostalgic. The term, its theme song and the shows were such hits that in 2018 the network revived the phrase in an attempt to draw bigger viewership numbers of Friday evenings.

After the network saw ratings dip due to a writers guild strike in 1988, the first TGIF shows launched in '89 with the block including "Perfect Strangers" and "Full House." Both shows had breakout characters, as did "Family Matters," a spin-off of "Perfect Strangers" which soon joined the Friday night lineup and helped the ratings boost.

In Season 2 of "Family Matters," the comedic character Steve Urkel appeared, asking "did I do that?" so often viewers began quoting the line in their most-nasal of voices.

TGIF lasted from 1989 to 2000 and featured shows such as the drama "House" and family sitcoms "Step by Step" and "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper." It was also home to youth favorites "Boy Meets World" and "Sabrina the Teenage Witch."

The recent revival of TGIF on ABC saw the network move some of its comedic family hits to the Friday night slot: "Fresh of the Boat" and "Speechless" live there for now, along with a game show called "Child Support," hosted by Fred Savage of "Wonder Years" nostalgia, and Ricky Gervais.

The branding of ABC's Friday nights might have been needed after it canceled "Last Man Standing" with actor Tim Allen and received negative feedback from fans, who are largely conservative and appreciated Allen's opinions brought out by his character.

It's a renewed fight across the networks to bring back good Friday night ratings, after years of decline: "Last Man Standing" now airs Fridays on FOX, in competition with TGIF. "The Cool Kids" is a big draw on CBS, as is "MacGuyver" and "Hawaii Five-O." And "Blue Bloods" airs later on CBS — the show is a staple for the network.

NBC is not following the others with comedic, family friendly programming: It airs "Blindspot and "The Blacklist" on Friday evenings, followed by "Dateline NBC."

But ABC's TGIF block is holding its own on Fridays, drawing families back to the tube together, and filling DVRs.

The current TGIF lineup:
8 p.m.: Fresh Off the Boat
8:30 p.m.: Speechless
9 p.m.: Child Support

9 p.m.: 20/20
11:35 p.m.: Jimmy Kimmel Live!

Anyone seeking to watch the TGIF shows of days gone by is in luck: the Hulu streaming service has added many of the popular shows to its library.