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TGIF: An appreciation

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“It’s Friday night, and the mood is right! We’re gonna have some fun, show you how it’s done, TGIF!”

As far as my elementary-school-aged self was concerned, that song signaled that the weekend was officially upon us. It meant ABC’s TGIF lineup was about to start, and I needed to book it to the couch so I could bask in the glory of Cory Matthews, Sabrina Spellman, and, of course, Steve Urkel – or Stefan Urquelle, depending on who decided to show up.

Yes, every Friday night at 8 p.m. sharp, it was TGIF time not only in my house, but in millions of homes across America. With its family-friendly shows that appealed to all ages, TGIF was an ingenious way to pull in a broad spectrum of viewers. And it still somehow remains the subject of nostalgic conversation: Just the other day, my friends and I found ourselves reminiscing about television during the TGIF era. Kids really had a lot of options back then, from cable staples such as Are You Afraid of the Dark? (actually, yes I am, thanks to that show and its freaky opening scene) and Clarissa Explains It All, to Saved by the Bell, California Dreams and the other Saturday morning NBC shows. But there was just nothing like TGIF. It, well, showed everyone how it’s done.

The original, 1988-1989 lineup had Perfect Strangers, Full House (a.k.a. the Greatest Show of All Time, Forever and Always, Don’t Even Try To Argue With Me), Mr. Belvedere and Just the Ten of Us. Eventually, such hits as Family Matters, Boy Meets World, Step by Step, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Dinosaurs, Sister, Sister and Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper became part of the Friday night franchise. Not every show was a smash – anyone remember Home Free or Getting By? – but for each one that disappeared like Judy Winslow, two seemed to go on to live fruitful lives in syndication.

I think the reason why I loved TGIF so much was because most of the shows focused on the teenage characters, and when you’re eight, nine, ten, you are in awe of teens. You can’t wait to be able to go off with your friends in your cool cars, and hang out at the mall without your mom. You want Shawn Hunter to take you to Chubbies on a date, or Laura Winslow to invite you to a dance. I remember, in those pre-DVR days, I would be so upset if I fell asleep during one of the shows. How on earth was I going to be able to talk on the playground about what those crazy Step by Step kids did if I had conked out like a baby?

Like all good things, TGIF didn’t last forever. By the time it ended in 2000, most of the kids like myself who grew up on it had moved on, and actually left the house on Friday nights. I turned 16 in late 2000, and honestly, I can’t remember when I had last watched TGIF – maybe when I was 12? 13? By then, the shows had run their courses, and even the babies who always seem to be born on sitcoms towards the end of their runs were growing up and losing their cuteness.

In 1997, a few of the shows tried to have new starts — Family Matters and Step by Step moved to CBS without much success, as they only lasted one season over there. In 2000, Sabrina the Teenage Witch did better, lasting three additional years on the WB. TGIF was resurrected for two years starting in 2003, with George Lopez, 8 Simple Rules and Hope and Faith on the lineup, but it just didn’t work. The shows were different and the magic was gone. Really, can you have TGIF without the trials and tribulations of Cory and Topanga? Answer: No. You can’t.

So, thanks ABC, for giving us children of the ’90s the awesomeness that was TGIF. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to hike up our pants and ask, “Did IIII dooooo thaaaat?” or shout, “Not the mama! Not the mama!” You helped bring families closer together, and gave my friends and I something to talk about on Monday mornings when we were supposed to be paying attention to like, math or something.

Now, I turn it over to you, PopWatchers. What was your favorite TGIF show? Do you think TGIF could work today?

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