TGIF Turns 25: Looking Back at the Family-Friendly Sitcoms That Defined '90s TV

Which sitcom turns out to have been the king of ABC's Friday night line-up? No, it's actually not Full House!

Photo: ABC/Getty; Craig Sjodin/ABC/Getty

If you were a child or a parent during the early ’90s, there’s a good chance that ABC’s TGIF lineup graced your TV set. Remember TGIF? A two-hour block of family-friendly comedies that tried to make it seem fun staying in on Friday nights?

It officially debuted 25 years ago this month – on Sept. 22, 1989, with a lineup that included Perfect Strangers, Family Matters, Full House and Just the Ten of Us. And notably, it debuted four years before that other landmark ’90s TV block, Must See TV.

The early promos are a trip, as they’re both introducing the concept of TGIF – it stands for “Thank goodness it’s funny” – as well as explaining TV shows that quickly became household names. (Imagine Family Matters before anyone knew what an Urkel was!)

Of course, the lineup shuffled over the years, as your Balkis and Urkels gave way to your Mr. Feenys and Sabrinas, so a viewer’s memory of TGIF will vary according to when they were watching. But which TV show actually ruled TGIF? Which enjoyed the longest tenure on ABC’s Friday nights? We decided to look back at the most memorable TGIF sitcoms – as well some of the oddballs that you might be surprised ever made it to air.

Full House

Series run: 192 episodes (September 22, 1987 May 23, 1995)
TGIF run: 50 episodes (September 22, 1989 May 31, 1991)

Yep, one of the shows most people identify with TGIF aired as part of the block for only two seasons. After that, it kicked off ABC’s Tuesday night lineup for the remainder of its run. The inaugural TGIF Full House was the Tanner family’s big Hawaiian adventure, an example of that classic "Hey, let’s all take a vacation together!" sitcom plotline.

What you may not remember: Before Full House left TGIF, it got a cameo from Steve Urkel himself, and in true nerd fashion, he helped Stephanie Tanner come to terms with wearing glasses.

Perfect Strangers

Series run: 150 episodes (March 25, 1986 August 6, 1993)
TGIF run: 61 episodes (September 22, 1989 January 17, 1992)

Already in its fifth season when it joined the TGIF lineup, Perfect Strangers had long ago taught the American TV audience about the fabled island of Mypos. Then ABC shuttled the show off to Saturdays, where fewer people were around to watch Balki do the dance of joy. Then he stopped doing the dance altogether.

What you may not remember: Bronson Pinchot later joined another major TGIF series, Step by Step, for that show’s sixth season. He played flamboyant hairdresser Jean-Luc before leaving to star as a 9,000-year-old alien on the CBS sitcom Meego. No, really.

Family Matters

Series run: 215 episodes (September 22, 1989 July 17, 1998)
TGIF run: 193 episodes (September 22, 1989 May 9, 1997)

Unlike Full House, Family Matters was born on ABC Friday nights, and would have spent its entire series run there had it not been for one final season on CBS. In the end, the Winslows did more to shape TGIF than the Tanners did. In fact, with 193 episodes airing as part of the programming block, it’s the TGIF-iest sitcom ever, beating out the second-and third-place series, Boy Meets World and Step by Step.

What you may not remember: Family Matters began as a spin-off of Perfect Strangers, where Jo Marie Payton originated the role of Harriet Winslow. In fact, the bridge you see the Winslows biking over in the opening credits is Chicago’s Irv Kupcinet Bridge – the same one you see Larry and Balki taking a tour boat under in the Perfect Strangers opening credits.

Just the Ten of Us

Series run: 47 episodes (April 26, 1988 May 4, 1990)
TGIF run: 22 episodes (September 29, 1989 May 4, 1990)

Yet another TGIF show linked to another ABC standard, Just the Ten of Us spun off from Growing Pains, where Bill Kirchenbauer originated the character of Coach Graham Lubbock. All that Seaver family goodwill didn’t last, and the first year of TGIF proved to be the last one for Ten of Us. Kirchenbauer would later show up on another TGIF series, Clueless, playing the similarly named Coach Graham Bullock.

What you may not remember: Family values aside, three of the Lubbock girls happened to have appeared in Nightmare on Elm Street movies: Heather Langenkamp in the first, JoAnn Willette in the second and Brooke Theiss in the fourth.

Going Places

Series run/TGIF run: 19 episodes (September 21, 1990 March 8, 1991)

Alas, not every Miller-Boyett sitcom was destined for syndication. Going Places went away after one short season. Cast members Staci Keanan and Christopher Castile reunited shortly after on Step by Step.

What you may not remember: In case that theme song sounds familiar, it’s probably because it was co-written by Jesse Frederick, who also did the themes to Perfect Strangers, Full House and Family Matters.

Baby Talk

Series run: 35 episodes (March 8, 1991 May 18, 1992)
TGIF Run: 28 episodes (March 8, 1991 – April 12, 1991 and September 20, 1991 – March 27, 1992)

Originally meant to be Look Who’s Talking: The Series, creator Amy Heckerling renamed it to avoid confusion with Look Who’s Talking Too, the theatrical sequel. It wasn’t the only change: Over the course of production, three different actresses were cast as the talking baby’s mom: Connie Sellecca, Julia Duffy and Mary Page Keller.

What you may not remember: George Clooney supporting a luxurious mane of shoulder-length hair.

Step by Step

Series run: 160 episodes (September 20, 1991 June 26, 1998)
TGIF run: 141 episodes (September 20, 1991 August 15, 1997)

Patrick Duffy and Suzanne Somers spent six seasons on the TGIF lineup before flitting off to CBS for its final season, where it joined Family Matters on the CBS Block Party, which aired directly opposite TGIF.

What you may not remember: Christopher Castile, who plays nerdy Mark on the show, wasn’t initially cast in the role. It was originally actor Jarrett Lennon, and you can actually still see him in the first season’s opening credits. He’s that additional brown-headed boy inexplicably accompanying the Lambert-Foster family to the amusement park.


Series run: 65 episodes (April 26, 1991 – July 20, 1994)
TGIF run: 27 episodes (April 26, 1991 – May 24, 1991 and September 18, 1992 – July 2, 1993)

ABC’s response to The Simpsons and a fulfillment of a project Jim Henson had always wanted to pursue, Dinosaurs enjoyed two separate TGIF runs. This gave the show ample time to lampoon American culture, with episodes hitting on such topics as sexual harassment and assisted suicide. Also, the baby dinosaur said funny things.

What you may not remember: Most of the characters’ last names refer to oil companies. Sinclair? Phillips? Hess? Richfield? It’s clever, but morbid – and wholly in line with a show that killed off all the characters in the series finale.

Boy Meets World

Series run/TGIF run: 158 episodes (September 24, 1993 May 5, 2000)

All seven of its seasons aired as part of TGIF’s lineup, and when ABC retired Boy Meets World it also retired TGIF, aside from a brief and unsuccessful revival in 2003. The show saw Cory Matthews go from middle school to married life. And of all the shows on this list, it’s the only one to spawn a sequel series so far.

What you may not remember: Adam Scott as the very un-Ben Wyatt-like high school tough guy Griff Hawkins.

Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper

Series run: 101 episodes (September 22, 1992 August 30, 1997)
TGIF run: 66 episodes (September 24, 1993 May 10, 1996)

In the beginning, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper skewed more grown-up, as the show had star Mark Curry living with two single ladies, Holly Robinson and Dawnn Lewis. In the second season, the addition of moppet Raven-Symone and sitcom vet Nell Carter made the show a better fit for the family-friendly TGIF atmosphere.

What you may not remember: With no disrespect to the latter four seasons, the first was the only to sport opening titles by En Vogue and is therefore the best.

Sabrina, the Teenage Witch

Series run: 163 episodes (September 27, 1996 April 24, 2003)
TGIF run: 97 episodes (September 27, 1996 May 5, 2000)

Believe it or not, Sabrina was the last long-running, successful TGIF sitcom to premiere before the programming block ended in 2000. Initially premiering in 1996 alongside Clueless in an effort to bolster TGIF’s teenage girl audiences, Sabrina got a good four seasons in before going off to college – and the more young-adult-friendly environs of The WB.

What you may not remember: That an Alicia Silverstone-less Clueless series ever existed on ABC.

And now, the rest: the one-season wonders and other attempts at sitcom magic that didn’t quite make the cut. Do you remember

Free Spirit: A pre-Sabrina witchcom that co-stars a pre-Buffy Alyson Hannigan? It actually debuted on the first night of TGIF.

Camp Wilder: This show featured Baby Talk refugee Mary Page Keller as well as fresh-faced versions of Jerry O’Connell, Jay Mohr, Hilary Swank and Tina Majorino – and in this scene, a shirtless Jared Leto?

Getting By: A Cindy Williams and Telma Hopkins team-up that premiered on TGIF before jumping ship to NBC.

Aliens in the Family: Yes, this really was a thing that aired.

You Wish: It asked the question “If Sabrina can be a TGIF version of Bewitched, then don’t we also need a TGIF version of I Dream of Jeannie“? Audiences quickly answered that question: “No, thanks.”

Teen Angel: Yet another “magic” sitcom? This one featured a dead teen who comes back as a guardian angel to help his best friend navigate through life. Spoiler Alert: He dies from eating a tainted hamburger.

On Our Own: This show gave Jurnee Smollett from Full House her own show alongside five other Smollett siblings.

Two of a Kind: The other Olsen twin-starring TGIF sitcom. It’s the closest viewers got to a look into Michelle Tanner’s teenage years.

Hi Honey, I’m Home: A bizarro sitcom centering around the Nielsens, a Leave It to Beaver-esque sitcom family that moves into the real world. The show had sitcom vets such as Ann B. Davis and Jim Nabors reprising their iconic characters.

And that’s it. It kind of feels like time to watch 20/20 now, doesn’t it?

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