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All Of The Sitcoms That TGIF Couldn't Turn Into A Smash Hit

Updated September 23, 2021 1.7k votes 262 voters 15.2k views17 items

List RulesVote up the offbeat sitcoms you still remember alongside TGIF classics.

From the late 1980s to the end of the 1990s, ABC ruled Friday nights with its TGIF programming block made up mainly of sitcoms. Shows like Full House, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Family Matters drew in big audiences, made breakout stars of at least some of the cast members, and stayed on the air for years. 

But not every show in the TGIF lineup became a hit, no matter how hard ABC might have promoted it, what type of gimmick the show tried to use to hook viewers, or how many different time slots it inhabited in an attempt to get better ratings. Comedies about a teenager-turned-guardian-angel, a talking baby, a time-traveling TV "family," an updated version of I Dream of Jeannie with a gender twist, and a mismatched pair of grown brothers forced to live together were just some of the sitcoms that had "blink and you'll miss it"-length runs as part of ABC's TGIF schedule.

Which of these old ABC shows do you remember watching on Friday nights some 20+ years ago?

  • Photo: ABC

    What Was The Setup?: When their 1950s sitcom goes off the air, a TV family named the Nielsens (get it?) is transported to 1991 as part of the Sitcom Relocation Program (SRP), where they struggle to adapt to modern life and try to prove they deserve to be back on 1950s television. The teenager who lives next door, a fan of old television shows, is the only one who knows their secret. Hi Honey, I'm Home had a gimmick where nearly every episode featured a guest appearance from a classic sitcom star.

    How Long Did It Last?: One season, six episodes (a second season, consisting of seven episodes, aired only on Nick at Nite)

    Why Did It Fail?: This show aired in the summer rather than as part of the regular September-May schedule. Nick at Nite would re-air the episodes on Sundays, making Hi Honey, I'm Home the first prime-time series to have original episodes be shown concurrently on both network and cable television.

    Ratings dropped swiftly after the premiere episode ranked in the Top 20 shows, and although some reviews were positive, ABC dropped it after airing six episodes. It did, however, get a second season on Nick at Nite.

    Making matters worse, Hi Honey, I'm Home ended up bringing ABC legal trouble. Two scriptwriters, Tom Robinson and Phil Herter, sued both ABC and MTV Networks, claiming the networks had taken their idea. They alleged that in 1988 they had sent Nickelodeon a script for a sitcom about a middle-class family haunted by the cast of a canceled 1950s show.

    • Actors: Charlotte Booker, Stephen C. Bradbury, Peter Benson
    • Premiered: July 19, 1991
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  • Photo: ABC

    What Was The Setup?: An attempted modern twist on the hit 1960s show I Dream of Jeannie, but in this case the genie is male, while the reluctant "master" is a single mom.

    How Long Did It Last?: One season, 13 episodes

    Why Did It Fail?: This was another attempt by ABC to find a show with fantasy/magical elements that could duplicate the success of Sabrina the Teenage Witch. The producers tried to boost ratings by coming up with a crossover episode involving both Sabrina and Boy Meets World, but even that failed to draw viewers. It was the last episode that aired before You Wish went on a six-month hiatus. The poorly reviewed show was finally canceled in the summer of 1998.

    • Actors: John Rhys-Davies, Harley Jane Kozak, Jerry Van Dyke, Alex McKenna, Nathan Lawrence
    • Premiered: September 26, 1997
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  • Photo: ABC

    What Was The Setup?: Praised for its realistic portrayal of Black urban life, and partially based on the life of star Doug E. Doug, the show focused on a Trinidadian American teenager living with his parents in Harlem and his adventures with his two best friends.

    How Long Did It Last?: Two seasons, 14 episodes (seven other episodes were produced but never aired)

    Why Did It Fail?: The ratings were not strong enough to get the show renewed for a second season. But the show had a powerful champion in Bill Cosby, who pushed for ABC to bring it back. For the second season, ABC moved the show from the TGIF block, where its lead-in was Full House, to Tuesdays, where it followed the far less successful sitcom George. This move resulted in Where I Live being canceled just three episodes into its second season.

    • Actors: Flex Alexander, Lorraine Toussaint, Doug E. Doug, Sullivan Walker, Shaun Baker
    • Premiered: March 5, 1993
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    On Our Own

    What Was The Setup?: A kind of cross between an African American Party of Five and the cross-dressing premise of Mrs. Doubtfire, On Our Own starred the real-life Smollett siblings as six of the seven fictional Jerrico siblings, the eldest of whom (Ralph Louis Harris) must dress in drag and pretend to be their aunt in order to keep the family together after they are orphaned. Problems arise when a social services administrator attempts to romantically pursue the "aunt."

    How Long Did It Last?: One season, 20 episodes

    Why Did It Fail?: Originally airing on Sundays, the show went on hiatus after 13 episodes; when it returned, the fictional aunt had been eliminated, with the eldest brother being granted custody of his brothers and sisters. It also became part of the TGIF lineup. But the ratings didn't improve, and the show was canceled.

    Two of the Smollett siblings - Jussie (Empire) and Jurnee (Friday Night Lights, True Blood, Eve's Bayou) - have gone on to successful acting careers as adults.

    • Actors: Will Ferrell, Meagan Good, Jurnee Smollett, Kimberley Kates, Jussie Smollett
    • Premiered: September 13, 1994
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